The National Football League draft is nothing more than an exercise in dealing with the eye of the beholder.
What one man sees as great, another sees as mediocre. What one man sees as potential, another sees as disaster. What one man sees as a strength, another sees as a weakness. What one man sees as a second-rounder, another sees as a sixth-rounder.
It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
How else can anyone explain why Eric Mangini, in moves clearly indicating he has major concerns with the Browns’ passing game, took two wide receivers in the second round of last weekend’s college football draft?
One was expected now that Donte Stallworth’s career is in jeopardy. But two? Certainly Mangini could have used one of his three sixth-round picks on a wide receiver and saved a second-rounder for someone more urgently needed.
Like a running back. LeSean McCoy, the productive running back from the University of Pittsburgh, would have looked good in the Cleveland backfield. With Jamal Lewis definitely in his last season with the Browns, McCoy would have been a great choice. He’s better now than Jerome Harrison. And he was there at 50 and 52.
While it was clear his club produced one of the National Football League’s most quarterback-friendly pass rushes last season, the new Browns coach opted for a pair of players at a position that has proven one of the most difficult to transition to successfully in the NFL.
Rarely will you see a wide receiver step right into the NFL so smoothly, you forget he’s a rookie. There are exceptions, to be certain, but they are few and extremely far between. Besides, this was not a great draft for wide receivers.
It’s hard to figure out why a man educated in the Bill Belichick school of coaching, which bows before the shrine of defense and salutes the running game on offense, would gamble on a pair of receivers. Of all people, Mangini knows defense wins championships.
Perhaps he became sanguine with his defense after obtaining defensive end Kenyon Coleman and strong safety Abram Elam in the first-round trade with the New York Jets.
Then again, maybe Mangini noticed the Browns’ offense finished last season without a touchdown in the final six games. That would scare any coach. But that was more an aberration than anything.
The Cleveland offense isn’t as bad as Mangini and George Kokinis believed. Subtract injuries last season to Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson and there is no way the Browns go six games without an offensive touchdown.
Last Saturday, Clint Sintim and Connor Barwin, whose pass-rushing abilities caught the attention of most NFL scouts, were available when the Browns selected at the top of round two. And yet, Mangini ignored a decided weakness and opted to help the offense with players who most likely would have been available later.
Sintim was a four-year player and extremely productive for coach Al Groh in Virginia’s 3-4 scheme. His 27 career sacks – he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in sacks last season – and numerous tackles for loss would have looked nice in Brown and Orange. And Barwin has the size-speed combination to make the switch to outside linebacker from defensive end.
Sintim would have been a natural fit with the pick Mangini used to select Brian Robiskie. It’s hard to believe Robiskie ranked higher on the Browns’ draft board.
Robiskie most likely would have been there at #50 with the second of the Browns’ three second-round selections. Perhaps even at #52. He does not have the kind of talent that blows scouts away. He had a nice career at Ohio State and is a local kid, but the 36th-best player in the draft? His greatest assets are his feel for the game and sure hands.
Mo Massaquoi conjures up thoughts of Quincy Morgan and Travis Wilson, early-round Cleveland picks whose careers peaked when they were in college. Until last season, when he began catching just about everything Matt Stafford threw his way at Georgia, Massaquoi was known more for his drops. Sound familiar?
Mangini finally plugged his linebacker holes with his next two picks with David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava, a couple of maybes who bring a lot of effort and toughness to the game, but are more athletes than football players.
Let’s see: Sintim, Robiskie and McCoy in the second round. Or Robiskie, Massaquoi and Veikune. You decide.
Mangini and Kokinis are neophytes at this drafting thing. And it showed in the deal with the Jets.
Mangini did not extract enough from his former team in the trade that landed USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in New York. Swapping out of the No. 5 hole down to 17 in the first round and the Jets’ second-round pick, in addition to three players (a fifth-round pick and two free agents) who didn’t figure in the Jets’ plans anyway, was disappointing.
In order to justify the deal, the Browns should have demanded at least the Jets’ second-round pick next season. If the Jets were so desperate to nail Sanchez, the Browns had to make them pay dearly. They didn’t.
Neither Mangini nor Kokinis have been in a position before to make the final decision on draft day. Most of their decisions over the weekend are head scratchers.
Picking up two more sixth-rounders in trades was nothing more than a foray into the unknown. Cornerbacks Don Carey and Coye Francies are cross-your-fingers type players, although Francies was projected to go as high as the third round by many draft experts and should be watched closely.
The only decision that made sense, as Mangini and Kokinis merrily traded their way down the first round, was center Alex Mack, who will turn out to be the best center the Browns have had in the last 20 years.
He’s going to do for the middle of the offensive line what Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach did for the left side the last two seasons. He just might turn out to be better than Nick Mangold, who helped stabilize the Jets’ offensive line under Mangini.
Mangini and Kokinis ultimately wound up drafting a lot. They just didn’t draft wisely.
Bottom line after all the wheeling and dealing: The Browns still don’t have a pass rush.
Final grade: C-