A Look Back: 2002 NFL Draft

Finally, a pick outside the top three.  Double Digits!

14clevelandbrowns_medium

Much hotter than William Green.  Much.

Thanks to Butch Davis leading the '01-'02 Browns to a 7-9 record the Browns were no longer picking in the top three of the NFL Draft.  In '02 the Browns had the 16th pick.  The Browns had a change atop their power structure.  No longer was Dwight Clark masquerading as the GM, he quit.  No one mentions it anymore, but Clark was treated like crap on his way out.  He was a poor GM, but he wasn't supposed to be there.  Davis promoted his personal go-for Pete Garcia to the position of Director of Football Development.

This was Butch Davis ship, and he had full control. 

Don't be fooled by the Browns record.  We still had holes and needed help on both sides of the LOS.  Many mock drafts leading up to the '02 draft had the Browns taking a mixture of the following players:

 

  1. T.J Duckett, RB Michigan State University.  An absolutely massive RB that was billed as a faster more athletic Mike Alstott.  
  2. Ashley Lelie, WR University of Hawaii.  A pencil thin WR from a run and shoot offense that had questionable hands.  Lots to love there.
  3. William Green, RB Boston College.  A top 10 talent that had a 10 cent head.  He was suspended for smoking weed twice at BC.  He was very talented, but very troubled.

 

The Browns ground game was AWFUL in '01.  We ran for 84 yards a game.  1,300 yards for the season as a team.  We as a team were outrushed by five players in '01.  But instead of drafting offensive lineman, Butch believed that drafting a RB would be able to fix the problems.  Someone should have told Butch that no RB can be good if there aren't any holes at the LOS.  But this was Butch's show and he was going to do what he wanted, the Browns were going to go with a RB, we just didn't know which one.  

We should have known that with Butch's background he was going to go BigEast.

16th Pick, 1st Round, 16th Pick Overall: William Green, RB Boston College

From Peter King of Sports Illustrated:

20. Cleveland. I love William Green. So he had some college trouble. So he smoked pot. So he ticked a few of his coaches with some attitude. Watch the man play. Watch him make reliable, Emmitt Smith-type moves. Watch him maximize his holes.

Good call Petey.

To say that Green had a difficult childhood would be a massive understatement.  Both of his parents died from Aids when he was 12 & 13.  Green may have been a knucklehead, but the fact that he made it is far as he did was an achievement in of itself.  I just thought that should be mentioned.

When William Green played at BC he was good.  Six yards a carry good.  Staying on the field was his problem.  Again, he was suspended twice for weed.  Once could be just a college kid doing college kid things.  Twice is just a person that loves weed and doesn't care what others think about it.  He knew he was being watched, yet he continued to smoke.  Should have been a massive "DO NOT DRAFT" flag.  Not to Butch.

Once again, Butch gives a middle finger to off the field issues and drafts the more talented player.  Never mind that other teams had taken Green off their draft board, we needed a RB.  Butch fell in love with talent and he thought he could save any player.  No problem was to big for Butch, he wanted talent!  Is there any doubt that Butch would have taken Mike Vick this past off season?

For me, this was the first time that I really started to understand that drafting Running Backs with God awful offensive lines (The 2002 starting O-Line was Verba, Stokes, Wolabaugh, O'Hara, and Tucker) was the dumbest thing you could do as a football team.  It is putting a band aid over a cannon wound.  Not to mention a first round band aid.

Shockingly, William Green struggled as a rookie.  He had a 3.7 YPC as a rookie while he amassed a career high 887 yards and a career high 6 TD's.  He topped 100 yards three times his rookie season including an awesome, 178 yards in a week 17 win that sent the Browns to the playoffs.  His 64 yard TD run was the highlight of the season for me.  He struggled (is there a stronger word than struggled?) in the playoffs when he ran for 30 yards in 25 carries.  Those are not typos.

In '03 Green started off well.  He had two 100 yard games in a three game span.  But, the personal problems that plagued him at BC, showed up again.

After the week 7 loss to San Diego, Green was arrested for drunk driving and possession of marijuana.  Since he came into NFL with drug issues he was already a member of the substance abuse program.  As we all know, a second offense gets the player a four game ban.  In his second season, William Green was suspended.

It got worse.  During his suspension, Green was involved in a domestic dispute with his longtime girlfriend, Asia Gray.  In the altercation, Green was stabbed in the back.  The NFL was not happy, and extended Green's suspension all the way throughout the end of the '03 season.

Green never recovered as a football player.  He had a '04 season as a back-up and reached an injury settlement in '05 and was cut midway through the season.  William Green didn't last four seasons in the NFL.

Career Stats:

568 carries, 2,109 yards, 9 TD's, 3.7 YPC, 45 catches, 277 yards, 0 TD's.

Players we could have drafted: (Yes I know this is stupid and 100% subjective to many factors, but I always like looking back at who we "could have drafted" just for fun.) Lito Sheppard, Ed Reed (*#$@&$*!)

