Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
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Hey Tony: What’s the insight on the acquisition of the new punter/kicker? Reggie Hodges’ injury? Backup for Phil Dawson and maybe handle some kickoffs? An extra leg for practice?
-- D A Pimley, Centreville, VA
Hey D.A.: All of the above? Spencer Lanning was claimed off waivers from Jacksonville on Wednesday. If his leg is strong, he might get a look as a kickoff specialist. That is the trend now because of the changes to the kickoff rules.
Hey Tony: Still enjoying your coverage of this franchise. Your Browns draft analysis was glaringly one of the best on the street. Skeptically staring at the projected depth chart for 2012, I can’t understand how our talent evaluators can possibly feel comfortable going into camp with the current OLB and/or WR core. Mohamed Massaquoi’s sheepish approach clearly makes him unfit to play at this level. Kaluka Maiava is a special teamer but not a professional linebacker. And I seriously doubt anyone believes players like Carlton Mitchell will make significant contributions to our offense this season. The remaining are undersized rookies with huge questions marks, so with the exception of guys like Greg Little & D’Qwell Jackson, who could possibly imagine that the roster is sufficiently staffed with professional athletes that can compete in one of the best divisions in football, let alone win?
-- Dan Lind, New York City
Hey Dan: The Browns are counting on big, immediate contributions from Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, and possibly James-Michael Johnson. I can’t explain the receiver situation.
Hey Tony: I thought my love of NFL football knew no bounds until I saw mock drafts for 2013 surfacing all around the Internet! Can we agree as football fans that talking about football has limits and that "analyzing" the next draft less than one week after a draft ends exceeds those limits? If not, I'll drink the kool-aid and write you next week about some kids I am seeing in my child's elementary school class that look promising!
-- Keith in Cleveland
Hey Keith: Forget 2013. I’m working on the first two rounds of 2014. Kidding, of course. I normally don’t start looking at the draft until the NFL combine.
Hey Tony: Glad to see your talents will still be dedicated to covering the Browns. Are there any players on last year's IR that are not cleared to practice yet? Keep up the great work.
-- Dale Galbraith, Barberton
Hey Dale: The Browns have said that everyone is ready to go.
Hey Tony: I have to have faith that the Browns and other execs who had Brandon Weeden ahead of Ryan Tannehill evaluated (his offensive system) and don't see it as a major obstacle. Also, at OSU, he didn't have the luxury of turning around and handing the ball to TR 300 times.
-- Daryl Fanney MD, Virginia Beach, VA
Hey Daryl: The point of the article was that Weeden wasn’t asked to do things at Oklahoma State that he will be asked to do in the NFL, such as go through a progression of reads, play mostly under center, and be able to evade pass pressure. How quickly he is able to pick them up will dictate his early success.
Hey Tony: What are the new rules for OTA's, Mini Camps, Rookie Camp, etc? I can't find them on the web and the schedules seem to be more condensed than years past. Down here in Atlanta now from E. 71st and Lansing so I'm glad you landed on your feet and I can still keep up with the team!
-- John, Hotlanta Browns Backers
Hey John: Time in the building and time on the field are restricted. There is to be no physical contact on the field. And veteran minicamp can not be held on the weekend. These are some of the rules implemented in the new CBA.
Hey Tony: I think a good portion of fans viewed the hiring of Pat Shurmur as not only a Bob LaMonte hiring, but also as a puppet for Mike Holmgren since he had no HC experience and almost no O cord. However, it does not matter what we think it matters what the players think. I know this might be tricky for you to answer, but do you think they all respect him? I got the feeling guys like Evan Moore and Peyton Hillis last year had little respect for him.
-- Michael, Galena, OH
Hey Michael: First off, there will always be players in an NFL locker room that dislike the head coach. Sam Rutigliano always said the key to managing an NFL team is to keep those guys from influencing the others. Secondly, most new coaches try to bring along veteran players who have played for them previously to help police the locker room and salve the transition to a new coach. Shurmur couldn’t do that because he had not been a head coach before. All of that said, I don’t agree that some players had little respect for Shurmur. Questioned his use of them? Sure. But not respect him? I don’t think so.
