From the ongoing labor impasse to mock drafts and potential free agents, this was a week reserved for projections among participants in the many OBR reader forums. Considering the time of year, this is the overdrive portion of offseason hypotheticals – where the debate regarding which players can improve the Browns in 2011 is the closest thing we have to actual game day competition. And despite the cruel burden of ongoing, mediated billion-dollar squabbles, the sense of idealism that marks the NFL offseason is still apparent.
And what better evidence of such a sentiment than this post from OBR Tap Room member Air Al…
Regarding the free agent availability of Vernon Gholston:
As a 4-3 DE he might be worth a shot. Jets just waived him.
And among the supporters of Air Al's idea….
I spoke with Sobo about this last week. I personally would take a flier on him & Tim Crowder in FA. If nothing else, they become depth players, which I've seen worse depth players on this roster than the two names being mentioned!
And the detractors….
Plus, Gholston hasn't played 4-3 DE since he was at Ohio State. Another factor in a good flier: the what-if factor. As in, what if that's just what he is?
And those without a sense of smell….
They won't even sniff at VG. The team's overall situation is not as terrible as some make it out to be. Sooner or later the labor situation will be resolved, and there will be a lot of FA players available to fill various holes. Face it, 90 % of the players in the NFL are within a gnats ass of each other as far as ability...that's why they are in the NFL. Then you have the cream of the elite players. Browns need to find 1 or 2 elite players in each of the next couple drafts.
For the most part, the OBR forum community came to the consensus that Gholston could prove to be a cheap pick-up for a Browns' roster that is virtually naked at defensive end. In this sense, any player can help – especially from a pre-draft perspective. However, what intrigued me about the conversation was the idea of Gholston's value. Most OBR forum members commented on how such a move could be considered a bargain – at least if Gholston could pan out in Cleveland.
While the debate was worthwhile, I have to wonder about the question being asked. Does the debate revolve around the massive gaps the Browns have at defensive end? Or does the issue regard the actual value of Vernon Gholston?
Or - why didn't anyone start a post about Tim Crowder?
Considering that this time of year is the season to overvalue NFL players, it's hard to actually figure out what type of value is actually involved. Or really, what is the value of value in terms of NFL players?
In Gholston's case, there's nothing about his NFL resume that would suggest that he is worth much of anything. 42 tackles and no sacks during parts of a three-year career will do that for a player – along with the idea that Gholston never appeared to grasp the demands of playing at a highly technical, professional level – both under Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan.
But despite all of Gholston's failure, his name still retains a bit of an allure – especially to NFL teams lacking quality pass rushers.
Yet, this begs the question:
Why do we still attach value to what is considered a "bust?"
Is it because of this?
Blessed with incredible speed (clocked at 4.56 in the 40-yard dash), long limbs and superb strength, Gholston is the prototype pass rusher that professional teams look for -- big, fast, strong and explosive. An avid performer in the weight room, he boasted the best bench press on the team at 455 pounds. He also put on an impressive performance for teammates, squatting 405 pounds 20 times.
Or worse yet…..the musings of a draft expert….
Of the top prospects at the position for the 2009 draft, he has clearly proved to be the best of the bunch when it comes to generating heat on the quarterback. Case in point: The trio of Florida's Derrick Harvey (6.5 sacks), Miami (Fla.)'s Calais Campbell (six sacks) and LSU's Tyson Jackson (2.5 sacks) has combined for 15 sacks. Gholston has 13!
Much like the idea of finding a productive NFL talent in the later rounds of the draft, the prospect of reviving a former first-round player borders on the theoretical – as in "wouldn't it be nice to sign a former sixth overall pick" to a bargain contract? In theory, of course. As consumers, there's nothing more satisfying than getting something for nothing. In the NFL, reputations are entrenched by unearthing Josh Cribbs, trading for Peyton Hillis or haggling for a new labor deal.
Yet, to go back to DiamondBack102's comment, how much difference is there among NFL players?
In the case of Gholston, the evidence is as thin as his NFL production. At this point in brief career, Gholston basically has two things going for him. First, he will come relatively cheap. Second, there are volumes of now dated, glowing praise devoted to him. However, these pre-draft gushings are basically what put Gholston in this position to begin with. The likes of Mel Kiper and so many others essentially elevated Gholston to a top-ten pick thanks to one terrific college season – or at least one high-profile game versus Michigan.
Three years later, we're basically doing the same thing. The allure of Gholston still remains his first-round name – one that was made thanks to Mike Tannenbaum's Jets taking him over such players as Jerod Mayo, Ryan Clady, Joe Flacco and Chris Johnson. His lack of on-field production shows the characteristics of a college player who peaked at the right time, then delivered an impressive, but ultimately meaningless NFL Combine workout.
However, now Gholston's value has shifted from being declared a top prospect to becoming a potential reclamation project. Stashed away in the NFL bargain bins, Gholston has been repackaged, but is still the same player. Granted, the Browns desperately need to find some defensive ends, but this search cannot be influenced by faulty media analysis or the thrill of bargain hunting. The degrees of missing on an NFL prospect should not be factored into any free agent decisions.
Or, to borrow from BrownWarrior, "what if that's just what he is?"
Be it a top-ten draft pick or a free agent bargain, the evidence is apparent. If Gholston is signed and then released, the sting of failure will not attach itself to the Browns. But then again, the Browns will still be looking for a defensive end.