Friday, April 20, 2012
Dear Browns, Dolphins: Don't reach
By Ashley Fox ESPN.com
Teams reach. It happens every April. Whether motivated by desperation or fear or ego, some general manager or team president or coach is willing to draft a player too high to fill a pressing need.
Hope replaces knowledge. Whoever holds the power of making the ultimate personnel decisions for a team hopes a player can pan out rather than knowing that he will, because the need is so great.
Reaching is never a good idea.
In this year's draft, the clear consensus is that there are two players who are legitimate NFL starting quarterbacks. Indianapolis is going to take Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick. Washington is going to take Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick.
Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill might develop into a starter, with time and teaching. Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden might use his age to his advantage and become a starter, too.
There is no reason for Cleveland, holding the No. 4 overall pick, or Miami, holding the No. 8, to pick either one where they currently sit. None. Desperate as they are for a quality franchise quarterback, the Browns and Dolphins needs to resist the temptation -- though it may be great -- and go for the best player on the board. It is the smart, prudent way to go, because the last thing either team needs is to pick Cade McNown or Joey Harrington or, gulp, Tim Couch in the first round.
The Browns have been there, done that. They don't need to do it again.
Unless you are the Colts or Redskins, it is a bad time to need a bona fide starting quarterback. Free agency gave us the great Peyton Manning steeplechase and little else. Matt Flynn signed with Seattle, but it's not like teams evaluated him to be a can't-miss player, hence the relatively modest salary the Seahawks gave Flynn. Pete Carroll hasn't even named him the starter yet.
Indianapolis feels confident it has found the next great thing in Luck. Washington gave away, if not the house, at least the front door to St. Louis to move up to No. 2 so it can draft Griffin.
What's left? Not much.
It's not like the Browns didn't try to move up. They did. Washington offered more.
It's not like the Dolphins didn't try to land Manning. They did. He chose to go elsewhere.
The Browns may have concluded that Colt McCoy is not the answer, but does that mean they have to draft a quarterback now?
But just because Cleveland couldn't move up doesn't mean it should try to overcompensate by drafting a quarterback now. It won't work. It will be a wasted pick. It will ultimately cost someone his job. And it will further delay the rebuilding effort that needs to get fast-tracked.
If you read the tea leaves, it seems pretty clear that Browns president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, two smart football men who know how to evaluate talent, aren't convinced Colt McCoy is the answer. He would be a solid backup, yes, but he is not a starter with whom you can win.
It also seems pretty clear, given what Heckert said on Thursday, the Browns have settled on a player to draft in the first round, and the powers that be are in total agreement. Although Heckert would not divulge which player they will select, the strategy could be to give McCoy another weapon and bide time until next year, when the draft and free agency will provide a few more options.
It's not like the Browns don't have other needs. They don't have a running back. The Browns, which led the league in drops last season, have no clear No. 1 receiver. They need a right tackle.
They had the cap room in free agency and still couldn't fill the voids, so they will have to try in the draft. They have three of the first 37 picks.
Taking Tannehill or Weeden won't help.
"I know who that four is going to be if we stay there," Heckert told the media in Cleveland. "We are all on the same page. We know we are getting a really good player no matter what happens at three. We know we are getting one of two guys. We don't know who is going to go at three, but we are extremely happy and excited with whoever is going to be there at four."
Miami has made a number of missteps this offseason, so the urge to make a splash in the draft undoubtedly will be great. The Dolphins need a franchise quarterback, but they also need playmakers on both sides of the ball -- a wide receiver, a pass-rusher, a right tackle, a cornerback.
Back in December, after he completed his collegiate career with just one full season as a starter, Tannehill was considered a second-round pick. He is still viewed as a raw talent who will benefit from at least a year on the sideline, but he has vaulted into the top 10 of just about every mock draft out there because Miami needs a quarterback.
If Tannehill is available at No. 8, will Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland take him, even if he knows it would be a reach?
Even under the best of circumstances, drafting a quarterback in the first round is a precarious undertaking. It requires hundreds of hours of work -- watching tape, reading scouts' reports, watching more tape, interviewing the player and watching more tape and more tape and more tape. And still, as often as not, teams swing and miss.
The extreme example is Ryan Leaf and Manning, selected 1-2 in 1998, but there are plenty of others. In the last 13 drafts, 37 quarterbacks have been picked in the first round. Not counting last year's rookie class, it is fair to say that half of them have had, or are having, so-so-to-unimpressive careers. Not counting last year's rookies, 15 will open this season as starters.
There is Joe Flacco, but there is also Kyle Boller. There is Aaron Rodgers, but there is also JaMarcus Russell. There is Eli Manning, but there is also J.P. Losman. There is Philip Rivers, but there is also Patrick Ramsey.
It is an imperfect science.
The process is hard enough. Reaching with a pick and hoping you are right only compounds the problem.