Hey Tony: Between the attempt to draft RGIII and the first round pick of Weeden it's obvious the Browns thought they needed an upgrade at quarterback, but their lack of drive at upgrading the receiver position makes me wonder if the Management and Coaches also put the shortcomings of the receivers on the Quarterback play. Is it possible they simply thought (think) Colt McCoy is so overwhelmed by the position and under performing so much that the receivers will markedly improve with an upgrade at passer?
-- Doug Shaffer, Orange, CA
Hey Doug: The Browns haven’t put it quite that bluntly, but they have stated they believe the receivers will show more with Weeden at quarterback and Trent Richardson at running back.
Hey Tony: After doing a little bit of research, I found this: Wes Welker was an undrafted 5-9 WR who ran a 4.6 40 yard dash. Believe me, I am not making a prediction that Travis Benjamin will be the next Wes Welker, but isn't that at least a little encouraging?
-- Zach, Philadelphia
Hey Zach: Benjamin could beat Welker by five yards in a 40-yard dash. I’m sure in the annals of the NFL we can find height and weight comparisons to a Hall of Famer for every player on the roster.
Hey Tony: When Trent Richardson is giving his speech in Canton some day, can we stop talking about the low-round picks we gave up? It is ridiculous how this story keeps going.
-- Rob, Strongsivlle
Hey Rob: Agreed. I felt the same way about giving up two fifth-round picks in 2010 to move up and select RB Montario Hardesty. No team scores on all their draft picks. You build a surplus for the purpose of trading some of them.
Hey Tony: Are there any indications that the Browns are trying to sign a free agent receiver (like Mike Sims-Walker, perhaps)? Are they at least THINKING about it? Please tell me they are and when might such a move take place?
-- Greg, Racine, WI
Hey Greg: Sorry. I don’t see any evidence of a free agent WR being signed. Sims-Walker wouldn’t add much, anyway.
Hey Tony: What is the big secret the Browns are keeping by not announcing the UDFA? There is no competitive advantage at all by withholding this. They just continue to alienate the fans.
-- Mike Minch, Hinckley
Hey Mike: The Browns take the conservative approach to all player transactions. They want the players to pass their physicals and sign a contract before any announcements. It’s to avoid embarrassment if something breaks down. Remember the Brodrick Bunkley fiasco last year, when news got out about trading for him before he flunked his team physical?
Hey Tony: I've been watching the Browns since 1975, and 2011 had to be the all-time low water mark in terms of talent for any group of Browns receivers. Is it just me, or does it seem like Mike Holmgren is talking himself into believing another year of experience from Greg Little, plus a smaller and less versatile version of Dennis Northcutt, and no other changes, legitimizes this under-talented group? My guess is that he feels more than a little uneasy about missing the opportunity to get a Kendall Wright quality player and is instead convincing himself that he, Heckert and Shurmer have a better plan. I simply can't buy that the braintrust unanimously endorsed the Weeden/RT/WR offensive plan. Surely Heckert and Shurmur know they can't compete with the current group of receivers. While Little may have some physical gifts, I don't see him as an intense and focused player who will do whatever it takes to win that ball. And while Josh of all Trades is indeed intense, he's nearing his ceiling as a WR,
-- Pete Yehl, Danville, CA
Hey Pete: The braintrust seems in lockstep that the receivers will improve because of an accurate-throwing quarterback, a dependable running back, and an improved offensive line.
Hey Tony: Is it possible that Colt McCoy is still not right from his concussion? I haven’t seen any comments from him since the end of the season – that just seemed odd to me. And if he isn’t right in the head, that would explain the pressure to move up for RG3 and take Brandon Weeden. I can certainly see the Browns and the NFL trying hard not to make a big deal of it if he is indeed still hurt or suffering lingering effects – that’s some more negative press the NFL is really not wanting right now regarding head trauma. Maybe I’m just looking for the conspiracy theory. Thanks.
