"[Rucker is] certainly capable of being a starting tight end in this league."
-Browns GM Phil Savage
In the words of Savage, every player chosen seems to have been a "steal" or associated with "first-round talent". While it's clear that Savage often embellishes the truth, the addition of tight end Martin Rucker nearly completes the team's "all-around backup situation".
What does that mean?
Consider that last year, the Browns were extremely fortunate to have been the healthiest offensive teams in football. After years of seeing quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and offensive linemen miss several weeks of action at a time, the injury bug finally skipped over the Browns in 2007. You can't bank on the same fate this year, though.
• If Derek Anderson goes down, we have Brady Quinn.
• If Braylon Edwards or Joe Jurevicius go down, we have Donte Stallworth.
• If one of our offensive lineman goes down, we've got three-four veterans waiting.
• If Kellen Winslow goes down, we have Martin Rucker.
• If Jamal Lewis goes down...well, we're kind of screwed there, but you can't buy premium insurance all in one sitting.
Without drafting Rucker, we risked the possibility of having a big part of our passing game and running game suffer hits if multiple injuries occurred. Now, if Lewis were to go down, we would at least have extended insurance in our aerial attack. Considering Winslow and Steve Heiden are overcoming offseason surgeries, drafting Rucker was a wise decision, even if he doesn't play a single down this season.
Rucker was the eighth tight end taken in the 2008 draft, something he couldn't have been too pleased with considering he was once hailed as a second-rounder:
"There's going to be nothing but hard work out of me," stated Rucker. "There's a lot of guys that were taken before me and I'm very eager to prove I belonged in their spot."
The issue that does remain on the Browns' roster is the lack of a strong blocking tight end. Winslow is often poked fun at for his lack of effort on running downs, Heiden isn't anywhere near a mauler, and Rucker was a wide receiver playing the tight end position in college. Three tight ends on a roster seems to be the norm, but it might be worth it for the Browns to keep a guy like Darnell Dinkins for his blocking ability and special teams play. That would then require the Browns parting ways with a guy like backup fullback Charles Ali. Either way you put it though, the situation as a whole shouldn't be looked at as a negative.
In a best case scenario, Rob Chudzinski will have a healthy Winslow in his repertoire all season long. Then, when teams double team him, Rucker will be running up the seam on the opposite side. When teams decide to respect Rucker, Winslow will be single-covered. That doesn't even factor in whether or not teams choose to double team Edwards.
We're set to be one of the best offensive teams in football for the second year in a row.