Whiteboxer Blog

Cleveland Browns Redraft:1994

After pondering the immense failure of Bill Belichick as head coach of the Cleveland Browns during the 1990s, I’ve gone back and looked at one aspect of that five-year tenure, the draft. Being the football nerd I am, I’m playing the role of fantasy general manager and redoing their 1991-1995 draft picks. Wishful thinking, yes, but I wonder if the draft played out the way I redid it, maybe the Browns would have never left in 1996. And maybe the long-eluded Super Bowl championship would have finally found a home in northeastern Ohio.

I’m up to 1994, the only winning season under Belichick in Cleveland. The Browns finished 11-5 that year, one game behind the Steelers in the Central Divison, and a wildcard entry in the playoffs. Cleveland fielded one of the strongest defenses in the league that year. Vinny Testaverde was the starting quarterback after the ugy divorce between fan-favorite Bernie Kosar and the head coach the previous season. After beating the Patriots in the Wildcard game, Cleveland faced their long-time nemesis in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for the Browns, the results were the same as the regular season (Pittsburgh won both contests) with a sound tumping by the Steelers.

Cleveland’s draft before the 1994 season was average at best. First off, Cleveland traded away their second round picks in 1994 and 1995 to Philadelphia in order to move up into the last spot of the first round. They had also lost their fourth round pick to Miami in a trade the previous year for OL Gene Williams (I don’t remember him either). That left them with six picks in the 1994 draft. Here’s what they did with them:

Round Number Player
1 9 CB Antonio Langham
1 29 WR Derrick Alexander
3 75 DT Romeo Bandison
5 141 DB Issac Booth
6 171 FB Robert Strait
7 203 OL Hamza Hewitt

Langham and Alexander both has good careers, although neither will see the Hall of Fame unless they buy a ticket. Bandison and Booth barely played during their short careers, and Strait and Hewitt never made it on the roster.

Now let’s take over. First off, the two draft trades that cost the Browns their two second round picks and their fourth round pick would never have happened. That gives us a pick in each of the seven rounds of the draft. So let’s look at our needs coming into the 1994 draft. Here’s our starting roster, based on draft picks only, at this point:

Offense Defense
QB Brett Favre (9) DT Chester McGlockton (4)
FB Kimble Anders (3) DT Santana Dotson
RB Gary Brown DE Michael Sinclair (3)
WR Keenan McCardell (2) DE Michael Strahan (7)
WR Donald Driver MLB Ed McDaniel (1)
TE Ben Coates (5) OLB Mo Lewis (3)
C Jay Leeuwenburg OLB Bryan Cox (3)
G Will Shields (12) CB Aeneas Williams (8)
G Ron Stone (3) CB Dale Carter (4)
T Erik Williams (4) SS Blaine Bishop (4)
T none taken FS Merton Hanks (4)

The numbers in ( ) indicate how many Pro Bowls each player has appeared in during their actual NFL careers. We also have depth at wide receiver (Troy Brown), tight end (Frank Wycheck), linebacker (Corey Widmer, Jesse Armstead), cornerback (Mark McMillan) and free safety (John Lynch). Our areas of biggest need are running back and offensive line, especially tackle and center. Here’s our new draft board. I’m omitting round numbers at this point because I’m assuming our new, Pro Bowl-laiden roster would have performed better than the original 1993 team (7-9). Hence, we would end up picking later in the rounds:

Round Player
1 CB Antonio Langham
2 ???
3 DT Romeo Bandison
4 ???
5 DB Issac Booth
6 FB Robert Strait
7 OL Hamza Hewitt

Let’s go at it and complete our rebuilding of the Browns:

Round Original Pick New Pick
1 CB Antonio Langham C Kevin Mawae

Drafted in the second round by Seattle, Mawae is considered one of the top centers in the past decade. He was elected to the Pro Bowl on six consecutive occasions (1999-2004) while playing for the Seahawks and Jets. In 2006, he signed a free agent contract with the Titans, where he continues to play today.

Round Original Pick New Pick
2 none T/G Larry Allen

Originally drafted by the Cowboys in the middle of the second round, Larry Allen (along with tackle Erik Williams) became the cornerstone of the great offensive line for Dallas during their three Super Bowl Championships during the 1990s. Able to play both guard and tackle, Allen played 13 years, 11 with the Cowboys, and made the Pro Bowl 11 consecutive years (1995-2006).

Round Original Pick New Pick
3 DT Romeo Bandison LB Jason Gildon

Jason Gildon was picked by the Steelers in the third round, and is versatile enough to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He is Pittsburgh’s all-time leader in sacks with 77, and went to the Pro Bowl three times (2000, 2001, 2002). He averaged nearly 11 sacks a season from 1998-2002. Although not a need, Gildon is a defensive terror that can’t be passed up. Bonus points for hurting the Steelers.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 none SS Rodney Harrison

Again, another position of strength, but I’m a believer in taking the best talent available unless there is a serious need, and Harrison is too good of a player to not take. Drafed by San Diego in the fifth round, Harrison became a starter in 1997 and made the Pro Bowl twice (1998, 2001). He was cut by the Chargers following the 2002 season in a salary cap move, and signed with the Patriots, where he won two Super Bowls. Harrison is the only player in NFL history with 30 INTs and 30 sacks.

Round Original Pick New Pick
5 DB Issac Booth P Mitch Berger

I haven’t really paid much attention to special teams in these drafts, so this is a good spot to address them. Mitch Berger was taken by the Eagles in the late sixth round, but really came into prominence when he signed with Minnesota following the 1995 season. He played with the Vikings for five years, and made the Pro Bowl in 1999. He spent one year with the Rams before signing with New Orleans, where he played for another five years and made his second Pro Bowl in 2004. He is currently playing with the Steelers.

Round Original Pick New Pick
6 FB Robert Strait RB Jamal Anderson

I finally address my last glaring weakness, running back. In hindsight, Jamal Anderson was the second best running back to come out of the 1994 draft (Marshall Faulk was the best and picked second overall). The only reason I waited until the sixth round to take him is because he originally wasn’t selected until the last round (7th) by Atlanta, so I had almost the whole draft to wait for him. Anderson played eight years for the Falcons before retiring following the 2001 season after an ACL tear, amassing 5,336 rushing yards, 156 receptions for 1,645 yards, and 41 touchdowns. Inventor of the Dirty Bird touchdown celebration, Anderson made the Pro Bowl in 1998 when he ran for an NFL single-season record 410 times for 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns. That year, the Falcons made their only Super Bowl appearance, losing to the Broncos. He ran for 96 yards for a 5.3 average in the Super Bowl.

Round Original Pick New Pick
7 OL Hamza Hewitt WR Rod Smith

Undrafted, Rod Smith signed with the Broncos in 1994, where he played 13 years and became a favorite target of Elway and Plummer. Becoming a starter in 1997, Smith averaged 75 receptions for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns during his last 11 years, and only missed three games during his career. He’s had two seasons of at least 100 receptions (2000: 100; 2001: 113), and his reception total in 2001 led the league. In Super Bowl XXXIII, Smith had 5 receptions for 152 yards, the fourth highest total in Super Bowl history. He also was elected to three Pro Bowls.

1994 Redraft Summary

Coming into this draft, I identified two areas of need: offensive line and running back. With three of our seven picks, I’ve more than adequately addressed those. Kevin Mawae and Larry Allen bring a combined 17 Pro Bowls to a line that already has 19 Pro Bowl appearances, giving us 36 Pro Bowls among center Mawae, guards Ron Stone and Will Shields, and tackles Allen and Erik Williams. That is a loaded offensive line. Jamal Anderson also gives us another Pro Bowl running back in the backfield (along with FB Anders). Add another Pro Bowl wide receiver (Smith) to a fine collection of pass catchers (Donald Driver, Keenan McCardell, Troy Brown, TE Ben Coates, TE Frank Wycheck) and a future Hall of Fame quarterback iin Brett Favre, and we have one of the most talented offenses in the history of the league.

We strengthened an already dominating defense with depth at linebacker and strong safety, and added a future Pro Bowl punter in Berger. Although with this team, Berger may never get in a game. If you can come up with a better championship-contending team, I would like to see it. There is no reason this team shouldn’t have won at least three or four Super Bowls, and we still have one more year to go.

Cleveland Browns Redraft:1993

I’m continuing my series of reworking the drafts of the Cleveland Browns under Bill Belichick. Having completed a redo of thefirst two years, I now move on to 1993 and see what the team did originally.

