Cleveland Browns: Latest Josh Gordon news does not change draft plans
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns can’t afford to let the latest news about Josh Gordon impact their plans for the 2016 NFL Draft.
There are several ways that the Cleveland Browns can view the news that wide receiver Josh Gordon reportedly failed another drug test.
Disappointed that Gordon may have dropped his last chance to return to the team. Depressed that they will not see a player who, for a brief moment, was one of the best to play the position in franchise history back on the field. Saddened that Gordon continues to be plagued by his demons.
The one thing that it should not be viewed as, however, is something that alters the team’s plans for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Related: Josh Gordon reportedly fails another drug test
Even before the news broke on Monday there were no guarantees that Gordon would be back as his bid for reinstatement has lingered with the NFL office since early February. Although today’s news from ESPN’s Adam Schefter left the door ever-so-slightly ajar:
With Gordon out of sight and out of mind, the Browns have been going about their latest rebuilding efforts with a clear understanding that you can’t rely on the unreliable.
“I always learned something a long time ago – you never worry about something you never had,” head coach Hue Jackson told cleveland.com at the annual NFL meeting in March. “I’ve never had any contact with him, so I’m going to plan on what’s in our building now and go from there.”
Executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, who was around when Gordon earned his current suspension, echoed the company line at that same meeting.
“I would just say probably enough Josh chatter,” Brown said at the time. “I know he’s intriguing but really for us, we’re focused on the guys that are on our roster and if Josh comes back, great, and if he doesn’t, we’re ready.”
Related: Josh Gordon continues to make poor decisions
It has always been a bit of a pipe dream to think that the Browns could count on Gordon’s return, and it would be similarly foolish for the team to react to the latest news by changing their draft strategy.
If the Browns were already planning to select a wide receiver high in the draft – something that is not unrealistic given a depth chart that doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of opposing secondaries – then they should stick to the script. After all, the their current top three receivers, Andrew Hawkins, Brian Hartline and Taylor Gabriel, are all coming off injury-filled seasons in 2015.
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But with so many other holes to fill on the roster it would be a mistake to make wide receiver a top priority just because Gordon may not be back. And the truth is that until the Browns fix the quarterback problem that has been plaguing the team since 1993, it does not matter as much who lines up at wide receiver as it is the quarterback that makes the receiver, not the other way around.
Fans have to look no further than New England, Seattle and Denver, where the Patriots, Seahawks and Broncos have all won NFL titles in recent years without the benefit of a high-profile group of wide receivers. In addition, of the top 10 wide receivers in 2015, six played for teams that, like the Browns, did not make the playoffs, further highlighting that while you need someone catching the ball, the guy throwing it is still the key part of the equation.
The Browns have handled Gordon’s situation about as well as could be expected, especially with so much turnover since his first suspension in 2013.
Now they just need to make sure they don’t make a bad situation even worse come draft weekend.