Category Archives: Draft 2013

Gordon won’t attend rookie symposium

Because he missed it last year due to being a supplemental draft selection, I thought Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon would have to attend this year’s NFL Rookie Symposium.

Turns out I was incorrect. That’s happened once before, maybe twice.

It wouldn’t be a terrible idea though, right?

Gordon, who will miss the first two games of the 2013 season due to violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, will not be attending the 2013 symposium later this month. That was confirmed earlier this week by NFL spokesperson Corry Rush, who checked with the powers that be and responded to my inquiries.

The NFL considers the rookie symposium a big deal. It devotes a ton of money and resources to making sure its messages about money, decision-making, career management and substance abuse reach the 200+ drafted rookies who attend. It brings back former problem children to address the next generation. Seems like Gordon would be, in some ways, the symposium’s absolute target audience, no?

When then-Vikings receiver Percy Harvin missed the 2009 symposium due to sickness, there was some dicussion that he’d have to attend the following year. When the time came, the NFL did not require Harvin to attend because “he received the appropriate training during the season at the club level through the Vikings’ player development department.” Presumably, the NFL thinks the same of Gordon.

During the lockout year of 2011, the NFL Players’ Association held its own symposium-like event even though no league-sanctioned event could be held. More than 100 players didn’t show for that, but Terrelle Pryor — who was in that year’s supplemental draft — did.

The symposium is usually held in late June. The Browns selected Gordon in the supplemental draft in mid-July last year so, like Harvin and Pryor, he did not attend.

Given Gordon’s college troubles and his latest issue — and that the symposium is now held in Cleveland — maybe someone inside the Browns’ organization could give Gordon a nudge or a whisper about voluntarily attending? Per the CBA, it probably can’t be more than a nudge.

There is precedent. Another talented but troubled player, Nick Fairley of the Detroit Lions, showed up at last year’s symposium after being drafted during the lockout in 2011.

If Gordon showed up, he might win some goodwill and some PR points. More importantly, something there might stick with him. And he might learn from past offenders that it’s best to straighten up before it’s too late.

Seven Buckeyes sign UDFA deals

Three Ohio State players were selected in the NFL Draft — Johnathan Hankins (2nd round, Giants), John Simon (4th, Ravens) and Reid Fragel (7th, Bengals).

Per Ohio State, the following players have signed undrafted rookie deals since the conclusion of the draft.

FB Zach Boren – Houston Texans

DT Garrett Goebel – St. Louis Rams

CB Travis Howard – Houston Texans

S Orhian Johnson – Houston Texans

LB Etienne Sabino – New York Giants

TE Jake Stoneburner – Green Bay Packers

DE Nathan Williams – Minnesota Vikings

Travis Howard, other Buckeyes awaiting NFL calls

Several Ohio State players, most notably John Simon and Reid Fragel, are still waiting to hear their names called in the NFL Draft.

Cornerback Travis Howard is one who could be a seventh-round pick — or could have to go the long route and try to make it as  an undrafted free agent. Howard had a solid senior season and plays a priority position, but he really only has the one good season of tape to state his draft case.

His position coach last season, Kerry Coombs, believes Howard will and should be drafted today. Now, that’s neither unusual nor groundbreaking; of course a coach is going to stand up for his guys. But Coombs does everything with extra energy and passion, and he’s passionate that Howard is primed to have a successful pro career.

“Travis, in my estimation, is an NFL defensive back — no doubt about it,” Coombs said. “I’ve coached seven guys who have been in NFL camps and I think he’s every bit as good or better than those guys. He has a tremendous upside. He’s nowhere near a finished product. He’s explosive, he’s long, he can play man to man and he sees the ball well in zone. He gets off the ground.

“He’s a great kid. You don’t have to worry about, is he hanging out in the bar at 2am? That kind of stuff? No. Travis is who he is. He loves the game. He’ll play special teams. He’ll make your team. That’s what I tell scouts. He’ll make your team. I would take him, and I think he’ll be a good player.

“Coming into last year his effort was minimal, his academics were poor, his work ethic was questionable. I think all those things. And I think he had a real good look in the mirror, and he had a lot of help from head coach and his position coach. He didn’t like what he saw and we didn’t like what we saw. I remember driving on vacation last July with my wife and calling him, and what I heard was, ‘I got you coach, I got you coach.’

“I called him every day from the dog gone beach because I wanted to make sure he was taking care of business, and he was. There’s something to be said for that.