Originally, the Browns made a few draft pick trades in 1993.  The first was moving down three spots in the first round (from 11 to 14) by swapping picks with Denver, and also picking up the Broncos third round pick. They also gave up their original third round pick to Detroit (for DT Jerry Ball), 4th rounder to Chicago (for C Jay Hilgenberg), and 8th rounder to the Rams (for LB Frank Stams).That left the team with six picks total. Here’s how it played out:

Round Number Player
1 14 C Steve Everitt
2 42 DE Dan Footman
3 83 LB Mike Caldwell
5 124 T Herman Arvie
6 153 LB Rich McKenzie
7 180 LB Travis Hill

Overall,the original draft by Cleveland in 1993 probably would get a C grade. Everitt was a good player, as was Footman and Caldwell. However, none we spectacular. Arvie also had a decent career, mainly playing as a backup. McKenzie and Hill never did much with their short careers. However, looking back on the players available in 1993, this could have been a much more productive draft. Let’s now take this draft with what I’ve accomplished with the last two.

First off, let’s look at where the team stands based on our new 1991 and 1992 drafts, and see what positions are filled, and what’s still needed. I’ve included the number of Pro Bowls each player was actually elected to after their names.

Offense Defense
QB Brett Favre (9) DT Chester McGlockton (4)
FB Kimble Anders (3) DT Santana Dotson
RB Gary Brown DE Michael Sinclair (3)
WR Keenan McCardell (2) DE none taken
WR Robert Brooks MLB Ed McDaniel (1)
TE Ben Coates (5) OLB Mo Lewis (3)
C Jay Leeuwenburg OLB Bryan Cox (3)
G Kendall Gammon CB Aeneas Williams (8)
G none taken CB Dale Carter (4)
T Erik Williams (4) SS none taken
T none taken FS Merton Hanks (4)

I think that’s a pretty impressive team after only two drafts. Also, the Browns still had a few Pro Bowl players that were a part of the team before 1991: DT Michael Dean Perry, DE Rob Burnett, WR Webster Slaughter (remember I didn’t cut him), RB Eric Metcalf, QB Bernie Kosar and T Tony Jones. Both Kosar’s and Slaughter’s careers are winding down at this point, but we’ve effectively replaced those two positions. We also have drafted some depth at CB (Mark McMillian) and MLB/ILB (Corey Widmer).

Looking back withwhat we’ve done over the last two years, there’s some holes we still need to fill. We don’t have a stud strong safety and still have holes along the offensive line (mainly guard). I would also like to improve our running back situation and gain some additional depth at wide receiver. I also think the three draft trades mentioned above to pick up players is now unnecessary, since the three player positions that were traded for (DT, C, LB) were effectively filled via the draft. So our draft picks now look like this:

Round Number Player
1 14 C Steve Everitt
2 42 DE Dan Footman
3 68 ???
3 83 LB Mike Caldwell
4 100 ???
5 124 T Herman Arvie
6 153 LB Rich McKenzie
7 180 LB Travis Hill
8 209 ???

We are now left with nine picks in the draft. Here’s what I would do with them:

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 14 C Steve Everitt DE Michael Strahan

Even though defensive end isn’t a pressing need at this point, you just cannot pass on Strahan. If every team had a doever this year, he would easily be one of the top three picks in that draft instead of sliding to the mid-second round. A seven time Pro Bowler, Strahan just ended his career this past season as the NFL’s all-time sack leader.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 42 DE Dan Footman FS John Lynch

This was probably the most difficuly repick I’ve come across, not because of Lynch’s talent, but because free safety is not a pressing need with Merton Hanks being taken two years earlier. I debated about drafting LB Chad Brown for a number of reasons. One being his versatility playing both as inside and outside linebacker during his career. It would also be a good ball-kicker to the division rival Steelers, who drafted Brown originally. But with taking Jesse Armstead later, and Lynch’s nine Pro Bowl selections, I just couldn’t pass him up.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 68 none G Will Shields

A stud out of Nebraska, Shields is probably the best offensive lineman during the 1990s. After becoming a starter early on in his rookie year, he started 230 consecutive games for the Chiefs, a team record and second in the league only to Favre. During his 14-year career, he failed to start in only one game, his very first, and was elected to 12 straight Pro Bowls from 1995-2006.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 83 LB Mike Caldwell G Ron Stone

Originally taken by the Cowboys, Stone was on the line with Erik Williams for two Super Bowl championship teams. However, he went to three Pro Bowls after leaving the Cowboys for the Giants and 49ers. He played 12 years with four different teams, and could also play tackle.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 100 none QB Mark Brunell

With Kosar becoming more fragile and Favre asserting himself as the new starting quarterback, it’s not a bad idea to find a capable backup. Its rather ironic that this is the exact same scenario that played out for real, but with the team being the Packers, and Don Majikowski playing the role of injured incumbent. Brunell also made the Pro Bowl three times after being traded to Jacksonville.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 124 T Herman Arvie LB Jessie Armstead

Another late draft steal (taken in the eight round by the Giants), Armstead was a terror on defense for 11 years, going to the Pro Bowl five times. Armstead had 752 career tackles with 40 sacks and 12 interceptions for 175 yards.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 153 LB Rich McKenzie TE Frank Wycheck

Originally drafted by the Redskins, Wycheck came into prominence during his second year in the league as a member of the Oilers (and later the Titans). During his 11-year career, he amassed 505 receptions for 5,126 yards and 28 touchdowns. He is one of only five tight ends to surpass 500 receptions in NFL history, and led the Titans in receiving for three consecutive years. He also went to three Pro Bowls. He would be a great compliment to Ben Coates.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
7 180 LB Travis Hill WR Troy Brown

Another late-round gem, Brown has played the last 15 years with the Patriots, playing a key role in their three Super Bowl championships. Although he’s only made one Pro Bowl during his career, following the 2001 season where he recorded 101 catches for 1199 yards and 5 touchdowns, Brown is know for his overall talent and versatility. He has on occassion played defensive back, has been an exceptional kick returner, and also played quarterback in emergency situations. He’s an overall talent that any team can use.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
8 209 none SS Blaine Bishop

Bishop had a stellar ten-year career with the Oilers, and was a steal in the eight round. Know as one of the hardest hitting safeties in the league, Bishop was elected to four Pro Bowls.

1993 Redraft Summary

Out of our four areas of focus, I think I’ve effectively addressed three of them. I loaded up the offensive line with Shields and Stone, drafted a stud SS with Bishop, and added receiver depth with not only Troy Brown, but Wycheck as well. I also turned a strong defense into one of the best with Strahan, Lynch and Armstead, and got some quarterback insurance with Brunell. With nine picks, I took players that amassed a combined 47 Pro Bowls. And this is still passing on players such as LB Chad Brown (3 Pro Bowls), FS Brock Marion (3 Pro Bowls) and MLB Barry Minter. This was a draft class that was second to only the 1991 class with quality and depth. Updating our chart from the beginning, the Browns would now look like this:

Offense Defense
QB Brett Favre (9) DT Chester McGlockton (4)
FB Kimble Anders (3) DT Santana Dotson
RB Gary Brown DE Michael Sinclair (3)
WR Keenan McCardell (2) DE Michael Strahan (7)
WR Robert Brooks MLB Ed McDaniel (1)
TE Ben Coates (5) OLB Mo Lewis (3)
C Jay Leeuwenburg OLB Bryan Cox (3)
G Will Shields (12) CB Aeneas Williams (8)
G Ron Stone (3) CB Dale Carter (4)
T Erik Williams (4) SS Blaine Bishop (4)
T none taken FS Merton Hanks (4)

That would give us 38 Pro Bowl appearances on offense, and another four if you count Frank Wycheck and Troy Brown. We would also have 41 on defense, and another 14 with Lynch and Armstead. At this point, the new 1990s Browns should be developing into one of the best teams in the league, with only right tackle and running back as weak areas. We’ll see if I can do anything about that in 1994.