15th Pick, 2nd Round, 47th Pick Overall: Andre Davis, WR Virginia Tech

I remember this pick vividly.  This was the first time I dropped a "F Bomb" in front of my Dad and didn't get bitch slapped.  He was pissed too.  For the FOURTH straight season the Browns took a WR in the second round.  This team hadn't taken an offensive lineman higher than a 3rd round pick, but we had taken FOUR WIDE RECEIVERS in the second round in four seasons.

Andre Davis was a sprinter with conerback's hands.  He was a crappy WR at Virginia Tech, he was a crappy WR as a Brown.  We used a second round pick on a WR that had 63 catches in college.  Once again, Butch falls in love with athletes, not football players.   

You always hear that Davis should have drafted Clinton Portis, who went with the 51st pick the draft.  My contention is the if Portis was drafted by the Browns he would have had a career similar to Green except without the drugs.  The Browns, still had no idea how to build a team.  Four WR's in the second round showed this.

Andre Davis had two okay seasons in his first two years.  He combined in those first two seasons to combine for 77 catches for 996 yards and 11 TD's.  After those two seasons he fell off a cliff as a WR as defenses adapted to him.  He was a good kick returner.  You don't take kick returners in the second round.

Davis was out of Cleveland after three seasons, and has kicked around the league as a kick returner.  Shockingly, no other NFL team has ever thought that he was anything more than a 4th or 5th WR and KR.

Career Stats (With the Browns since he is still in the NFL):

93 catches, 1,412 yards, 13 TD's, 21.3 yards per kick return, 1 KR TD

Player we could have drafted:  Clinton Portis, Chester Pitts, Anthony Weaver, Deion Branch, Sheldon Brown

11th Pick, 3rd Round, 76th Pick Overall: Melvin Fowler, Center University of Maryland (Traded up from pick 79)

Butch Davis traded Wali Rainer to move up three spots.  Rainer was replaced by the signing of Earl Holmes.  

Outside of that, Fowler was average at best.  Fowler could play both guards and the center position.  He was a valuable swing guy that was a back-up for multiple positions.  He started 14 games during his three seasons in Cleveland.  A nice back-up but was never starter worthy.

Career Stats (In Cleveland he is still in the NFL (Buffalo))

30 games, 14 starts

Players we could have drafted:  Akin Adolyele, Chris Hope and Brian Westbrook (Yeah, another Pro Bowl RB)

3rd Pick, 4th Round, 101st Overall: Kevin Bentley, OLB Northwestern University

It was no secret that Butch Davis hated the Browns LB's.  He wanted speed LB's like he had in college.  That is fine if you have DJ Williams, Jonathon Vilma, Rocky McIntosh, Jon Beason etc.  It isn't going to work out so well when you draft the Kevin Bentley's of the world.

Once again, Butch went with who was the best athlete.  Bentley had the size and speed to be a good NFL player.  Too bad that he just didn't have something much more important, instincts.  Bentley was a good special teams player and was able to help out as a reserve when he was asked.  He just wasn't they type of LB that made impact plays.

Bentley started 17 games for the Browns (14 in '03 alone) and was no longer a Brown after three seasons.

Career Stats (Only as a Brown, he is still in the NFL (Houston))

128 tackles, 1 FF, 1 INT, 0 sacks

Players we could have drafted: Alex Brown, David Garrard

13th Pick, 4th Round, 111th Pick Overall: Ben Taylor, LB Virginia Tech University

Butch continued his linebacking overhaul.  For some reason I liked Ben Taylor.  Maybe it was because he was from VT, but I was always thinking that he was going to be better than he was.  He never was great, he was just a decent plugger that made tackles 4-5 yards down field.  He never made impact plays and was mostly special teams.  Sounds an awful lot like Bentley.

He lost an entire season to the dreaded Staph infection in '04 after having a good season in '03 (65 solo tackles in 8 starts).  Could he have been a better player if he had never missed that season?  Maybe, but his ceiling was probably like a Steven Cooper of San Diego.

He played a season in Green Bay in '06 and was out of the NFL a year later.

Career Stats:

26 starts, 157 tackles, 1 INT

Players we could have drafted:  Dave Zastudil, Randy McMichael 

24th Pick, 4th Round, 122nd Overall: Darnell Sanders, TE The Ohio State University (Traded up)

I am an Ohio State fan.  Always will be.  I would have not drafted Darnell Sanders.  His college stats were 42 catches for 472 yards.  Those are his career numbers.  Maybe he was a great blocker, but Butch Davis wasn't a huge fan of blocking TE's.  He wanted a TE that could stretch the middle of the field.  So why in the hell did he pick Darnell Sanders?

If he wanted a pass catching TE he should have gone for Randy McMichael earlier in the round.  

