Mel Kiper Re-Grades Browns 2014 Draft


The Cleveland Browns were all the buzz in New York City after the 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft. I know, I was there. The team acquired the top cornerback in the draft, an extra 1st and 4th round pick in the 2015 Draft and selected lightening rod Johnny Manziel as their next quarterback of the future. The buzz was high, the grades were high.

The next day, while I was waiting to get into Day 2 of the Draft, things started to fall apart. It started with the reported suspension of Josh Gordon. Then fans were angry that GM Ray Farmer didn’t take a wide receiver, something they desired even before the Gordon suspension.  Yet Farmer and his crew just kept chugging along, drafting the likes of Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West and Pierre Desir over the next few rounds.

Those players showed that they could be foundational players for the team moving forward. Justin Gilbert reportedly struggled with work ethic while Manziel has all the makings of a boom or bust year going into his second season.

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s Draft savant, took time this week to Re-Grade everyone’s NFL Draft so far. Now most will say that true grades can not be given out until after 3 seasons but that doesn’t stop this exercise from being fun. Let’s take a look at what good old Mel had to say about the Browns 2014 NFL Draft:

"RoundPickPositionPlayerCollege(1)8CBJustin GilbertOklahoma State(1)22QBJohnny ManzielTexas A&M(2)35GJoel BitonioNevada(3)71LBChris KirkseyIowa(3)94RBTerrance WestTowson(4)127CBPierre DesirLindenwoodPost-draft grade: B-Summary: The amazing things about this draft class is that Cleveland has no idea what it has out of two first-round picks, with cornerback Justin Gilbert a total nonfactor in 2014 and quarterback Johnny Manziel a storyline for all the wrong reasons. Yet this was still a successful draft in several ways. First, remember that Cleveland has two first-round picks this year thanks to the trade with Buffalo. Again, that’s a ton of value to get for a small slide down the board.Joel Bitonio was one of the best guards in the NFL last season and he looks like a steal. Terrance West put up decent totals and split time with Isaiah Crowell, an undrafted free agent who helps with the grade. Linebacker Chris Kirksey is a keeper, and cornerback Pierre Desir came on late in the year and looked good. Add to that undrafted free agents K’Waun Williams — who really helped out at cornerback — and useful wideout Taylor Gabriel, and the Browns got a lot from this class, plus that extra pick. There’s a pretty big gripe — no wide receiver and a total incomplete on Round 1 so far — but it’s amazing how much the Browns did get, and that extra first-rounder is a jewel.New grade: B"

Mel really hits the nail on the head here. The Browns have no clue what they are getting out of their first round and did not add a wide receiver but still get an upgraded draft grade. That is what happens when you get 2 starters and 1 key contributor as undrafted free agents. Maybe Crowell wouldn’t have started if Ben Tate lived up to his signing, but The Crow stepped in and played well. Maybe Gabriel would not have started if the Browns would have drafted a wide receiver but his play was near the top of Pro Football Focus for rookie wide receivers. Maybe Williams would not have been a key contributor if Gilbert had played anything near like a 1st round pick, and Desir wasn’t essentially red shirted before the season even started. A lot of maybes but they all did play well.

Then we look at the 2nd and 3rd round. Many believe Bitonio was the best rookie in the NFL this year. Obviously he didn’t put up the stats that the receivers did but he helped transform the left side of the Browns offensive line. With Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, the Browns are set with 3 studs on their line for years to come. Kirksey started a few games but was a main contributor throughout the season. He showed speed to the ball in the run game and was good to great in coverage.  West, along with Crowell, gave the Browns a solid running game. He had a blip in the middle of the season but finished strong. All 3 likely would be drafted a round higher if there was a re-draft.

That leaves us with Gilbert, Manziel, Desir and the Bills 2015 1st and 4th round picks. First with the picks. Because of the trade the Browns own 6 of the first 112 picks. That is a draft haul for some teams. Last year the Browns drafted 6 players, if they can get similar results with their first 6 picks this year the foundation is set.

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Gilbert showed some signs of coming along and the team still has high hopes for him. He is a talented player but plays the most difficult position in football at the corner spot. This year was likely a wake up call to the youngster. It seems he didn’t want to listen to veterans Joe Haden and Donte Whitner last year but likely figured out that, given their success in the league, he should be their shadow.

Manziel is a different question. The recent ESPN article, we have a response piece later this morning, confirmed the worst fears about him. He has talent. His arm is good. His legs are good. The rest of what he needs to work on all requires high level work ethic that he hasn’t shown. Plenty of people have turned their life from bad to good. Manziel likely has this off-season, and maybe season, to show that he has done so or his NFL career could be short.

The Browns got 9 key contributors out of the 2014 NFL Draft and it doesn’t include their two 1st round picks. If Gilbert turns things around, like we expect, and the 2015 picks from the Bills become contributors, the Browns will have acquired 12 starters or high level contributors with their assets in this draft. Manziel would just be icing on the cake.

Mel Kiper gave the Browns an upgraded grade, up to a B, what would you grade this draft?

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