Aggression or desperation?
That’s the primary question surrounding the Browns using a second-round supplemental draft pick on Josh Gordon Thursday.
Gordon didn’t play football last fall, sitting out at Utah per NCAA transfer rules after being kicked off the team at Baylor atfer failing a drug test. He cited financial hardship as his reason for leaving Utah sometime before spring practice and entering the supplemental draft.
Gordon looks the part. A shade over 6’3 and 220 pounds is very big for an NFL receiver, and a guy at that size who can run a 4.52 40-yard dash is the kind of guy who might be a freak. He’s the kind of guy scouts get paid to find.
The Browns found him, studied him, interviewed him and now are banking on him. Clearly, they’re now pretty invested in him. Nothing wrong with a swing for the fences, right?
Gordon is bigger and faster than his ex-Baylor teammate Kendall Wright, a guy the Browns reportedly loved in this year’s draft before Tennessee selected him at No. 20, two picks before the Browns’ second selection. Whether he runs routes like Wright or can add enough polish to his game to become an effective NFL receiver remains to be seen. Gordon caught 42 passes for 714 yards and 7 touchdowns as a sophomore at Baylor in 2010.
I’m not saying your grandmother would have scored a few touchdowns in Baylor’s wide-open, RGIII-driven offense the last couple years. I’m also not saying she wouldn’t have.
By going the supplemental draft route for the first time since it landed them some guy named Bernie, the Browns are basically saying that Gordon is more gifted than anyone they could get in the second round next year. And they get him now, at a time when the offense is basically starting over. He’ll have a learning curve and some rust to shake off, but he’ll have every chance to help this year.
That receiving corps needs all the help it can get. The timing certainly seems right. Actually throwing the ball over the heads of the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu might be an interesting experiment.
That’s aggression. If Gordon catches on, keeps his nose clean and produces, it’s brilliant.
But using a second-round pick on a guy with baggage, just two years of college football experience and more potential than anything else is risky. It’s a little out of character, too, for a regime that’s passed on multiple chances to pay free-agent receivers with proven NFL production. To suddenly be willing to spend a valuable draft pick on a guy who seems very much a project is a risk.
Remember, the Browns had a new coach and a new system last year and didn’t get an offseason to implement it due to the NFL lockout. The Browns just went through a full offseason with a bunch of receivers they’ve mostly had for two-plus years — and felt the need to bid a second-rounder on Gordon.
Seems like desperation. We’ll see.
Based on various reports, the Browns are apparently the only team that brought Gordon in for a visit and the only team that submitted a second-round bid for Gordon. The Browns have picked very early in the second round in each of the last four drafts. With this pick, they’re betting that Gordon can help that pick not be 36, or 38, or 40.
With a regime that’s so reliant on the draft in restocking the roster, that’s a big risk. Maybe it says the people calling the shots for the Browns think the team is closer than most of us think to playing in (and winning) games that matter.
Or, maybe it just says that all the nice things Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur have said about this roster and this receiving corps were things they had to say. Remember at the Senior Bowl when Shurmur said “I think we have a teriffic team?”
The Browns could not have come out of the entire offseason having just added fourth-rounder Travis Benjamin — and, maybe (less likely now), undrafted rookie Josh Cooper — to that receiving corps. Someone — probably and hopefully more than one person — in a position of power in Berea had to know that, had to say that.
If the Browns think that they finally have a quarterback who can get the ball down the field and in adding Gordon they’ve given that quarterback a guy who can get deep, that’s aggression. That’s exciting.
Only time will tell.
For now, it’s refreshing to use the Browns and aggression in the same sentence. Even if there’s a hint of desperation involved with this move.