“He’s not as good as he would have been had he taken that approach for four years. He has first-round talent. Now, he won’t be drafted that high but he’s a better player than a lot of guys (who got invited) to the NFL Combine. Travis is going to play a lot of football.”

Johnathan Hankins is the only Buckeye selected so far, having gone to the New York Giants in Friday night’s second round.

Fellow Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, a third-year sophomore last season, elected to stay in school another year. I asked Coombs if he thought Roby would be a first-round pick next year, and he looked at me like I’d asked a silly question.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Only a surprise pick of Wisconsin center Travis Frederick by the Dallas Cowboys at No. 31 overall on Thursday night saved the Big Ten from not having a player drafted in the first round for the first time since 1953.

Here’s a hint: With Urban Meyer in Columbus, that streak is probably safe for a while.

AFC North getting richer in NFL Draft

Two days in, I think all four AFC North teams have to be pleased with what they’ve accomplished in the NFL Draft.

You’re supposed to love your own draft, I know. But these teams have added pieces and filled needs without huge reaches, desperate trades or interesting, um, logic.

The Browns haven’t had a spectacular two-pick draft. But they’ve had a solid one, adding pieces at key position and resisting the urge to chase a quarterback who isn’t ready or mortgage future selections. The Browns are building assets, slowly, with an eye on 2014 and beyond.

The Bengals are ready to compete for the division title. They might have scored a big-time runner in Gio Bernard on Friday, a night after adding Tyler Eifert to the pass-catching mix and the pick before they got a tantalizing project of a pass rusher in Margus Hunt. Safety Shawn Williams should come game ready; he’ll need to.

There are pieces in place for a big season (or few seasons) in Cincinnati. It’s still about beating the Ravens, first, and playing like the Bengals belong, not like they’re always trying to prove that they do.

The Ravens traded up in the second round to get Arthur Brown, who must have had medical concerns to drop that far. He plays linebacker, by the way, and the Ravens just lost one of those, right? The Ravens track record says it was a gamble worth taking. They’ve added three defensive players in looking to reload, not rebuild, a defense that finally took a back seat to the offense last season — and the Ravens won a Super Bowl.

The Steelers are still the Steelers. They still need to protect Ben Roethlisberger and they still have age and money issues, but they filled needs Friday with Columbus native Le’Veon Bell at running back and an absolute flyer at receiver in Markus Wheaton, who isn’t Mike Wallace – who is? – but can be an instant impact guy.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Steelers got Wallace in the third round, too.

The Browns are playing for the future and drafting to eventually keep pace with the quarterbacks their division rivals have; eventually, too, they’ll get one of their own. The Steelers are trying to maximize the years their quarterback has left. The Bengals need their quarterback to be ready for the big games and big expectations ahead.

I really, really like what the Bengals have done in this draft. They — the Browns, too — need to do it every year since the Ravens and Steelers pretty much have for a long time, with few exceptions (and fewer in Baltimore).

The Ravens finally found a quarterback, and they’re the team everybody is chasing. Come fall, we’ll see if the Bengals are ready to be division royalty and if the Steelers can show that last year was simply that one year they have every now and then.

Connecting the dots with John Simon

Just a guess here, but an educated one (if you ask me).

The Patriots now have a lot of picks tonight and early on Saturday after their late first-round trade with the Vikings.

Bill Belichick values smart, tough, versatile players. He believes he can never have enough pass rushers.

Belichick and Urban Meyer are close friends. Belichick has drafted Meyer players in the past — several times over.

Belichick had a lot of success with a guy named Mike Vrabel, who now coaches under Meyer and last season coached John Simon. Meyer loved Simon so much last season that he said if he had another son, he’d name him John Simon.

He was half-joking. It was almost as good as the game earlier in the season when Meyer said “John Simon, that’s a grown-ass man. Excuse my language. That’s a guy.”

It would be a half-surprise if the Patriots didn’t take that guy some time tonight or Saturday. Simon had some injury issues last season and early in the draft process, but if he’s healthy he fits the bill and “the Patriot Way.”

Enjoy Foxborough, John.

Cost probably too high for Browns to chase QB

Traders up. The real fun in the NFL Draft starts Friday evening.

The Browns picked early and shut it down early on Thursday; with no second-round pick as ammo, they knew there was no way they’d buy back into the first round, even if they wanted to.

But what about the second round — and specifically for a quarterback? And specifically for West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who remains on the board?