Cleveland Browns Redraft: 1992

Recently, I’ve been revisiting the Cleveland Browns draft picks during the last 20 years and, with hindsight as my tool, thinking how I would have done things differently. Most recently, I’m redoing the  Browns drafts in the early 1990s under Bill Belichick. Below is the result of the 1991 redraft:

Round Number Player
2 29 QB Brett Favre
3 57 CB Aeneas Williams
3 62 OLB Mo Lewis
3 70 T Erik Williams
4 85 OLB Bryan Cox
5 112 TE Ben Coates
5 122 FS Merton Hanks
5 127 DE Michael Sinclair
8 197 RB Gary Brown
11 280 WR Keenan McCardell
12 308 FB Kimble Anders

Now let’s move on to year 2 of the Belichick regime, 1992. The season began on a sour note, when the head coach jettisoned longtime Browns receivers Reggie Langhorne and Webster Slaughter that summer, a move not appreciated by the fans. Although the season was respectible (7-9 finish) and the defense improved, the offense was horrible. The line was still sub-standard, Kosar- sacked eleven times in an ugly opening-day loss to the Colts- was oft-injured, the running game was among the league’s worst, and the receiver corps lacked quality depth, even as Slaughter and Langhorne played well for their new teams. Belichick also misused running back Eric Metcalf, regularly trying to run him up the middle, to little avail. The conflict with quarterback Bernie Kosar would also begin to show during this season, as Kosar sat out most of the year with injuries, and the head coach developed an unhealthy fascination with third-stringer Todd Philcox.
Another area that came into question was the Brown’s 1992 draft, and especially the first round pick of Tommy Vardell. Overall, the 1992 draft by the Browns was nothing to write home about:

Round Number Player
1 9 FB Tommy Vardell
2 52 WR Patrick Rowe
3 65 DT Bill Johnson
3 78 LB Gerald Dixon
6 143 WR Rico Smith
6 163 DT George Williams
7 177 DB Sewlyn Jones
9 233 DB Tim Hill
10 260 DT Marcus Lowe
11 289 WR Augustin Olobia
12 316 QB Keithen McCant
12 329 OL Tim Simpson

Cleveland did some draft-day dealing that year, moving down in the 2nd round and giving up their 5th round pick to the Cowboys in exchange for Dallas’ late 2nd round, 3rd, 6th, 8th and 12th round picks. The Browns also gave up an 8th round pick to the Patriots for OL Freddie Childress, which was a complete bust. As new GM, I wouldn’t make the trade with New England, but go ahead with Dallas. Here’s what our draft board would look like:

Round Number Player
1 9 FB Tommy Vardell
2 52 WR Patrick Rowe
3 65 DT Bill Johnson
3 78 LB Gerald Dixon
6 143 WR Rico Smith
6 163 DT George Williams
7 177 DB Sewlyn Jones
8 205 ???
9 233 DB Tim Hill
10 260 DT Marcus Lowe
11 289 WR Augustin Olobia
12 316 QB Keithen McCant
12 329 OL Tim Simpson

That gives us 13 picks total. Based on our highly-successful draft of 1991, our areas of need are wide receiver, offensive line, running back, inside/middle linebacker, cornerback, strong safety, and depth along the defensive line. Unfortunately, the 1992 class is nowhere near as deep and the previous, but still had some talent. However, I would like to move up higher to better players. My fantasy deal would be with the Atlanta Falcons, owners of the 8 and 19 picks in the draft. I would ask for the 19th pick in exchange for my 3rd (65), 6th (143), 8th (205), and 9th (233) round picks. I would then trade my 3rd (78), 6th (163) and both 12th (316, 329) draft picks to the Green Bay Packers for their two 5th (119, 130) and 9th (240) round picks. Our revised draft board now looks like this:

Round Number Player
1 9 FB Tommy Vardell
1 19 ???
2 52 WR Patrick Rowe
5 119 ???
5 130 ???
7 177 DB Sewlyn Jones
9 240 ???
10 260 DT Marcus Lowe
11 289 WR Augustin Olobia

That gives us nine picks to work with. Here’s what I would do with them:

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 9 FB Tommy Vardell DT Chester McGlockton

McGlockton made four straight Pro Bowls with the Raiders during his ten-year career. During those Pro Bowl years, he averaged eight sacks a season. He would have been the final piece in an all-pro defensive line with Perry, Burnett and Sinclair.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 19 none CB Dale Carter

Dale Carter was spectacular from the beginning, chosen as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. A vital part of the Chiefs’ defense in the 1990s, Carter was elected to four Pro Bowls, and would have given the Browns two of the best shut-down corners in the league with Aeneas Williams.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 52 WR Patrick Rowe WR Robert Brooks

Brooks was a key weapon for Brett Favre during the Packers success during the 1990s. He started off as a talented kick returner, leading the league kickoff returns in 1993 with a 26.6-yard average. In 1995, he set a franchise record with 1,497 receiving yards on 102 receptions, and scored 13 touchdowns. After missing half the 1996 season with a torn ACL, he won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 1997, catching 60 passes for 1,010 yards and 7 touchdowns. He would have been the next wave of a solid receiving corps. (I would not have released Slaughter and Langhorne.)

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 119 none ILB Ed McDaniel

McDaniel played ten years with the Minnesota Vikings, anchoring their defense. He made the Pro Bowl in 1998.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 130 none DT Santana Dotson

Dotson won the 1992 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and played ten years for the Bucs and Packers. He averaged five sacks a season, and recorded ten his rookie year. He would have added solid depth behind Perry and McClockton.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
7 177 DB Sewlyn Jones ILB Corey Widmer

Widmer played eight years with the New York Giants. Along with McDaniel, Cox and Lewis, Widmer would have helped drastically remake an aging linebacker corps in two years.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
9 240 none C Jay Leeuwenburg

Leeuwenburg played nine seasons with five different teams during his career. He was the starting center for both the Bears and Colts before winding up his career with the Bengals and Redskins. He and Erik Williams (drafted in 1991) would have been the start of repairing a pourous offensive line.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
10 260 DT Marcus Lowe CB Mark McMillian

McMillian was a solid cornerback during his eight-year career. He led the league in INT return yards in 1997 with the Chiefs. He would have worked as a nice nickelback and backup corner behind Pro Bowlers Williams and Carter.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
11 289 WR Augustin Olobia G Kendall Gammon

Gammon played 15 years with the Steelers, Saints and Chiefs. He was an everything lineman, playing in multiple positions. He became most adept as long snapper, being named to the Pro Bowl in 2005 as a special teams player.

1992 Redraft Summary

Although not the class of 1991, the 1992 redraft class was still pretty good, especially after making some additional draft pick trades. Out of the needs mentioned earlier that needed to be addressed, we addressed all except Strong Safety and definitely built one of the best defenses in the league (at least on paper). We have revamped cornerbacks and linebackers, and a strong and deep defensive line after two drafts. We helped our receiving corps with Robert Brooks (and not dumping veterans Slaughter and Langhorne), and helped the offensive line with Leeuwenburg and Gammon.

After two drafts, we would have a lot of key pieces in place for a championship-contending team for a long time. Also, if Kosar struggled with the injuries that he did in 1992, Brett Favre would have had his chance to show that he was the quarterback to take them to the Super Bowl. If fact, considering the 1992 Browns flirted with a .500 record despite their lack of talent, this team would have had a great shot at the playoffs.

Next we’ll redo the 1993 draft. We’ll look to strengthen a still average offensive line (despite Erik Williams), find a strong safety, and continue to improve the running backs and receivers.

Cleveland Browns Redraft:1991

The start of the 2008 NFL season is a few weeks away, and I find myself in an unfamiliar place … high expectations for the Cleveland Browns. A few months ago, I began to reexamine the drafts of the “expansion” Browns, starting with the 1999 draft. But a couple of things motivated me to go back even further and reexamine the Browns drafts before the infamous move to Baltimore. They were:

The Browns were coming off a disastrous season (3-13, second worst record in the league), after five straight playoff appearances, four division titles during that stretch, and playing in three of the last four AFC Championship games (losing all three to Denver). Their quick collapse was due to a number of factors:

  • poor drafting under head coach Marty Schottenheimer (anyone remember Mike Junkin? Nope, didn’t think so.)
  • the team got old, especially along the offensive line, defensive backfield and linebackers
  • the trading of Ernest Byner, scapegoat for the 1988 playoff loss
  • the Plan B fiasco of 1989-1990, which led to a number of players leaving due to contract disputes

This led to head coach Bud Carson getting canned after only two years on the job, and opened the door for Bill Belichick, defensive genius of the New York Giants. Here’s where I step in as fantasy General Manager with hindsight as my ally. First off, I don’t hire Belichick. Not because he’s not a good coach, but because he was horrible with the local media, was at odds almost from the beginning from existing team leaders, and completely disenfranchised the Browns fan base. When you do things like that, you gain no grace when the team struggles. Instead, I hire another candidate who was in the running for the job as well, Bill Cowher. He played for the Browns and was an assistant coach under Marty when he was Cleveland’s head coach. He served as defensive coordinator in Kansas City under Marty as well. Also, with hindsight, look what he did with Cleveland’s biggest rivals, the Steelers. Not only would the Browns get a great head coach, but screw Pittsburgh as well.