Did I mention that we traded a fifth and a sixth round choice to Oakland for this pick?  Not only did we draft a guy who would go on to catch less that 20 passes for us, but we traded up to get him.  He was Martin Rucker before Martin Rucker was Martin Rucker.

Anyways, Sanders was let go after two uneventful seasons and spent one year in Atlanta where he did nothing.  He was then signed by the Bears but was cut after an off the field incident involving his pit bulls attacking and killing an elderly man.

Career Stats:

18 catches, 118 yards, 2 TD's.

Players we could have drafted: Jarvis Green, Larry Foote, Najeh Davenport (another Miami RB that Butch passed on, did I mention that Davenport had 4.6 YPC for his career?  I really think Davenport, given carries, would have been a great RB in this league.)

6th Pick, 5th Round, 141st Overall: Andra Davis, LB University of Florida

Butch kept up the assault on the linebackers. Davis was drafted to be Butch's man in the middle.  After sitting behind Holmes in his rookie season Davis exploded with the Browns in '03.

98 solo tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 6 passes defended, and 5 sacks.  He was playing like a monster.  After that we all know what happened.  He was a pile jumper that made tackles 4 or 5 yards downfield.  He put up high tackle numbers (60 assisted tackles in '05?) but did little else.

He has always been a whipping boy for Browns fans when pointing out how high tackle totals are a horrible example on how to evaluate a defender.  Look at a box score and he looks good, watch a game and he looks invisible.

That being said, Davis was a fifth rounder.  For where he was taken, he was a great value pick and helped Butch get some speed into the LB corps.  This past season Davis was not retained by the Browns and signed as a free agent in Denver where he had a decent season.  Somehow, I was able to hold back the tears when I heard he wasn't going to be a Brown.

Career Stats (Only as a Brown because he is still in the NFL)

450 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, 8 INT's, 8.5 sacks in 7 seasons

Players we could have drafted: Kenyon Coleman (The player taken with the Browns original pick in the Darnell Sanders trade), Aaron Kampman, Jonathan Goodwin, Justin Hartwig, Chester Taylor

16th Pick, 7th Round, 227th Overall: Joaquin Gonzalez, RT University of Miami

A pick I really liked.  Gonzalez was the bookend to first rounder Bryant McKinnie, yet he was taken 7 rounds later.  He was nowhere as good as McKinnie, but he was worth a gamble.  

Shockingly, Gonzalez actually stuck around with the Browns and made 14 starts in his three seasons as a Brown (I don't know if that is a good comment about Gonzalez or a indictment on how poor the Browns offensive lines were.)  Once again, even the worst offensive lineman usually have some sort of value to a football team.

Gonzalez made 11 starts for the '04 Cleveland Browns.  After the '04 season, Gonzalez was let go and he caught on with the Colts for a season.  After that, he was done in the NFL.

Career Stats:

14 starts as a Brown, 11 in '04

Players we could have drafted:  Ronald Curry, Raheem Brock, Brett Kiesel, Kevin Shaffer, James Harrison, Bart Scott, Maake Kemoeatu

 

Draft Recap:

  • William Green was cut mid-season of his 4th year.
  • Andre Davis was cut after 3 seasons.
  • Melvin Fowler was cut after 3 seasons.
  • Kevin Bentley was gone after 3 seasons.
  • Ben Taylor was let go after 4 seasons.
  • Darnell Sanders was cut after 2 seasons.
  • Andra Davis left as a FA after 7 seasons.
  • Joaquin Gonzalez cut after 3 seasons.

 

After 4 seasons, the Browns had 1 player left from this draft.  Again, it is almost mind boggling that a team can be so inept at drafting.  Plus, again Butch Davis drafts guys that run fast, jump high, and look awesome in their underwear.  I refuse to believe that there is a good reason to draft Andre Davis in the second round.

In todays NFL world, first round choices have to be hits.  They don't have to be homeruns, but they have to be hits.  Butch Davis didn't get this.  In his two drafts, Butch Davis drafted two players that both had more red flags than all of China.  Butch either didn't care or didn't understand.  Did I mention that both players were arrested inside of their first two NFL seasons?

Once again, the Browns were left with a draft that left the cupboard bare in four seasons.  So in 2006, the Browns were in a worse place than they were in '02.  

Putting these together it has become very clear that the Browns drafts have been fubar'd since the word go.  Think of building a football team like building a house.  In '99 and '00 Dwight Clark built a garbage foundation.  In '01 and '02 Butch Davis has added some paint, drywall and carpet.  It doesn't matter if it looks awesome on the inside, the house itself will collapse because it hasn't been built properly.

In the following seasons we would watch this team as it crumbled from the inside out.  Other teams that have been successful over this span of time (Patriots, Steelers, Colts and Ravens) have good foundations, hence a winning tradition.  The Browns have had none of that.  The Browns have been trying to build their franchise ass backwards, and this is becoming more and more obvious with every one of these draft recaps.

I really thought these look backs at the drafts were going to be fun.  In reality, they are maddening.  

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