How much it would cost remains to be seen. “Too much” is probably the answer.

The great part about this three-day draft format is four months of pure speculation turns into 18 or so hours of more speculation, usually centered around a few players. Smith is certainly this year’s “buzz” guy, not just because quarterback is always the buzz position. Mike Glennon, maybe the most NFL-ready quarterback at January’s Senior Bowl, and Matt Barkley also could get early second-round attention after E.J. Manuel went to Buffalo and became the only QB picked in the first round.

That pick was, um, interesting.

The chances the Browns, currently holding pick No. 68 in the third round as their next selection, go up and get Smith (or another quarterback) are slim. The Browns would almost certainly have to give up a 2014 first-rounder to get into the top of the second round, and in case Smith’s long wait in the green room Thursday night during the first round didn’t remind Browns fans of Brady Quinn, making such a trade would.

Jacksonville picks first Friday, at 33, followed by San Francisco and Philadelphia. The first two will take plenty of calls based on the value of their picks in this format, firstly, and also from quarterback-seeking teams based on fact that the Eagles, at very least, showed interest in Smith in the pre-draft process.

There’s a little thing called a trade value chart that every NFL team uses, to some extent, anyway. The numbers and values on the chart aren’t absolute — and there might even be multiple charts — but they do provide either a baseline or a ballpark figure on perceived trade value.

During Thursday’s first round, it was a good market for teams coming up and a bad one for teams looking for a potential trade down. On Friday, at least early, it will be the other way around.

The chart says Jacksonville’s pick is worth 580 value points. That’s too much for a 2014 first-round pick as the Browns don’t expect to be a playoff team and this year’s 14th pick was worth 1,100 value points; their pick at 68 (250), even coupled with a second-rounder next year, probably comes up short.

About that 580, well, that’s actually low. The value on Jacksonville’s pick would go up because it’s an extremely valuable pick as the first pick of the rest of the draft. The Browns would either have to give next year’s first-rounder (not happening) or put together a package that includes either Jabaal Sheard or Phil Taylor, plus that 68th pick and some other combination of things to swap in a package that leans Jacksonville’s way.

The Jaguars will answer the phone because they need lots of players. The Browns need too many themselves to give away valuable picks, especially in multiples. Despite what they’ve said, you still have to believe they are willing to part with one of their young defensive linemen as they transition to a 3-4, and it might be Sheard after the selection of Barkevious Mingo.

Thirty-one other teams know that, too, which probably drives down his value. And these hypothetical deals revolve around value.

If the Browns are really in the quarterback market and are interested in New England backup Ryan Mallett — and again, it’s purely a hypothetical at this point — it’s possible the Patriots asking price came down when they acquired the Vikings third and fourth round picks late Thursday night.

Then again, it’s just as possible that New England would want a second-rounder next year. Same story. Mike Lombardi has the number if it gets to that point.

As for Smith, if he gets past the Eagles at No. 35, how far does he slide? The Cardinals at No. 38, Jets at 39 and Raiders at 42 could be interested. The Jaguars and 49ers will anxiously await their calls. The Bengals, holding pick No. 37 and needing a running back and a safety, could be interested in selling their pick and trading down.

The Browns figure to be active in seeking a chance to either move up into the second round and/or acquire another third-round pick. Unless we’re all missing something with Geno Smith, it just seems the price for the Browns to be involved will be too high.

Offering a guess (or 3) on the NFL Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft is here. And nobody seems to be certain about much of anything, starting with the No. 1 overall pick and continuing through the top 10.

That includes me. I have a feeling though, based on what I’ve read and heard and the needs/shape of the teams in the top five (strictly a feeling), that the top five is going to include the three highly-regarded offensive tackles and two pass rushers, Dion Jordan and Ziggy Ansah.

That would leave the Browns at No. 6 with the chance to take cornerback Dee Milliner, hope a trade-down scenario (that a team wants to come up for a quarterback or even a guard) exists…or do something we’re really not expecting, even when we’ve spent four months hearing nothing and knowing less about to what to expect from this new Browns administration.

So, what we have Thursday night is good television.

In Milliner the Browns would be addressing a short-term need and adding (they hope) a long-term answer at a key position; in a way, they’d be going the safe route and hoping for a splash. Maybe you’d like more than your potential No. 2 corner out of the No. 6 pick in the draft, but not having enough good players or many real strengths is one reason the Browns keep picking in the top 10 (but never in the top two, as Browns luck and mismanagement would have it).

