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With 13 picks, Browns GM Tom Heckert can take chances late in the draft and hope to find a gem

Apr 10, 2012 -- 2:15pm

By Tony Grossi


Extra Points …

What to do with all those draft picks?: Because they added three picks in previous trades and were given four compensatory picks by the NFL, the Browns head into the April 26-28 NFL draft with a league-high 13 selections.

Those are the most the Browns have owned entering a draft since they had 14 each in 1999 and 2000. That’s when the NFL gave the Browns an additional seven picks in each of those drafts, beginning in the middle of the third round, as part of their expansion “perks.”

We know the Browns squandered the majority of those 28 draft picks. Some were included in trades. Most of the others never panned out.

Who could have imagined that the player with the longest NFL tenure of those first two Browns drafts would be James Dearth, the 191st selection in the sixth round of the 1999 draft.

Dearth was a long-snapper specialist who played for five NFL teams and most recently was lured out of retirement by the New England Patriots in the 2011 training camp. (Moral: Mamas, let your babies be long snappers.)

Mining for gems: It’s likely that Browns GM Tom Heckert may use a couple of his extra picks in a trade package to move up in an earlier round. He has two picks in the fourth and fifth rounds and one in the seventh to offer as trade fodder.

But the four compensatory picks cannot be traded. These are Nos. 204 and 205 in the sixth round, and Nos. 245 and 247 in the seventh round.

That low in the draft, Heckert can only hope to stumble on a lucky gem.

Tom Brady is the classic example, of course. He was the 199th pick of the 2000 draft. (The Browns cast their net on another quarterback 16 spots earlier. That would be the immortal Spergon Wynn, who produced a 5-for-16, 5-sack stinker in his first and last NFL start.)

But when you get into the 200s in the NFL draft – with 32 teams picking – the odds are slim of finding a player capable of starting in the NFL.

Slim, but not impossible.

Some of the recent 200-plus gems: These players usually take two or three years of incubating on special teams before catching a break or playing their way into starting positions. Here are some examples from recent drafts:

2009: Julian Edelman (232nd selection), Ryan Succop (256).

2008: Matt Flynn (209), Demetress Bell (219), Peyton Hillis (227).

2007: Chansi Stuckey (235), Jason Snelling (244), Ahmad Bradshaw (250).

2006: Courtland Finnegan (216), Jarrod Page (228), Marques Colston (252), Dave Tollefson (253).

2005: Jay Ratliff (224), Jonathan Fanene (233), Ryan Fitzpatrick (250).

2004: Shane Olivea (209), Patrick Crayton (216), Derrick Ward (235), Scott Wells (251).

Then there are the ultimate diamonds-in-the-rough, players who went undrafted entirely and became stars. We need look no further than James Harrison (2002) and Josh Cribbs (2005) to realize players can be found outside the draft, too.

If nothing else, Heckert can use his four compensatory picks to get a jump on players he might otherwise have courted as undrafted free agents.

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 tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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