My next move would be to pick up some extra draft picks in the draft, since there are some major holes to fill, and the 1991 draft class was one of the richest in history. The Browns had the following picks:

Round Number Player
1 2 FS Eric Turner
2 29 G Ed King
3 57 DT James Jones
4 85 DE Pio Sagapolutele
6 141 WR Michael Jackson
8 197 DT Frank Conover
9 225 CB Ray Irvin
9 239 Shawn Wiggins
10 252 P Brian Greenfield
11 280 G Todd Jones
12 308 Elijah Austin

Originally, not a bad draft at all. Eric Turner and Michael Jackson became stars for the Browns, Ed King was a starter, and James Jones and Pio Sagapolutele were good defenders. However, every pick after Jackson was a waste. We need a more productive draft to get the Browns back on track.

My first task would be to pick up some additional picks in rounds 2-5. First I work out a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, who were stuffed with picks due to the raping of the Vikings over the Hershel Walker trade. I would swap first round picks (my #2 pick for their #20 pick), and give up my 9th round (239) pick for the Cowboys’ 3rd round (62) and 4th round (110) picks. As much as I liked Turner, this team needs too much help, and there’s too much talent in the draft not to make this deal.

Next I would work out a deal with Minnesota. I would trade the 20th overall pick (acquired from Dallas) and my 6th round pick (141) and 9th round pick (225) for the Vikings’ 3rd (68) and 5th (119) round picks, and WR Cris Carter. (Carter was acquired via waivers the following season from Philadelphia and had a very unimpressive year in 1990.)

One last deal would be with San Francisco. I would trade my 4th (85), 5th (119) and 10th (252) round picks in exchange for the 49ers’ 4th (95) and two 5th round picks (122, 127). Our draft board now looks like this:

Round Number Player
2 29 G Ed King
3 57 DT James Jones
3 62 (via Dallas)
3 68 (via Minnesota)
4 95 (via San Francisco)
4 110 (via Dallas)
5 122 (via San Francisco)
5 127 (via San Francisco)
8 197 DT Frank Conover
11 280 G Todd Jones
12 308 Elijah Austin

We end up with the same number of draft picks that we started with (11), lose out on FS Eric Turner (Round 1) and WR Michael Jackson (Round 6) by giving up those picks, but losing nothing else of significance. In exchange we add two additional picks in the 3rd round, pick up and additional pick in the 4th, and pick up two picks in the 5th round, while we shed our two 9th round picks and 10th round pick. We also steal away a potential Hall-of-Famer in WR Cris Carter. Now let’s examine our new draft pick-by-pick:

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 29 G Ed King QB Brett Favre

Let me make two points before you read the rest of this. First, I’m a realistic Browns fan, willing to see the faults in the team and players, and also willing to see the team improve itself for the long term. Secondly, I liked Bernie Kosar. He had talent, he wanted to play for the Browns, and we’re both from the Youngstown area. With that said, Bernie was never going to take this team to the Super Bowl at this point. He was becoming injury-prone due to his lack of mobility and the bad offensive line he had in front of him. This would have been the perfect pick in getting his replacement. I’m not going to list all of Favre’s accomplishments and records to justify this pick, because I don’t need to.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 57 DT James Jones CB Aeneas Williams

The defenisve backfield was a mess in 1991. Starting Safety Felix Wright left after a contract dispute, Minnifield was getting old, and Blaylock and Hilliard weren’t much. Williams was an 8-time Pro Bowler for the Cardinals. Enough said.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 62 (from Dallas) OLB Mo Lewis

The linebackers was another area in trouble. Eddie Johnson retired, Clay Matthews was starting to run out of gas. David Grayson and Mike Johnson were good, but not great. Van Waiters, well, he was better than Mike Junkin, which isn’t saying much at all. Mo Lewis was a 3-time Pro Bowler.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 70 (from Minnesota) T Erik Williams

Originally taken by Dallas with this pick, Williams, a 4-time Pro Bowler, became the anchor for the offensive line for a Cowboys team that won three Super Bowls in the 1990s and saw Emmitt Smith become the league’s all-time leading rusher.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 95 (from San Francisco) OLB Bryan Cox

Bryan Cox made an immediate impact for the Dolphins, making the first of three Pro Bowl trips in his second year.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 110 (from Dallas) TE Ben Coates

It’s amazing that a team that drafted one of the best tight ends in history in Ozzie Newsome completely missed out on a quality tight end three years in a row. They drafted Scott Galbreath in 1990 over Shannon Sharpe. Coates could arguably be considered the next best tight end during the 1990s. Five Pro Bowl appearances will do that for you. He would be a necessary offensive weapon that struggled with an offensive identity since Lindy Infante left to coach the Packers in 1988.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 122 (from San Francisco) FS Merton Hanks

As noted above, the defensive backfield was a mess in 1991. Along with Williams, Hanks would have added a second future Pro Bowler (four times) in one draft.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 127 (from San Francisco) DE Michael Sinclair

The defensive line was one of the only strong points of the Cleveland team in 1991 with future Pro Bowlers Michael Dean Perry and Rob Burnett. Sinclair, a 3-time Pro Bowler, would have made this one of the best lines in the league.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
8 197 DT Frank Conover RB Gary Brown

The running game was also a major problem. Byner was continuing to play at a Pro Bowl level in Washington, Mack was getting beat up too much (and soon to get into legal trouble), and Metcalf was not a featured back. Brown, the only player in our redraft to never make the Pro Bowl, was a good running back for both Houston and the Giants. His two best years were 1993 (Houston) with 1,002 yards and six TDs, and 1998 (NY Giants) with 1,063 yards and five TDs.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
11 280 G Todd Jones WR Keenan McCardell

Originally drafted by Washington, McCardell spent four good, but unspectacular, years in Cleveland before becoming the 2-time Pro Bowler in Jacksonville. His presence becomes more important with not drafting Michael Jackson.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
12 308 Elijah Austin FB Kimble Anders

Another important piece to repair a broken running game. Originally undrafted, Anders was a 3-time Pro Bowler and a devistating blocker for the Chiefs.

1991 Redraft Summary

The 1991 redraft adds some important pieces to a team that is aging quickly. Only one of the 11 picks have at least two Pro Bowl appearances in the career. Favre (9), Aeneas Williams (8), Lewis (3), Erik Williams (4), Cox (3), Coates (5), Hanks (4), Sinclair (3), McCardell (2), and Anders (3) have a whopping 44 Pro Bowls combined. Add in the eight from Cris Carter and our Pro Bowl total climbs to 52. The defense would have quickly been rebuilt with five key players at CB, FS, DE and LB. The offense would be on its way back with a repaired running game with Brown and Anders, a major piece to the line with Williams, some receiving playmakers in Coates, Carter and McCardell, and the QB of the future in Favre.

Five Questions for Kristen Harris, Portfolio Creative Staffing

This is the kick-off of what hopes to be a regular series of short interviews with other professionals regarding a variety of topics. For the first one, I start with a person I’ve know for a number of years, Kristen Harris of Portfolio Staffing.

photo of Kristen HarrisKristen Harris is the co-founder and Director of Associate Services for Portfolio Creative Staffing, based in Columbus, Ohio. Portfolio fulfills client needs on a freelance, contract or full-time basis from their specialized network of top creative talent. Her previous experience includes 12+ years of art direction and design experience in the Columbus area.

Five Questions Kristen Harris

White Boxer (WB):
One of the big stories this past year has been the state of the economy. As co-owner of Portfolio Creative Staffing, and working as a designer before that in the Columbus area, what is the market like for creative professionals in Central Ohio?
Kristen Harris:
It’s no secret that the national economy is “sluggish”, in a “downturn”, a “recession”…whatever term you like, it’s not as strong as it was. And the Central Ohio area has been especially hard-hit, particularly with housing issues. The effect that we’re seeing at Portfolio is mainly a sense of caution. While there are a few local companies that have had lay-offs or other staff reductions, generally it seems that employers are maintaining current staff and proceeding with hiring plans. However, we are seeing three trends in how staff and workloads are being managed.

