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Cleveland Browns & The NFL

Pat Mac goes yard this morning

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Pat Mac goes yard this morning

Unread postby jb » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:15 am

This is all spot on. Every word. U almost never find analysis this good in the mainstream fishwraps.



Picking winner isn't easy

Nothing is guaranteed for Browns in NFL Draft

By Patrick McManamon, Beacon Journal sportswriter

Think of the top five picks of recent NFL Drafts and the names Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and LaDainian Tomlinson come to mind.

It's just as easy to think of Robert Gallery, Ryan Leaf and Akili Smith -- all top-five busts.

To some, picking in the top five is cherry-picking.

``I'd like to be first to go, know what I mean?'' Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said. ``You want Vince Young or Mario Williams or Reggie Bush?''

Gruden mentioned the three consensus top picks from last year's draft. This year, there are five standout players -- and Gruden's Buccaneers will pick one.

But few in the league think that picking high is easy. Many, in fact, consider it more difficult than picking later.

That's because, even in the top five, there are no guarantees, and the stakes for missing are magnified.

From 1999-2004, 10 of the 30 players taken in the top five legitimately could be called busts (see chart).

Those include Smith and Peter Warrick with the Cincinnati Bengals, Tim Couch and Gerard Warren with the Browns, Robert Gallery with the Oakland Raiders and Joey Harrington with the Detroit Lions.

Cynics might point out the reason there are so many busts in the top five is because teams such as the Browns and Bengals have picked high so often. Their picks were poor, which kept them up there year after year.

But go back one more year to 1998, and three of the top five players selected were busts: quarterback Ryan Leaf with the San Diego Chargers, defensive lineman Andre Wadsworth with the Arizona Cardinals and running back Curtis Enis with the Chicago Bears.

That means 37 percent of the top five picks from 1998 through 2004 were wasted.

Some players flamed out because of bad luck. Courtney Brown, like Wadsworth, never was able to stay healthy.

Others, like Harrington and David Carr with the Houston Texans, could not handle the pressure that goes with being picked so high.

And others, like Gallery, simply were overrated.

``We're not geniuses,'' Indianapolis Colts president and personnel man Bill Polian said. ``We all miss on virtually 50 percent of the players that come out. Personnel management is a tough job, and you're not always going to be right.''

But it would make sense that things are a little easier in the top five.

``You should get a good one,'' Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. ``Your odds are better that you're going to get a player than they are of you making a mistake.''

As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton put it: ``You only have to fall in love with five guys.''

That narrows the field, and it allows teams to focus on the top players. Yet they still make mistakes.

From 1998-2004, only six top-five picks could be called legitimately great players: Manning, Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis, Tomlinson, Palmer and Julius Peppers. (Donovan McNabb, Chris Samuels and Larry Fitzgerald are close.)

That's a batting average of 20 percent for the top players available every year.

``That's the draft,'' Baltimore Ravens Vice President Ozzie Newsome said. ``There's busts in the draft, period. If we are 50 percent correct, we're good.''

Degrees of difficulty

What makes picking so high so difficult?

Several factors:

• ``The money,'' Browns General Manager Phil Savage said.

The term ``guaranteed money'' now is in vogue in the NFL, and first-round picks are guaranteed millions before they play a down. That raises the stakes on a mistake. And any mistake is compounded because of the effects on the salary cap.

Newsome always has believed that a top-five player gets more time to prove himself because of the money, and if the guy can't play, that only extends the mistake.

• Pressure on the team.

Said Ravens coach Brian Billick: ``There's a lot more pressure, because if you miss, they're going to shove that up your rear end for a long time.''

The pressure leads teams to scrutinize to unheard-of degrees. That leads to overthinking. How else to explain the fact the Browns almost went with Akili Smith over Couch in 1999, or that the Texans passed on Vince Young and Reggie Bush to take Mario Williams?

Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said picking in the top five is only ``theoretically'' easier -- again because of overthinking.

``(Even) at pick No. 100, there was a guy that was perfect for you to take and most of the time once we get to 100, we don't take him,'' Thompson said. ``We take somebody else.''

• Pressure on the player.

With high selection and high amount of money come high expectations.

Some guys can handle it. Palmer has stepped in with the Bengals with aplomb. Manning has never wavered with the Colts.