It’s a passing league and almost everybody needs help in the secondary, which is why it would scare me just a bit if Milliner is still there at No. 6. That’s also why the Browns might be prioritizing pass-rusher as they switch, again, to a 3-4 defense and try to figure out a way to stop the run and put all the good quarterbacks that show up on their schedule every year on their backs when third down comes.

If Jordan and Ansah go before the Browns pick, trying to work a trade down and then, later, targeting a Jarvis Jones or a Barkevious Mingo makes sense. Even if the top five goes differently than I currently have it pegged — and there’s a darn good chance it does — I still like the trade-down scenario for the Browns best.

As the Browns begin Rebuild 7.1, they just have too many needs to pick at No. 6 and then wait 60-some picks before picking again. Same for the thought that made its way through the Twitterverse Wednesday night that the Browns would trade up to No. 3. That would be great for getting the guy they want — and bad for filling their long list of other holes.

Twitter is a lovely place to visit this time of year, by the way.

If tackles Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson all go in the top five, the Browns chances of trading down figure to decrease unless they go way down — and that’s fine, too. If I had a vote, I’d say the more picks, the better. In this draft, and especially for the Browns, there’s help to be had in rounds two, three and four, too. I see needs at corner, safety, tight end and both linebacker spots. If I was in charge or even had a seat without shouting distance of the man in charge, Joe Banner, I’d be wanting help at receiver and somewhere along the way a big and fast inside linebacker, too.

I’ve come around in my thinking, based partly on everything I don’t like about this year’s draftable quarterbacks, and I think the Browns best bet is to continue building talent at other positions and wait a year (or even two) to get the quarterback they’ll eventually need to really compete. I’m convinced That Guy is not here now, but I still think given the situation that Brandon Weeden should get another year and that this new staff’s best bet is to coach him up and try to maximize what he brings to the table.

If the Browns take Geno Smith (or E.J. Manuel, or Ryan Nassib) at No. 6, they’ll be in position to get Jadeveon Clowney next year. And that’s really too much to think about right now — and at least until, say, Oct. 15.

I honestly can’t remember a draft with this much uncertainty at the top. If you’re a fan of drama, this is good. If you’re a fan of the Browns, root for one of those offensive tackles to slip. If you’re a fan of the Browns and a fan of Milliner, sit tight. You just might get him.

All we know is that sometime Thursday night, the newest new Browns are going to add a face and provide the rest of us at least a glimpse at their desired direction. And when that player gets to town, one of the first things he’ll be asked is what he thinks about Jimmy Haslam’s trouble with the FBI.

The Browns, well, they’re the Browns. With a little (overdue) luck, they’ll use this weekend to take a step towards leaving that forgettable recent past behind.

Tackling the Browns chances of trading down

The key to figuring out the Browns best option in a trade-down scenario in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night is probably a position that isn’t in the Browns plans at all.

This draft has three marquee offensive tackles in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. There’s also an available veteran left tackle in Branden Albert, who’s been franchised by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have the draft’s first overall pick and could use it on a left tackle, making Albert expendable.

The Chiefs gave Albert’s representation permission last week to work out a trade. From what we assume we know about this draft, the Browns best hope of moving down from their spot at No. 6 and picking up a second-round pick (at least that much) in the process probably depends on a team — like the Chargers at No. 11 or the Dolphins at No. 12 — coming up to take a tackle.

The Cardinals, at No. 7, know the Browns aren’t taking a tackle and wouldn’t have to trade up if one of three top tackles in the draft is still there. Though there are two prized guards in this draft, too, teams are much, much more likely to trade up for a tackle than they are for a guard.

It’s been reported that the Chiefs asking price for Albert is a second-round pick. What suitors must decide is if they’re willing to pay that plus the kind of hefty contract Albert is seeking as an established player at a money position.

We don’t have anything besides guesses as to what the Browns are thinking heading into the draft and seeking once it starts, but it’s clear that they’ll more likely have trade options if one of the top tackles is still on the board. If they’re all gone, the Browns will be in position to take a top defensive player — if there’s more than one they truly love. Again, we don’t know. The Eagles and Lions, at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, could be interested in offensive line help, a pass-rusher or a cornerback.