Hey Jeff: The Browns repeatedly have said that McCoy is fully recovered from his concussion and that he is participating fully in the offseason conditioning program. I’m guessing that McCoy’s decision not to speak publicly probably is a function of not wanting to create waves about the team’s decision to draft Weeden in the first round.
Hey Tony: Could the lack of addressing the WR position during this draft possibly be due to the fact that the Browns are counting on Carlton Mitchell to make strides to get into the WR rotation? He does have size and speed.
-- George K. Zink, Oak Park CA
Hey George: If that’s behind their thinking, they haven’t stated it.
Hey Tony: Saturday night after the close of the 2nd & 3rd rounds, I was listening to Chris Fedor over the internet on 850. It was quite palpable his disdain for the John Hughes pick. I am a fan of other teams that have made somewhat similar choices and I usually try to be rational in my judgment of such a decision. However, Fedor couldn't seem to find a mock draft or "expert" that had Hughes drafted any higher than the 6th-7th rounds, if at all. How skeptical are you of the decision to draft Hughes in the 3rd round and what analysis could have motivated the Browns to draft someone who apparently deviated so greatly on the draft projections/boards of many others?
-- Peter, Toronto, Ontario
Hey Peter: My problem with the Hughes pick was that, in all likelihood, he will be playing behind Ahtyba Rubin for a long time. I understand Rubin needs a capable backup to give him some time off during games. I felt they could find such a backup in later rounds, where Hughes, indeed, was projected. The only analysis that could have motivated the Browns to draft Hughes so high is that they felt he was a very good player. Again, given the financial commitment to Rubin, I don’t see him being good enough to keep Rubin off the field for reasons other than rest.
Hey Tony: Do you get the feeling that Mike Holmgren is trying to lower expectations already by saying only Dan Marino lit it up his first year? I remember you seemed shocked when he said something like "this is really our second year because Mangini's second year should not count against us" at a presser once. Seems like they feel the need to justify failure. Tough question here: what does he want MORE time or to get treated with kid gloves from the fans and media? You’re the best at this stuff, thanks!
-- Joe Palmer, Cleveland
Hey Joe: Holmgren might have been lowering external expectations for Weeden, but I believe the internal expectations are that he will take the job from Day One and elevate the play at the position. That’s why they drafted him in the first round.
Hey Tony: I get sick reading some of these naysayers concerning the draft. I follow the draft, chart it and have a yearly competition with my sons. We have our ideas on who we should take and question their choices but let’s face it, Tom Heckert forgot more than we will ever know. They pick and then live or die with who they pick. Let’s see what happens and hopefully enjoy the season with our new people. I am a big McCoy fan but understand the logic and understand where they picked Weeden. I too as many fans am a lifelong fan and season ticket holder. I have waited a long time for a championship team and actually feel we are getting better. Sit back and enjoy the ride. T Rich will be a star and Weeden may throw a couple long bombs. Heaven knows the fans have been calling for it. Go Browns. By the way, I am 64 years old and enjoy the games and will until I take the long ride up.
-- Ed Somppi, Conneaut
Hey Ed: Don’t change. Any sports team needs fans like you.
Hey Tony: Great draft coverage. What happened to Chase Minnifield? No one drafted him and he was rated in the 80s. Why do the Browns not bring him in as a free agent?
-- Joe Maloney, Woodland, CA
Hey Joe: Minnifield’s dad, Frank, said that Chase was removed from every team’s draft board because he had the dreaded microfracture surgical procedure on a knee in January. Chase was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Redskins.
Hey Tony: “I’m OK with Mitchell Schwartz.” Of course you are, shill. If this were Eric Mangini, ignoring the WR position you'd be killing him. THIS is great example of your flaming hypocrisy
-- Mike, Dover
Hey Mike: Way to keep it real. Rock on.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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