Leaf couldn't handle it. Couch did his best but didn't succeed. Carr has had a deer-in-the-headlights look frequently.

``Here's the thing,'' Crennel said. ``As soon as you take a guy in the top five, everybody expects him to be a savior. Really he's just another football player. He's not a savior. He's a football player. He needs time to grow and develop just like everybody else does, like the 31st pick in the draft.

``The 31st pick gets an opportunity to be on the team, come along and play when he's ready. The top-five pick, you say he should be ready right now. Half of these top-five picks are juniors coming out. They really are not ready.

``They've got the talent and they've got the ability, but what they need is they need to be able to grow and develop and come along. But because they're top five and you pay him X amount of dollars, you say this guy is the savior and he gets thrown in.

``Some of them can't handle the pressure of being the savior.''

• The rush to get young players on the field.

Crennel touched on it. Years ago, even top picks were given the chance to develop.

No more.

Couch was thrown in after one game. Carr started from the get-go.

Palmer seems to have benefited from sitting for a year, just as Philip Rivers did for two years with the San Diego Chargers. That kind of patience with a player, though, is the exception.

``You always like for your first-round pick to be an impact player,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. ``Obviously that's why you pick him in the first round.''

``You drafted them, so you better play them,'' Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. ``You wait three or four years to figure if he's a good player and he's gone (via free agency).

``He's somebody else's good player.''

But forcing a young guy on the field before he's ready is a quick route to a draft bust.

• The measurables take on greater importance.

Height. Weight. Speed in a 40-yard dash. Shuttle speed. Vertical jump. Things that are related to football but aren't football.

Gallery was the can't-miss prospect of the draft in 1998. He was tall, strong and mean.

And a bust.

``I think what happens is you get connected or married to certain players, and I think that's what happens to teams,'' Savage said. ``They get kind of obligated to one or two players and they don't see the forest for the trees.''

Because they fall in love with combine speed or workout strength. It's the dependence on those numbers that make drafting in the top five more difficult, Lions coach Rod Marinelli said.

``Because the measurables are bigger,'' Marinelli said. ``What's everybody talking about? Some of these guys work out (and teams say), `Wow, did you see that guy's workout?'

`` `You see what he ran on his field, on his time, in his conditions, at his school, (with) a full day's rest.' Are you kidding me? It's perfect.

``That's all everybody is talking about, what they've done there,'' Marinelli said. ``You can't. You got to go back to his tape. A lot of times, when you miss on the first round, it's because you started to fall in love with the measurables, not the film.''

The phrases spewed by draftniks seem to become sillier every year, and take on a life of their own. A lineman has ``great feet.'' A quarterback has ``small hands.'' A receiver has ``huge upside.''

Teams pay attention and are influenced by those words.

``You always have to go back and look at the tape,'' Edwards said. ``That's going to tell you what kind of player he is.''

• Quirks.

Courtney Brown had never been injured in college. He comes to the pros and can't stay healthy.

Ricky Williams was an interesting personality, but who knew he'd take a year off to go to India?

As much as teams like to think they know everything about players, there still are surprises.

Even in the top five -- after teams have spent countless hours watching and researching and scouting the players.

Which makes the draft at any spot a bit of a guessing game.

``All drafts have players you can pick from,'' New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese said. ``You just have to find the right ones for your team.''

Patrick McManamon can be reached at pmcmanamon@thebeaconjournal.com.
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Unread postby consigliere » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:44 am

Excellent piece indeed.

One thing that really caught my eye:

``I think what happens is you get connected or married to certain players, and I think that's what happens to teams,'' Savage said. ``They get kind of obligated to one or two players and they don't see the forest for the trees.''

I hope Savage is looking in the mirror. No trade up for JR!
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Unread postby yogi » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:48 am

Right on the money.

Regardless which of the top 5 you want on the Browns, the article rings true.

I know Phil has the philosophy of "needing to hit singles". You think with these top 5 you can hit a Homerun.

I'd be happy with a bases clearing double.

2 things that could happen next Saturday that would spoil my day.

1. Giving up 1st day draft picks to move up.
2. Trading so far down from #3 that will miss out on the Top 5.
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Unread postby jfiling » Sun Apr 22, 2007 8:23 am

That is a really great article. It's so great, I won't even nitpick the math error the editor missed.
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