  • Longer time frames: Companies may take longer to fill a position, may not always fill open positions, or may not fill them as quickly as they would have a year ago.
  • Seeking more flexibility: We also are seeing more companies use freelancers, contractors and other types of temporary staff as an alternative to hiring fulltime staff, at least initially. If it’s a great fit and the need continues, then it may convert it into a fulltime position. This really is a continuation of the “freelance nation” trend that has been happening for quite some time, especially in creative industries.
  • Tight budgets: Businesses are very budget-conscious. While they are still hiring or bringing in the help needed to get the work done, they are keeping a very close eye on rates, salaries and expenses. Hiring managers are often presented the challenge of getting everything they need, while staying within the smallest possible budget.

The current climate feels a lot like the 2001 market when there were a lot of converging factors. The dot com bust hurt some businesses, there were several large mergers and buy-outs among local agencies, and of course 9/11 affected the national economy as a whole. However, at this point I’m not seeing the drastic number of people looking for work that we saw at that time. There is definitely opportunity out there, but it is indeed competitive. People looking for new opportunities need to make sure their skills are up-to-date, their presentation is top-notch, they’re networking and committing as much effort as possible to their search, and they are seeking work through a variety of resources.

So what are seeing as the “hot” skills or jobs companies are looking for, whether as freelancers or full-time staff?
Interactive design is very much in demand, it’s definitely an area that still is seeing a lot of growth and potential. Clients are always interested in Flash (Action Script is a bonus), Dreamweaver, basic HTML coupled with strong design skills is a great combination. We also are seeing more interest in other interactive work, such as high-end Powerpoint presentations  and incorporating video or audio into sites. Print designers who want to expand their options may want to consider learning more of the interactive side. On the development side clients are looking for knowledge of all the main languages and platforms, and expect these people to constantly be on the cutting edge of what’s next. They’re looking for database work, e-commerce, blogging, social networks, incorporating video, and other features that push a site beyond the typical. They don’t necessarily expect this to be the same person who does the creative design.
Print design isn’t going away, there is a steady amount of demand for that work as well. Of course Adobe CS is the standard now, anyone who isn’t using InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop needs to update their skills. It’s easy enough for an experienced Quark user to pick up InDesign, but our clients generally aren’t interested in on-the-job training. If it’s not on your resume, you may get passed over for someone who does know it.
Really detailed production designers who understand print and pre-press processes, prepare impeccable final art, and genuinely like doing that kind of work are very valuable. Being able to hand off a concept to someone like this and knowing that it will be executed to perfection is great. But unless really enjoy this kind of work, don’t say that you do…you’ll be bored to tears in no time and your employer will know it. Our clients request a range of levels of experience and backgrounds. Strong conceptual creative people are necessary in some situations, and detailed efficient production designers are key in others. You can’t be everything for everyone, at least not all at once. Knowing your unique strengths, and being able to present and communicate them well is key. However, the more skills, experience and knowledge you gain, the more you have to offer your current and future employers or clients.
Where do you see the balance between being multi-skilled and having a particular area of strength? Is it better to be the proverbial “jack-of-all-trades” or to have one or two areas you really excel in?

You really need to be able to define your key strengths and be able to share them with someone else.

Great question. There is delicate balance between being multi-skilled and appearing to be unfocused. While you don’t necessarily want to do just one very specific thing, or have people think that’s all you do, I am not a fan of the “jack of all trades” approach either. The rest of that phrase is “master of none”, which is how it often comes across. I find that generally people really are best at or most interested in a few key categories of work, so it’s really a matter of how that information is presented. Creative people often have a variety of experiences and can do a lot of different types of things, but you really need to be able to define your key strengths and be able to share them with someone else.
The reality is that hiring managers, HR recruiters, potential clients and the other people you interact with about work need to clearly understand what you do and (more importantly) what you can do for them. Generally they are looking for an expert, the expectation is not for one person to be able to do everything and do it all equally well. Even when a position appears to be asking for everything under the sun, there are always some skills that are absolutely required and others that would be a plus. Focus on what you’re best at, everything else is ancillary or a bonus. For example, you may have done print design, web design, programming and development, illustration, multimedia presentations, project management, copy writing, marketing strategy, product styling for photography, and product development. If you throw all of that at someone at once, they’ll be overwhelmed and confused about what you’re really best at. It would be more effective to say that you’re a designer focused on print and web, with an illustration background and strong project management skills. If any of those other areas are important or relevant you can bring them up in conversation, or include them secondarily on your resume.
Consider creating your own personal “elevator pitch”, where you are able to give an clear and concise overview of what you do in the time span of an elevator ride (thirty seconds or 100-150 words). The idea is to get your point across quickly so it is easily understandable to your listener. This same definition of yourself can be used very effectively as a summary on a resume. It works as a snapshot of your background and strengths, with everything else on the resume is as support materials and further detail.
Outside the technical and design skills, what other areas do designers need to stand out to become more marketable?
Hard skills are the technical expertise needed to get the job done. Soft skills are everything else—personality traits, social graces, good command of the language, personal habits, overall attitude, and much much more. It’s the difference between being able to do the job, and doing it really well.With all other factors being equal, soft skills can be the difference between getting the job, being promoted, succeeding in your work, growing your business, or not. Most soft skills can and should be continuously developed, they are not inherent in your personality. These skills are consistently found in successful people in any industry, transferable to any position, and are often a key factor in promotion and leadership opportunities.Here are some traits that I often see in successful people, and look for in candidates:

  • Passionate and dedicated to their work or the job at hand
  • Positive attitude, optimistic, energetic
  • Makes decisions, willing to take appropriate risks
  • Integrity, strong work ethic, reliable
  • Strives to continuously learn, handles constructive criticism well
  • Good written and verbal communications skills, listens, asks questions
  • Attention to detail, organized, makes plans
  • Focused, committed, works well under pressure
  • Flexible, creative thinking
  • Motivational, respects and inspires others
  • Self-directed, manages own career
  • Poised, self confident, professional appearance (appropriate for the situation)

Given the choice between two candidates with equal technical and design skills, would you rather work with the upbeat, passionate, focused, organized person or the pessimistic, unorganized, disrespectful, unreliable person? Yeah, me too. Soft skills can be developed, sometimes it’s just a matter of projecting the right image or changing your own inner thinking.

With the boom of the internet over the last decade, how important is it for designers, whether freelancing or job hunting, to establish an online presence (personal website and/or blog, online portfolio, online networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)?
There are really two pieces to this puzzle, the personal website/online portfolio and online networking/blogging. Keep in mind that new graduates are coming out of school with their own website and a tremendous grasp of the social networking world, it’s practically second nature to them. Without some sort of online presence you may run the risk of appearing less current or technically savvy. So you need some online presence, but what? Really the best choice depends upon the work you do and your goals. If you’re a freelance web designer or are looking for a web design position, you need to have your own site. People look there for links or examples of your work, and they consider your own site an example of what you’d do given complete creative freedom. It’s your chance to blow them away! Freelance designers that want to keep building up that business should seriously consider having their own site too.
Potential clients might find you online, but more likely they’ll hear of you through a referral or meet you somewhere, and go online to find out more. A website can make you seem more like a business, truly committed to freelance work, and often larger than just a team of one. You can showcase samples of your work, highlight capabilities, show your client list, post recommendations, link to associations, and take advantages of other features that will make you appear very professional. Adding a blog to your site can increase your online presence, help you connect to other resources, and keep you top-of-mind for your contacts.

Without some sort of online presence you may run the risk of appearing less current or technically savvy.

