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Browns actions speak louder than words when handicapping their draft

Mar 23, 2012 -- 4:17pm

By TONY GROSSI

Browns GM Tom Heckert has never mislead the media or fans about his plans.


Extra points …

Sifting through the fog of draft: When it comes to pre-draft chatter, the less said by teams the better.

The teams that talk a lot in public settings are doing it mostly to steer attention from their true intentions, anyway. The teams that say nothing, or little of note, can’t be accused after the draft of exaggerating, or worse, lying.

For those reasons, it doesn’t bother me that the Browns have been fairly quiet on the draft.

Tom Heckert has a solid track record in two-plus years as Browns general manager of not misleading media or his team’s fans about his plans in the draft.

In his first season, Heckert consistently talked up cornerback Joe Haden, even when Haden’s draft status seemed to plunge after he posted a bad 40 time at the NFL combine because he elected to run with a sore back. Heckert took Haden with the seventh overall pick while most experts had long gotten off Haden that high.

In his second season, Heckert maintained the team, at that time, had confidence in its returning receiver corps. Some of us didn’t believe him and expected Heckert to leap at Julio Jones with the sixth overall pick. Instead, Heckert passed on the Alabama receiver and traded down to collect extra picks.

He then had to give up a third-round pick to move back up some to select defensive tackle Phil Taylor, whom he had targeted the week before the draft – unbeknownst to everybody who never thought to ask about Taylor.

So in handicapping the Browns’ intentions this year, their actions should speak louder than words.

What we have learned: Right defensive end was a high priority for the Browns after Jayme Mitchell flamed out in his stint as a starter. But this draft is very lean at the position, so Heckert filled the need by signing Frostee Rucker and situational rusher Juqua Parker in free agency.

Wide receiver is an obvious need that was ignored in free agency.

Right offensive tackle has been a need since Ryan Tucker retired. Heckert addressed it early in his tenure in Cleveland by signing Tony Pashos in free agency. Pashos’ injuries kept him off the field a lot and severely reduced his quality of play. Heckert consistently defended Pashos – when healthy. Heckert released Pashos last month rather than suffer through another season of doubt about his status.

The degree of need at quarterback has been debated. The Browns have never written off Colt McCoy, though they dabbled in the pursuit of Robert Griffin III.  They “considered” other quarterbacks but showed no interest in any free agent, notably Matt Flynn.

The most telling tip-off to their plans was the conference call with season ticket-holders. On that call, President Mike Holmgren conceded the Browns were “excited” about the prospect of nabbing Griffin but said the team intends to move on to Plan B. He explained Plan B as supporting McCoy and Seneca Wallace with players around them.

Which leads us to conclude: The surest way to support your quarterbacks is to upgrade their protection, their running game and their receivers. That doesn’t pin down specific names, but it gives us a fair idea about their priority targets in the early rounds.

It’s up to us to guess the order in which Heckert fills these needs, whether they choose Justin Blackmon or Trent Richardson at No. 4, or use No. 22 on a receiver (Kendall Wright) or offensive tackle (Mike Adams) and settle for a running back (David Wilson) in the second round.

And there’s one name possibly in this mix that has gone overlooked. It’s not easy for a man who is 6-6 and 316 pounds to fly under radar. But I would suggest the name of Bobby Massie, offensive tackle from Mississippi, as a player that may interest – and should interest – the Browns to fill one of the biggest needs on offense.

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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