Saturday, May 10, 2014
Browns not concerned about WR depth
By Pat McManamon
The first day of the Cleveland Browns draft ended amid jubilation and celebration.
It turned depressing and mysterious before the first player had even been taken on Day 2.
When word broke via ESPN’s Outside the Lines that Josh Gordon was facing a one-year suspension for failing another drug test, the effect was deflating.
Later in the night, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen broke the news that Nate Burleson had a fractured arm and would miss the offseason but would be back for training camp.
If Gordon does miss a year and assuming Burleson returns, the Browns right now have Burleson, Greg Little and Andrew Hawkins as their prime receivers.
General Manager Ray Farmer said he was not concerned about the team’s depth at receiver, though.
“We play games in September,” Farmer said. ”Right now there’s still plenty of opportunities for us to acquire players and to make things happen.”
There’s only one draft, though, and the team’s decision in hindsight to trade down for cornerback Justin Gilbert and not take Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans looms larger if Gordon is suspended. Gordon is the team’s star and playmaker, and the receiving corps would have to depend on guys doing things they haven’t done in the past to succeed.
The Browns didn’t want to comment on Gordon’s situation, and in fairness the league handles the drug-testing program and teams are not supposed to comment on the details.
“Whenever we do have clarity we will express our sentiments then,” Farmer said.
He also did not get into whether he knew about Gordon’s situation but said he drafts based on the team’s draft board and not on need or a player’s health situation.
“We organize the players, we rank them, we stack them and we stick to it,” Farmer said. “We believe that you do the work for a reason. You take the best players available. You establish your team by going through that process in making sure you draft the best guys in how you had them ordered in who are the best players in college football.”
The Browns went through the second day drafting an offensive lineman, a linebacker and a running back, but no receivers. Farmer said that was because of the way the team rated its players.
“We stuck with our board,” Farmer said. “As we looked at that board when it was our turn to select, we took the name that was the best name for us at that time.”
Thus, the Browns passed on Watkins and Evans because they liked Gilbert better. They passed on receivers on the second day because they liked offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, linebacker Christian Kirksey and running back Terrance West better.
The decision may come back to haunt them. In a sense it’s classic hindsight to look back -- except that Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam knew of Gordon’s situation before the draft started, according to Mortensen and ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.
Farmer simply believes he can still address the situation.
“Whether it’s trades, drafting someone the [third] day, players that get cut or we acquire somebody from the street,” Farmer said “there’s always opportunities to acquire players.”
There aren’t a lot of Josh Gordons, and if the Browns lose their top playmaker they may be left trying to win games with potentially a rookie quarterback, and a receiving group without its star.
That could leave the team relying on defense and the run game to win.
It can work, but without Gordon, well, the highs from Manziel sure seemed to dissipate in a hurry.