If all three of the top tackles — Fisher, Joeckel and Johnson, in some order — go in the first five picks, the Dolphins or Cardinals (or some other team) might be more inclined to give up a second-rounder for Albert; it wouldn’t be the first time necessity drives a draft-night trade or drives the price for such a trade up or down. In that all-the-tackles-are-gone scenario, the only way the Browns are trading out of No. 6 is if some team wants to come up to get Tavon Austin, Geno Smith or a pass-rusher — unless the Browns go into Mangini Mode and trade way, way down the board.

That’s possible, too, and it’s also not a terrible idea in a draft that’s deeper than it is top heavy.

The Browns, right now, are neither. Which is why, at least for the sake of options and maximum value, they’re rooting for at least one of those three offensive tackles to slip past the Lions at No. 5.

For the Browns, another reconstruction begins

BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns are having three days of minicamp this week.

The most important three days of the Browns newest new regime’s several months on the job are next week, in the NFL Draft.

See how this makes things interesting?

These worlds colliding is not necessarily a conflict of interest because everyone running these practices and overseeing these pending decisions is in the business of what’s best for the Browns. And every player on the field for minicamp is certainly looking to make a positive first impression. But the ever-changing Browns are on the verge of setting a new course, again, and players who have  been with the team have been through change before.

It’s natural for any player (not named Joe Thomas, Trent Richardson or Joe Haden) to be looking over his shoulder — or someone else’s. Same goes for the coaches, who likely have impressions of the current roster based on film evaluations but also have been checking out draft prospects. Anything that happened in the past, good or bad, is staying there.

A new course is about to be charted. Again.

New head coach Rob Chudzinski was clear that the Browns are just beginning “a long, long process” — scream in agony if you’ve heard that before — and that this minicamp is more about instructing and installing than it is about evaluating. It just so happens that it’s taking place in the indoor fieldhouse at Browns Headquarters, which is under re-construction (again) to the point that there were boxes and filing cabinets removed from offices or meeting rooms in the end zone at the north end of the fieldhouse. It’s symbolic.

As new regimes tend to go in the NFL, a different kind of house-cleaning is generally in order in the weeks and months following the draft, both in the locker room and in the offices currently being reconstructed (again). A heck of a business, this is.

Brandon Weeden may or may not need bifocals at his age, but he can read. He knows the Browns are linked, at least indirectly, to a quarterback or quarterbacks in this draft. A bunch of guys who used to play in a 4-3 defense are now being taught a 3-4. Players will be drafted for that 3-4. Some of them could be moved next week to help the Browns acquire players who fit that 3-4.

There’s work to be done this week. There’s no guarantee the guys lining up in this minicamp will be the same guys lining up next month, or in training camp this summer.

To Weeden’s credit, he said the right things on Tuesday when the subjects of change and the draft were broached. He knows that speculation is “the nature of the beast,” that nothing is guaranteed, that he gets no input into the Browns draft-related thinking and that he needs to get better.

Weeden’s answer was basically that he has enough to worry about, and he’s right. He said he welcomes the competition and plans to improve from it.

He should be better under these coaches and their systems, really. What they really think about him, though remains to be seen. Tuesday was this staff’s first chance to work as a unit in practice, but a lot of these coaches have been busy working out draft-eligible quarterbacks.

To those who have been around, these new starts in the Berea fieldhouse are equal parts bizarre and deflating. To those part of what’s new, they’re refreshing and energizing. New means good, exciting and undefeated.

What we saw Tuesday was clearly different. Norv Turner was wearing orange and brown. Chudzinski, who had been here before, was in charge. Richardson talked about being healthy, last year’s struggles and having goals to chase.

He’ll have a key role this year. One practice in, he knows that. The Browns are going to get some other important work done this week, too, but anything extending past next week remains uncertain.

Simon has shoulder injury; extent unclear

MOBILE, Ala. — A shoulder injury forced John Simon out of the Senior Bowl, a source told, and it will require a further inspection and an opinion from orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

Whether that visit has taken place or what, if anything, was found remains unclear.

Simon participated in just one practice here this week before withdrawing from the game with that he said was a lingering injury from last season. He played hurt for his entire senior season at Ohio State, and still played well enough to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. A knee injury kept him out of the season finale vs. Michigan.

Simon said this week that the knee was healed, and he came here to play linebacker after mostly playing defensive end at Ohio State. At 6’2, 256, he project as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Simon had 20.5 sacks in his college career, including nine last season and four in his final game at Wisconsin.

Dr. Andrews is based in Birmingham, Ala. Simon has been preparing for the draft in Columbus, Ohio. He’ll be subject to thorough medical exams from all 32 NFL teams at next month’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.