Monday, April 30, 2007

Browns Score Big in 2007 Draft

Since 1999 the Cleveland Browns have been plagued with the sort of inefficiency that can only be attributed to a lousy offensive line. That was an issue Phil Savage hoped to address last year when the Browns acquired LeCharles Bentley through free agency but the nasty center went down with an injury that might end the former Buckeye’s career.

Romeo Crennel improved the defense last year but the offense took a big step back thanks in large part to poor blocking but Charlie Frye’s erratic play also hurt the team. With so many weapons available it was clear that the Browns needed better play from the QB position.

The Browns couldn’t accept the terms the Raiders offered for the top spot and a crack at the gigantic JaMarcus Russell and when they looked at the possibilities from that third spot it was hard to pass on a lineman as dominant as Joe Thomas. Surely the Browns were planning to settle for a second round quarterback and hoped that he would thrive behind a solid line.

But nobody expected Brady Quinn to fall past the Dolphins. If one team needed to address its QB situation in the draft it was Miami but the Dolphins saw homerun potential in Ted Ginn Jr. and opted to pass on the highly touted Quinn to take him. Quinn watched a lot of teams skip over him to address other needs.

As soon as Miami passed on Quinn, the Browns went into a frenzy trying to coax teams out of their pick so they could snag Quinn. Finally Dallas gave up the 22nd pick which was a shock given the fact that the verdict is not in on Tony Romo. Cleveland managed to head off Baltimore and pick the player most scouts thought was the best QB in the draft. Russell might have more upside but Quinn seems ready to play and with Romeo Crennel stealing pages out of New England’s play book, Quinn might be more ready to play for the Browns than anybody knows.

Cleveland gave up a lot to get him but it’s hard to second guess the decision. Quinn is often compared to Tom Brady because of the Charlie Weis connection but Quinn is more athletic. In his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Brady Quinn was a mobile playmaker who demonstrated a lot of toughness. Under Weis he became a smooth passer with great awareness and patience. Quinn wasn’t exactly surrounded by great talent. JaMarcus Russell saw two of his receivers get drafted early, Quinn’s mates from South Bend weren’t exactly first day material. Quinn might be better than everybody thinks.

Regardless of what might happen, Cleveland demonstrated a serious commitment to winning. By being so aggressive in this years draft the Browns are not only planning on contending next year, they are building a youthful core of talented players that will help this team win in the future. A lot can happen in the coming months. Players could fold under pressure and studs could go down with injuries. The point is that the Browns are in it to win it.

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