Print designers who don’t do interactive work and are seeking a position rather than establishing a business have a few options. Having your work available online can be a convenient way to share samples. But you don’t necessarily need to build your own site from scratch, there are several existing sites where you can upload your work and resume. You’ll have a link to put on your resume and share with potential employers, without all of the time/expense/angst of designing your own site. Sites like creativehotlist.com, coroflot.com, and carbonmade.com are a few options, these industry sites are also places recruiters look for candidates. If you want your own site, you might set up something simple through your email/internet host (mac, aol, etc) or a blog site (like WordPress).
Regardless of the type of work you do and your goal, social networking sites can do a lot of positive things for you. Whether you have your own business or are looking for a job, these sites can be a great way to connect with potential clients or employers, get inside information, ask for referrals, and be found by others. Recruiters use sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace to find connections and candidates, as well as niche sites (like creativehotlist and coroflot). Freelance designers can make connections with potential clients, get referrals, and establish more of a professional online presence through sites like LinkedIn, Sologig and FreelanceNation (honestly there are quite a few of those freelance sites, some are better than others). When deciding which sites to get involved with, it helps to figure out where the people you want to reach may be looking…that’s where you want to be! One caution, especially with social networking sites and blogs, is that companies and clients feel it’s entirely fair game to judge you by what they find online. There are horror stories of people not getting jobs because of something an HR person found online. While you may consider it personal and separate from your professional life, they don’t. And they probably won’t tell you what they found or why you didn’t get the job. So be totally comfortable with anyone anywhere seeing what’s out there, at least while you’re job hunting or trying to develop new client relationships.

To WordPress or Not to WordPress?

About a year-and-a-half ago, I switched from a flat HTML web site to using WordPress (WP), mainly because I wanted to start blogging (although you an’t really tell by the archives, or lack thereof). The current design was in the works several months before the actual switch to WP, and looked much better on paper (and Photoshop) than when executed.

A big part of that was trying to get comfortable with learning WordPress. I’m more of a designer than a programmer, and know very little about PHP, especially back when I went to WP. Frustration with picking up a new programming language, learning a new application, and trying to get a site up and running as quickly as possible led to me cutting some corners on the details that I normally wouldn’t cut. Once finally up, other professional projects, and life in general, has kept me fairly busy to where I haven’t sat down to adjust the little things about the execution of this current design that bother me.

Now, over a year has passed, and the purpose of this site has changed a bit over that time. Instead of trying to modify the current design, and fix those pesky quirks, to fit my new vision for the site, I began to seriously rethink the design and structure from scratch. Granted, it hasn’t gone much further yet than some great thoughts in my head and a few roughs in my sketchbook, but I’m still planning to do a redesign before the year is out. My grasp of subtleties of CSS have also grown dramatically over that time as well. Along with that, I can finally deal with the subtle details that just haven’t sat right with me these past 18+ months.

During the first part of 2008, WordPress issued a new release with a spiffy new dashboard, courtesy of the fine folks at Happy Cog. Mike Davidson even jumped on the WordPress bandwagon. Motivated to tie the upgrade with a redesign, and the fact that I am actually getting real sleep again, I’m itching to pull this off sooner than later.

Recently, another wrench is thrown into the works. Jason Santa Maria has redesigned his site. The design is well done with lots of great details that pull it all together. But what really caught my eye was Jeffrey Zeldman’s remarks on the redesign. Zeldman referred to Jason’s redesign post as a “call to arms” for web art direction. By switching to Expression Engine, Jason gains the ability to create and apply different templates to different blog posts, while keeping an overarching theme for the entire site, much like print design does.

I admit this has been one of my frustrations with most content management systems on the web. Coming from a print design background, I’ve accepted, but haven’t enjoyed, being locked into one design with no option of variations outside of hard-coding pages. Now, with the ability to do this in Expression Engine, I’m strongly considering making the jump as well from WordPress to EE. Ideally, I would like to see someone develop a plug-in for WP that allows this type of design flexibility. Maybe by the time I’m actually able to start building the new design for this site, someone will.

Cleveland Browns Redraft:2002

Discouraged by the lack of success that my favorite NFL team, the Cleveland Browns, have had since their return to the NFL in 1999, I’m deciding to be a fantasy GM and redo their drafts. After redrafting in1999, 2000, and 2001, we’ve built quite an impressive team through the draft alone. Along with redoing those three year’s drafts, I also collected a number of free agents that first year, some whom Cleveland did sign, some others they didn’t but should have. Let’s look at the team that I’ve built. The free agents from 1999 are indicated in italics, and actual Pro Bowl selections of a player are represented by the number after their name:

Position Player Position Player
QB Kerry Collins (1), Jeff Garcia (4), Jake Delhomme (1), Tom Brady (4) DT Kelly Gregg, Rob Meier, Kris Jenkins (3)
FB Tony Richardson, Dan Kreider DE Jevon Kearse (3), Aaron Smith (1), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (1), Adewale Ogunleye (1)
RB Reuben Droughns, LaDainian Tomlinson (5), Dominic Rhodes ILB Eric Barton, Brian Urlacher (6), Antonio Pierce (1)
WR Marty Booker (1), Sean Morey (1), Donald Driver (3), Laveranues Coles (1), Dante Hall (2), Steve Smith (3), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1) OLB Jamir Miller (1), Joey Porter (4), Adalius Thomas (1)
TE Desmond Clark (1), Jermaine Wiggins CB Corey Fuller, Mike McKenzie, Nate Clements (1), Nick Harper
C Jeff Saturday (3), Todd McClure SS Mike Green
OG Adam Timmerman (1), Randy Thomas, Jamar Nesbit, Brian Walters (3), Floyd Womack FS Mike Brown (1)
OT Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels (5), Matt Light (2) LS Mike Schneck (1)
K Phil Dawson P Chris Gardocki (1)

I’m  in a good position to move some players via trades, especially from the wide receiver position. Marty Booker and Laveranues Coles are tradable with the drafting of both Steve Smith and T.J. Housmandzadeh in 2001. We could also potentially part with QBs Jeff Garcia or Jake Delhomme and RB Reuben Droughns for draft picks, or at least moving up in this draft. And, due to the New Orleans trade way back in 1999, I have the last pick from that deal in the second round this year. My prospects of strenghtening this team even further is great.

As good as my redraft is, the actual drafting by the Browns during those three years was just as bad, which is a big reason for the firing of Dwight Clark, who was mainly responsible for the three-year train wreck. Now we’re fully into the Butch Davis era. Although he was head coach in 2001, he gained power of personnel decisions in 2002, and mainly the draft. So now I reexamine the 2002 draft and see how my picks (granted in hindsight) stack up to what Davis did. At this point, there aren’t very many holes to fill on the team. I still need to deepen the safety and offensive tackle positions, and also improve the tight end position. Also, if history would repeat itself, I lose Jamir Miller in training camp, where he suffered a career-ending Achilles injury, so outside linebacker becomes an area that would need improved, but that isn’t evident during the draft. Cleveland originally picked around the middle of the draft (16), but I’m assuming the team was more successful in 2001 with the new crop of players, so I’m choosing around picks 22-23. Here’s my draft board, with only the Saints second round pick indicating a selection number in the round. I did indicate where the actual Cleveland picks went with the number after their names:

Round Number Player
1 ? RB William Green (16)
2 44 (from New Orleans)
2 ? WR Andre Davis (47)
3 ? C Melvin Fowler (76)
4 ? LB Kevin Bentley (101)
4 ? LB Ben Taylor (111)
4 ? TE Darnell Sanders (122)
5 ? LB Andra Davis (141)
7 ? OT Joaquin Gonzalez (227)

With eight picks in 2002, Cleveland originally drafted the following:

  • one running back (1)
  • one wide receiver (2)
  • two offensive linemen (4)
  • one tight end (5)
  • three linebackers (8)

Out of those eight, at least four are still in the league, and two have had fairly good careers (Fowler and Andra Davis). A better draft than in previous years, but no stars in this group either. As in the previous years, the high round picks are busts for their draft positions. Let’s see how I do in comparison:

2002 Redraft

Round Original Pick New Pick
1 RB William Green SS Ed Reed

Taken eight picks after William Green, Ed Reed has been nothing short of a terror in the defensive backfield for the Ravens, making it to the Pro Bowl five times (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008). He probably would have made it in 2005 as well if he didn’t miss six games with an ankle injury. He is the Ravens all-time INT leader with 34, has blocked four punts and returned three for touchdowns. He is also the first person in NFL history to return an interception, punt, blocked punt, and fumble for a touchdown. Did I mention he plays for the Ravens? It would be great to screw them out of a player of this caliber.

Round Original Pick New Pick
2 none G/C LeCharles Bentley

Taken by the Saints in this very spot, Bentley excelled at the guard position and started in 14 games. He was named Sports Illustrated ‘s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 and Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie Team. He was selected to two Pro Bowls with the Saints (2003, 2005). He left New Orleans as a free agent following the 2005 season and signed with the Browns. He suffered a serious knee injury during his FIRST play in training camp. Attempting to make a come back in 2008, he brokered his release from Cleveland, but failed to catch on with another team that year.

