After a thrilling three days and thousands of comments here at DBN, I am trying to take a step back and form my opinions of what we did in this draft as a whole. I don't want to give us grades because everyone else gives grades. There is plenty of that out there if you want it. I just want to gather my thoughts and hear others' on the weekend as a whole.
After the jump, I have a few thoughts on our division competition, BPA vs. need, and the Montario Hardesty and TJ Ward picks.
Relative Draft Success
If you want to win in this league, you have beat the other teams on the field. If you want to be better on the field, you have to beat them in the front office.
I think we had a good draft. I know we improved our football team. But one of my biggest concerns with this draft is our success relative to other teams, particularly other teams in the division; did we do enough to pull ourselves up in the division? It doesn't really matter if we got better, we have to get better relative to the other teams in the division, or we'll never be at the top.
The Ravens' draft is the one that scares me. If Kindle's knee ends up being OK and he isn't robbed of his explosiveness, the Ravens' defense just reloaded.
I am of the "Best Player Available" school when it comes to the draft, and I don't think you can make the argument that some of the players we chose (TJ Ward, for example) were the best on the board when we chose. Others (Colt McCoy, Joe Haden) may very well have been. Not even Michael Smith knows for sure; maybe these guys were at the top of our board when we selected them.
Whatever the philosophy of the front office, we can be sure that we selected players at positions of need. I want Mike Furry and Brandon McDonald as far down the depth chart in the secondary as possible, and Haden and Ward should certainly push them down while Asante can probably push for playing time in sub packages. Colt McCoy fell into our laps at our biggest area of need; Quarterback. We got a young defensive lineman, a guard for the right side, and a big, speedy wideout. Each of our picks was in one of our biggest areas of need with the exception of Hardesty.
Initially, I wasn't thrilled with the selections of Hardesty and Ward. But the more I watch and read about these guys, the more I think they've flashed the talent to be very good in the NFL. There are positive qualities about each.
- Prototypical size/speed
- Vision--I can't say enough about this. Just watch him find the holes.
- Receiving skills--another underrated RB characteristic. Having a RB who can catch the ball is key in a West Coast Offense (not that we'll transition to a full-time WCO). He even beat first-round CB Kareem Jackson on a slant route while lined up as a WR at Tennessee. (See video above)
- Production during senior season despite teams knowing Tennessee couldn't pass at times.
- "Wiggle"/lateral movement/spin move for size.
Hardesty ran a 4.49 40 at the combine, putting up 21 reps on the bench press, and having a positional best 41" vertical jump. He was also atop the broad jump numbers for RBs at 10'4", and was in the top-5 for RBs with a 6.87 3-cone drill and a 4.14 short shuttle--all of this at 225lbs. The physical talent to be a very good NFL back is there.
- Ward can lay the wood. Period. Ward is nasty. Ward has better big hit highlights on youtube than Taylor Mays.
- He will strip the ball and create turnovers.
- If you wanted an "enforcer" on defense, this is probably your guy. He will make you think twice about coming over the middle.
- For a more powerful safety, he has pretty good movement skills He isn't quite Polamalu in that regard, but no one is. Great burst, solid agility.
- Instinctive and smart. At his best in zone coverage where he can diagnose what is happening
- Started off at CB, so has experience covering WRs and coverage skills.
Ward ran a 4.54 40 at the combine, but got his time down to 4.45-4.49 at his pro day (multiple sources with multiple times). He was able to put up 19 reps on the bench press and posted a 34" vertical leap to go along with a 4.12 short shuttle. What all of these numbers mean (and what the film shows) is that TJ Ward has the agility, speed, and movement skills to cover at the NFL level.
We probably could have gotten him a full round later, sure. But as some have pointed out, if we took Colt McCoy in the 2nd and Ward in the 3rd, none of the national pundits would be complaining.
The reason that Ward and Hardesty were considered reaches to varying degrees is because of injuries.
Ward didn't start until his senior year at California powerhouse De La Salle. During his senior season of high school, Ward suffered a rupture of his patella tendon--one of the most serious knee injuries. No one recruited him so he walked on at Oregon with his friend and teammate Terrance Kelly. Kelly was shot to death two days before he was scheduled to arrive at Oregon.
Once at Oregon, Ward had another knee injury, this time an MCL tear (much less severe). During his Sophomore season, he played despite having to get his knee drained of blood every two weeks. He was completely healthy his junior season, and missed a few games in his senior year due to a high ankle sprain.
Hardesty runs high, magnifying injury concerns. He had a season-ending knee injury in 2005 and missed four combined games in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, he was "hampered by sore knees" but played all 13 games to the tune of 1300+ yards in the SEC.
The best part about both of these players is that their major injuries occurred several years ago. The Browns' doctors have checked them out and gave the team the green light to draft either. Hopefully both stay healthy so that they can show their talent in Browns uniforms.
In the end
If several of these picks work out, this could end up being a phenomenal draft for us. If everything goes the way it is planned, we have a new feature back, a franchise QB, Darelle Revis II, a third young OL starter, two starting Safeties, a replacement for an aging Robaire Smith, and a huge, fast WR.
I doubt it goes quite that well, but even if Haden becomes a lockdown corner and Colt McCoy becomes an above-average QB, this draft is a win. In my opinion, much of the success of this drat is hinging on McCoy. From what I've seen and heard, I am happy to have him.