Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Cleveland Browns

The 2007 season was the Browns' best season since they surprsingly made the playoffs following the 2002 season. Of course a 10-6 record in '07 did not get them into the playoffs like a 9-7 one did in '02 but, still, the Browns were looking up. What happened in 2008? The team was a chic pick to win the AFC North last year but flopped completely, falling back to 4-12.

So what was Cleveland's weakness in 2008? Surprisingly, it wasn't really the defense that let them down. The Dawg Pound should be mad at an offense ranked 26th or lower in four major categories. The team was 31st in passing yards and total yards a year after ranking 12th and 8th respectively. Derek Andersen never found the groove he was in during 2007 and also suffered through injuries. Compounding matters was the teams inability to score when they had a chance. The Browns averaged just over two TDs a game in 2008, ranking 30th in The League. The defnse employed a "bend but don't break (too much)" approach. They were 26th in yards allowed but were near league average in points allowed (17th). If the offense improves, the defense will as well.

The Romeo Crennel Era came to an abrupt end. After leading the organization to its first double-digit win total since 1994 during the 2007 season, Crennel was sent packing. He was replaced by a man from the same coaching tree in Eric Mangini, fired by the Jets after three lackluster years as their head coach. Crennel figures to stay away for football for a year while Mangini has filled Cleveland with Jets castoffs, through free agency and trades. Thankfully for Mangini and the Browns, the 3-4 defense was already installed in Cleveland. No tranisition period!

1/21/21 - Alex Mack, OC, California
2/4/36 - Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State
2/18/50 - Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Georgia
2/20/52 - David Veikune, DE/OLB, Hawaii
4/4/104 - Kaluka Maiava, ILB/OLB, USC
6/4/177 - Don Carey, CB, Norfolk State
6/18/191 - Coye Francies, CB, San Jose State
6/22/195 - James Davis, RB, Clemson


  • LB - Check!
  • CB - Check!
  • S - Try again.
  • OL - Check!
  • TE - Try again.
  • WR - Check!
Thanks to trading down a lot, the Browns stockpiled picks and left the 2009 draft after selecting eight brand-spankin' new prospects. Their biggest need appeared to be at OLB, where Kamerion Wimbley has done little and Willie McGinest is aged - and it is showing. They eventually filled this need, just not as early as people thought. Their trade with the Jets dropped them from the 5th pick all the way down to 17, where they then traded back with Tampa Bay to 19, where they traded back with the Eagles to 21. Yes, they were active. But with so many needs they needed the picks and successfully filled a few holes, though some were noticably left empty.

GRADE: 75/100

Pick 1 - I was a big fan of Alex Mack and definitely thought he should go at the end of round one. However, 21 was a tad early; they actually should have tried trading back a few more spots and landed him at 26 or 27. Mack is an instant upgrade over veteran Hank Fraley or could slide to guard if he's more needed there. Grade: 8

Pick 2 - Another mini-reach, I think Robiskie would have been available up through pick 43. But they got a guy who fills a big need, and a local product at that. Robiskie could become an immediate starter as he was the most polished WR in the draft, thanks to his pedigree and institution. He could succeed Braylon Edwards should he be traded in the offseason or can easily replace the departed Joe Jurevicius and the (soon-to-be incarcerated?) expected loss of Donte Stallworth. Grade: 7

Pick 3 - Another tall WR? Is Braylon Edwards already gone? After taking Robiskie at 36, the Browns take Massaquoi just 14 picks later. Perhaps they're just making sure at least one of them lives up to his billing. This is a curious pick though looking athe their depth without Edwards and Stallworth, not a completely unwarranted one. Grade: 6

Pick 4 - With their third pick in round two the Browns finally added a rush OLB in former Hawaii DE David Veikune, who wasn't expected to be taken on Day 1. His size (6-2, 257) makes him the perfect candidate to play opposite Wimbley. Though this was a slight reach, especially with Paul Kruger, Cody Brown, and Michael Johnson still on the board, I think he has potential. Grade: 6

Pick 5 - LBs go back-to-back for the Browns as they add the forgotten USC 'backer Kaluka Maiava. This was an odd pick because Maiava, who played OLB at USC, will have to slide inside for the Browns... but he is undersized for that as well. He'll need to add 10-15 lbs. to take on blockers. Grade: 4

Pick 6 - The CB from the small college had been rising on draft boards throughout April and was expected to be taken at this juncture. Carey has great intangibles but may be a little slow to stay at CB in the NFL. His transition to safety, should it happen, would fill another need for Cleveland anyway. Nice pick. The only better option here would have been Cary Harris or Coye Francies. Grade: 7

Pick 7 - Speaking of Francies, the Browns get him here. This was way late for the San Jose State product and he should have a huge chip on his shoulder. Originally considered a 2nd or 3rd round player, Francies fell due to character concerns. He and Carey could make a nice pair at CB or safety in the coming years. Grade: 8

Pick 8 - Six picks after taking Francies, they grabbed another tremendous value in James Davis from Clemson. They had only Jerome Harrison behind the injury-prone and older Jamal Lewis so adding a bruiser like Davis helps immensely. While he may not develop into a full-time player, his size and strength will allow him to snag a few carries from a winded Lewis. Now the Browns should look to add C.J. Spiller in 2010. Grade: 8

GRADE: 54/80


The Browns doubled-up at two positions of need, WR and CB. They also got some tremendous value late in Francies and Davis. The first few players were slight reaches as of now but could prove their draft status over the next three seasons. The Maiava pick was the strangest but, overall, the Browns filled needs nicely and have the start of a base that could make them competitive in the NFC North in 2010 or 2011.


WHY: A majority of their needs were filled, but a safety should have been added instead of Maiava. Chip Vaughn or David Bruton would have been better in round four. It's also curious that the team didn't look to add any TE after trading away Kellen Winslow. However, it is understandable when looking at their depth. Steve Heiden has been serviceable for them, they added Robert Royal, and second year man Martin Rucker was a great pick in 2008. Getting Carey, Francies, and Davis with the final three picks definitely made this a better class than expected.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Francies
Worst Pick: Maiava
Sleeper: Carey
Instant Impact: Mack
Developmental: Veikune

OTHER DRAFT GRADES - Cleveland Browns
CBS Sports (Prisco): C
CBS Sports (Rang): B
ESPN (Kiper): B-
NFL.com (Brooks): B-
NFL.com (Fan's): B
Walter: C-



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