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Browns GM Tom Heckert views Josh Gordon as a future No. 1 receiver with elite skills

Jul 12, 2012 -- 4:32pm


By Tony Grossi


The Browns’ bold move to use their second-round draft pick in 2013 to select ex-Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon in Thursday’s NFL supplemental draft is their third aggressive transaction on offense since April.

They packaged three draft picks just to move up one spot in the first round to guarantee no team would beat them to running back Trent Richardson.

Then they selected quarterback Brandon Weeden at No. 22 when most experts said they could have waited until No. 37 in the second round.

Thursday’s selection of Gordon, who left Baylor after his sophomore season and hasn’t played since 2010, completes the offensive trifecta. The Browns now head into their 2012 training camp with rookies at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

And make no mistake that the Browns see Gordon not only as a first-year contributor despite his time off, but also as a viable candidate to start.

“We hope he can come in and play right away,” said GM Tom Heckert.

“We did look at the guys supposedly coming out next year and kind of compare Josh to those guys. Where we got Josh, I think, was good value and we get him a year early.”

Baylor coach Art Briles concurred. He said, "Josh has great upside. I think he was a safe draft pick, and he’ll be an instant contributor. He’s got size and speed and good hands. His length will make it difficult for cornerbacks to match up with him. We wish him the best.”

Gordon transferred from Baylor after he was suspended indefinitely for testing positive for marijuana. The test followed an arrest on a misdemeanor charge for being in a car with marijuana. Gordon sat out 2011 but practiced all year with University of Utah. He opted to enter the supplemental draft just days before the deadline.

Heckert, who has established a pipeline to the Baylor program, said he spoke to “a zillion guys” at Baylor and Utah and none said a negative thing about Gordon. Heckert also grilled Gordon in a face-to-face inquisition in Berea last week about his marijuana issues.

“We’re not really 100% on anybody in the draft,” Heckert said. “We felt good enough that we think he’s going to be a positive influence on our team.

“I drilled him pretty hard and he didn’t back down. He promised he was going to be a guy we’d love having in Cleveland. To me, he seemed pretty fired up about being a Brown.”

The Browns’ advance work on Gordon began with the team’s scouting of defensive tackle Phil Taylor in 2011 and quarterback Robert Griffin III and receiver Kendall Wright in 2012. Their homework included video review of the 2010 season, when Gordon, as a sophomore, was second on the team with 42 catches for 714 yards and seven touchdowns.

What really excited Heckert was Gordon’s size (he’s 6-3 1/8 and 224 pounds), his speed (he posted a 4.52 in the 40 in a workout this week), and his sure hands. A league source said one difference between Gordon and Julio Jones, the big receiver Heckert passed up in 2011 for a controversial trade-down, was that Gordon had “no history of drops like Julio.”

Heckert said Gordon possesses elite athletic and physical skills.

“He’s got a long way to go before he’s elite as a player, but his size and athletic ability and speed, they’re up there pretty good,” Heckert said. “He’s big, can run, has huge hands and long arms. He’s an impressive looking kid.

“This kid has great hands, the ability to adjust to the ball, and he’s big. Does he need some route work, sure? We think his ability is untapped. We think he’s gonna get a lot better as he picks up our offense and just being around our team.”

Asked if Gordon can be a No. 1 receiver, Heckert said, “yeah … he can start in the NFL.”

Heckert so liked Gordon that he said he committed to using a second-round pick on him even before knowing the draft order. The Browns were lucky to win the No. 2 pick in the order in the weighted lottery. Buffalo was No. 1. Browns-nemesis Washington, which wanted to reunite Gordon with Griffin, was No. 7.

It’s fitting that the Browns finally outbid the Redskins for a player this offseason. They took so much grief for not aggressively pursuing Griffin and allowing the Redskins to outbid them in a trade with St. Louis for position to take Griffin in the first round.They also watched Washington outbid them for free agent receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan.

That criticism seems to have motivated the Browns to make the bold moves that have since followed.

Update: Gordon released the following statement through the Browns:

 "I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to become part of such a prestigious organization as the Cleveland Browns. I can't wait to get started
and acclimated to a new city as well as the team. I want to be able to contribute to the offense in any way I can, and I am ready to come in and work
hard to make that happen.

"I enjoyed my visit there last week, and was very impressed with all of the people I met, including Mr. Heckert. I have also had
the chance to speak with Coach Shurmur on several occasions and I am looking forward to the opportunity to play for him. Being taken this high in the
supplemental draft and mentioned among the likes of the Bernie Kosar is a humbling experience in itself, as well as a dream come true."

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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