Round Original Pick New Pick
2 WR Andre Davis CB Sheldon Brown

Picked in the second round, Brown is a fixture in the Eagles defensive backfield, playing in every game during his six-year career, and starting every game since late in 2003. Since becoming a full-time starter, Brown is averaging over 66 tackles and nearly 3 INTs a season.

Round Original Pick New Pick
3 C Melvin Fowler RB Brian Westbrook

A a third-round pick and two-time Pro Bowl selection (2004, 2007), Westbrook is a key part of the Eagles offense. He became the featured back midway through his second year, when he rushed for 613 yards, caught 37 passes for 332 yards, and scored 11 TDs. The following year, he ran for 812 yards, caught 73 passes for 703 yards, and scored nine TDs, and still missed three games. The next year, he missed four games and still put up 1,233 yards rushing and receiving, and scored seven times. He’s been fairly healthy the last two years, missing only three games total. During those two years, he averaged 1,275 yards rushing, 84 receptions for 735 yards, and 12 TDs. Imagine the damage an offense can do with he and LT in the backfield together.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 LB Kevin Bentley ILB Larry Foote

A late fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh, Foote played very little during his first two years. In 2004, he became a starter and hasn’t missed a game yet. During the last four years, he’s averaging 85.5 tackles, three sacks and one interception a season.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 LB Ben Taylor DE Aaron Kampman

A fifth round draft pick, Kampman made his mark during the 2003 playoffs by recording three sacks in two playoff games for the Packers. The following year, he’s become a steady defender, playing every game the last four seasons, and averaging 75 tackles and 9.5 sacks a season. He was elected to the Pro Bowl the last two years while recording 27.5 sacks during that span.

Round Original Pick New Pick
4 TE Darnell Sanders ILB Bart Scott

Scott was undrafted and signed with Baltimore. He made his mark on special teams during his first three years in the league. Scott came into his own filling in for the injured Ray Lewis in 2005, starting ten games and recording 92 tackles and four sacks. In 2006 he was second on the team in tackles with 103, he has also recorded 9.5 sacks and two interceptions. He was elected to the Pro Bowl that year as an injury replacement for Lewis. This past season, he made 93 tackles.

Round Original Pick New Pick
5 LB Andra Davis WR David Givens

Another Ohio-bred player (he was born in Youngstown), Givens has had a productive, if unremarkable, career. Drafted late in the 7th round, he played four seasons for New England, winning two Super Bowls. In 2007, he signed with Tennessee, but tore his ACL after five games. He’s currently a free agent.

Round Original Pick New Pick
7 OT Joaquin Gonzalez OLB James Harrison

Also from Ohio, Harrison went undrafted out of Kent State, and signed with the Steelers. Harrison saw limited playing time (mostly on special teams) during his first four years with Pittsburgh. He broke out in 2007, starting in all 16 games, and recording 98 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He was elected to the Pro Bowl that year.

2002 Redraft Summary

Let’s look how I did with the nine picks:

  • two defensive backs (2)
  • one running back (3)
  • three linebackers (6)
  • one defensive end (7)
  • one wide receiver (8)
  • one offensive lineman (9)

Out of my group, there are four multi-time Pro Bowlers, and a couple with one trip to Hawaii. I address a couple of need areas, depth in the secondary and running back. Reed adds a dominant defender in the backfield with Mike Brown, and Sheldon Brown adds strength to the cornerback position. Westbrook also adds another stellar back to pair, or split time, with LT. Givens is a lesser receiver in a crowd of Pro Bowlers, but adds depth there as well. Bentley and Kampman can’t be passed up despite  glut of studs in those positions on the team. But this could be a blessing, considering Randy Thomas left as a free agent after 2002, and Kearse and Ogunleye both left their teams as free agents after 2003, and may do the same here. Timmerman or could be potentially traded, lowering the salary cap significantly, or McClure as well. I’m also crowding the linebacking corp, but consider that most of these guys played a couple of years on special teams before breaking into the lineup, and again if/when free agency plays a factor, the position is loaded with talent.

Here’s the challenge in today’s NFL, with a salary cap, whom do you give raises to in order to keep them, and whom do you let go to free up cap space and give their spot to younger (and cheaper) talent? In the old days (pre-1990s), cap space and free agency was never an issue. Now, teams need to let popular and talented players go elsewhere for the sole reason of financials. Now with a solid team in place, those factors will help determine some decisions in the next couple of drafts. Next, we revisit 2003.

Cleveland Browns Redraft:2001

After redoing the 1999 and 2000 drafts for the Cleveland Browns, this team would have most of the key pieces to being a powerhouse for the next several years. Let’s look at what I did over the last two years. Actual number of Pro Bowl selections is represented in parentheses. All players shown were draft picks except those in italics, which were potential free agent signings (or trades in the case of Ahman Green and Tony Richardson) in 1999:

Position Player Position Player
QB Kerry Collins (1), Jeff Garcia (4), Jake Delhomme (1), Tom Brady (4) DT Kelly Gregg, Rob Meier
FB Tony Richardson, Dan Kreider DE Jevon Kearse (3), Aaron Smith (1), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (1), Adewale Ogunleye (1)
RB Ahman Green, Reuben Droughns ILB Eric Barton, Brian Urlacher (6)
WR Marty Booker (1), Sean Morey (1), Donald Driver (3), Laveranues Coles (1), Dante Hall (2) OLB Jamir Miller (1), Joey Porter (4), Adalius Thomas (1)
TE Desmond Clark (1), Jermaine Wiggins CB Corey Fuller, Mike McKenzie
C Jeff Saturday (3), Todd McClure SS Mike Green
OG Adam Timmerman (1), Randy Thomas, Jamar Nesbit, Brian Walters (3) FS Mike Brown (1)
OT Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels (5) P Chris Gardocki (1)
LS Mike Schneck (1) K Phil Dawson

In two years, the only area that I’m not settled in is tight end, and depth at running back, offensive and defensive tackles, and the secondary. Due to the New Orleans and St. Louis Rams trades back in 1999, I pick up two additional first round picks. So, here’s the draft picks I have to work with in 2001 (actual Browns selections shown):

Round Number Player
1 3 DT Gerard Warren
1 20 (from St. Louis)
1 23 (from New Orleans)
2 33 WR Quincy Morgan
3 65 RB James Jackson
4 97 CB Anthony Henry
5 134 LB Jeremiah Pharms
6 165 CB Michael Jameson
7 203 G Paul Zukaukas
7 245 WR Andre King

Overall, this was a pretty disappointing draft for the Browns. Outside of Pharms, every player stayed in the league at least four years, but Henry is the only one that’s developed into a quality player. Warren is considered one of the biggest busts of the decade, never living up to his first round potential. But what was new with any of Cleveland’s draft picks during this regime. With three picks in the first 33 of the draft (and hindsight in my corner), I’m sure I can do better. Here are my 2001 draft selections:

2001 Redraft

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 3 none RB LaDainian Tomlinson

The fifth overall pick, Tomlinson has missed only one game during his seven-year career. He’s averaging 1,521 yards rushing, 482 yards receiving, and 16 TDs. He’s made the Pro Bowl every year except his rookie year, when he rushed for “only” 1,236 yards and 10 TDs. In 2003, he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and record 100 receptions in the same season. For the record, I was begging Cleveland to draft him, and pissed when they took Warren.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 20 none CB Nate Clements

This pick would be a major coup for the Browns, with Clements having grown up in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights and played collegiately at The Ohio State University. Clements was an immediate star in the NFL, starting 11 games his rookie year. He recorded at least 62 tackles every year, and was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 2004 season.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 23 none DT Kris Jenkins

A second round pick by the Panthers, Jenkins would fill the need for a stud defensive tackle on a team loaded with talented ends. Outside his two injury-plagued seasons of 2004 and 2005, Jenkins has been the anchor of the Panthers defense. When healthy, he averages over 40 tackles and 4 sacks a season. His best single season in sacks was 2002 with seven. He’s made the Pro Bowl three times (2002, 2003, 2006).

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 33 none OT Matt Light

A second round pick by the Patriots, Light would give me another stud tackle to go along an already-talented offensive line. He’s made the Pro Bowl twice (2006, 2007).

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 65 none WR Steve Smith

Another great pick by Carolina, this time in the third round, Smith made a mark his rookie year as a dangerous kick returner. He led all rookies in net yardage with a 1,994 yard, and finished fourth in the NFL in that category in 2001. This performance earned him a Pro Bowl berth as a kick returner. The next year, he became a starting wide receiver, making 54 receptions for 872 yards. In 2005, Smith lead the league in receptions (103), yards (1563), and TDs (12). With the exception of 2004, where he was out all but one game with an injury, Smith has averaged 90 receptions, 1,210 yards, and 9 TDs the last four years despite being the only deep threat on the Panthers. In addition to going his rookie year as a returner, Smith returned to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 97 none G/T Floyd Womack

Nicknamed “Pork Chop,” Floyd Womack was drafted late in the fourth round by the Seahawks, and has played in 75 games over the last seven years, starting 33 of them. He can play both guard and tackle. He too would have been the local pick of this draft, having played high school football at Cleveland East.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 134 none CB Nick Harper

Nick Harper went undrafted, but signed with the Colts. His best year was in 2003, his first as a starter, with 98 tackles and four interceptions. He’s recorded at least 66 tackles and three INTs every year since. He joined the Tennessee Titans as a free agent in 2007.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 165 none WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Slipping to the seventh round, Housmandzadeh played sparingly during his first three years with the Bengals. He broke out in 2004 with 73 catches for 978 yards and four TDs. During the last four seasons, he’s averaged 88 receptions, 1,040 yards and eight TDs a season. Housmandzadeh made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2007 with 112 catches for 1,143 yards and 12 TDs.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
7 203 none RB Dominic Rhodes

Rhodes signed with the Colts after going undrafted in 2001. He played in 15 games his rookie year, starting 10 in place of the injured Edgerrin James. That year, Rhodes rushed for 1,104 yards and nine TDs. He was out for all of 2002, and touched the ball sparringly the next three years behind James. After James left via free agency, Rhodes split time with rookie Joseph Addia, rushing for 641 yards and five TDs. He left as a free agent the following year for Oakland, but at out the first four games due to violating the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy, and never did much on the field once he returned. He was then released, and resigned with the Colts for 2008.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
7 245 none MLB Antonio Pierce

Undrafted, Pierce signed with Washngton and had a decent rookie year (52 tackles). He didn’t see the field much the next two years, but broke out in 2004 replacing the injured Michael Barrow. He recorded 112 tackles (85 solo) and two interceptions. He then signed with the Giants, recording 99 tackles in only 13 games, and 137 the following year (107 solo). His 2006 season earned him a Pro Bowl berth. In 2007, he recorded 103 tackles (77 solo).

2001 Redraft Summary

The original 2001 draft breaks down like this over eight picks:

  • one defensive tackle (1)
  • two wide receivers (3)
  • one running back (4)
  • two cornerbacks (6)
  • one linebacker (7)
  • one offensive lineman (8)

Now let’s compare it to the redraft (two extra picks this year):

  • two running backs (2)
  • one defensive tackle (3)
  • two wide receivers (5)
  • two offensive lineman (7)
  • two cornerbacks (9)
  • one linebacker (10)

Just about the same picks, with an extra running back. In fact, if you omit the extra picks from the Saints and Rams, the first three picks in both drafts addressed the exact same positions, just in a different orders. The new draft picked up four multi-time Pro Bowl selections (four of the first five picks I might add), and three other Pro Bowl selections. Plus, every player is still in the league, and only two aren’t starting for their current teams. The redraft is definitely a major improvement over what the Browns actually selected that year.

Review of the Three Redrafts

Here’s where it gets painful to look. Here’s what the Browns would have with three years of draft picks (free agents omitted):

Position Player Position Player
QB Tom Brady (4) DT Kelly Gregg, Rob Meier, Kris Jenkins (3)
FB Tony Richardson, Dan Kreider DE Jevon Kearse (3), Aaron Smith (1), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (1), Adewale Ogunleye (1)
RB Reuben Droughns, LaDainian Tomlinson (5), Dominic Rhodes ILB Eric Barton, Brian Urlacher (6), Antonio Pierce (1)
WR Marty Booker (1), Brian Finneran, Donald Driver (3), Laveranues Coles (1), Dante Hall (2), Steve Smith (3), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1) OLB Joey Porter (4), Adalius Thomas (1)
TE Desmond Clark (1), Jermaine Wiggins CB Mike KcKenzie, Nate Clements (1), Nick Harper
C Todd McClure SS Mike Green
OG Randy Thomas, Jamar Nesbit, Brian Walters (3), Floyd Womack FS Mike Brown (1)
OT Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels (5), Matt Light (2) LS Mike Schneck (1)

Assuming these guys would play at the level that they currently do, the new Cleveland Browns would likely be the elite team in the league and be in a position to win multiple Super Bowls. Compare this to their actual picks, which produced one decent starter in Anthony Henry. It’s no surprise the Browns struggled like they did out of the gate, and just now showing signs of being a playoff contender. It’s worth noting that this was the last draft run by Dwight Clark before he was forced to resign. Looking back, he had absolutely no eye for talent. Next I’ll look at the 2002 draft and see if Butch Davis did any better.

Cleveland Browns Redraft:2000

As personal therapy for being a Cleveland Browns fan, I’m attempting to sooth the anguish of the first few years of the return of my team to the NFL in 1999. I decided to play fantasy General Manager and go back in tiime to redo the Browns disastrous drafts that were a big part of the cause of the team’s failure to win. Previously, I redid their 1999 draft. Now let’s move on to year two and reexamine the 2000 draft. As stated in the first post, the Browns gain an additional first-round pick this year to complete the Saints draft trade to acquire Ricky Williams. With that, let’s look at what I did in the new 1999 draft (number of Pro Bowl selections in parentheses):

Round Number Player
1 12 DE Jevon Kearse (3)
2 32 T Jon Jansen
2 45 G Randy Thomas
3 62 OLB Joey Porter (4)
3 71 WR Marty Booker (1)
3 78 CB Mike KcKenzie
4 99 DE Aaron Smith (1)
5 139 ILB Eric Barton
5 144 DT Kelly Gregg
6 174 TE Desmond Clark (1)
6 187 WR Donald Driver (3)
6 191 C Todd McClure
7 207 G Jamar Nesbit
7 218 LS Mike Schneck (1)

I built a good solid foundation with that first draft. Eight players taken eventually earned Pro Bowl berths, and three of those got at least three each. We also have the makings of a good group of receivers, offensive and defensive lines, and linebackers. Add in the nine free agents I targeted (LB Jamir Miller, CB Corey Fuller, QB Kerry Collins, QB Jeff Garcia, QB Jake Delhomme, G Adam Timmerman, C Jeff Saturday, K Phil Dawson, P Chris Gardocki), there’s the start of a good team.

I also picked up QB Kurt Warner in the expansion draft from St. Louis. This would have put me in an interesting, and potentially advantagious position in the 1999 preseason. It’s well known that Warner was the designated backup to Trent Green, who had just signed a big free agent contract with the Rams that offseason. Unfortunately, Green went down in the preseason with a serious knee injury that ended his season. This opened the door for Warner to not only lead the Rams to an unexpected Super Bowl victory, but also the Super Bowl and league MVP awards. However, in my scenario, Warner is no longer on the Rams.

Here’s where my Browns can really benefit. With four good quarterbacks on my team, one will lose a job come season-opening weekend. I would offer Warner back to the Rams for their 2000 fourth-round pick with a lot of conditions. If Warner would take the Rams to the playoffs, that becomes a third-rounder; a Super Bowl appearance, then  second rounder; a Super Bowl win, or league or Super Bowl MVP award, then I get their 2001 first-round pick as well as the 2000 second. Why not the 2000 first-round pick? That would mean the last pick in the first round, which is essentially the first pick in the second round. I would rather move it to the following year, hoping the Rams wouldn’t repeat.

Now let’s look at what picks I have available to me in year two (actual Cleveland picks shown):

Round Number Player
1 1 DE Courtney Brown
1 2 (from New Orleans)
2 32 WR Dennis Northcutt
2 62 (from St. Louis)
3 63 RB Travis Prentice
3 79 WR JaJuan Dawson
4 95 CB Lewis Sanders
4 110 TE Aaron Shea
5 130 DB Anthony Malbrough
5 146 DB Lamar Chapman
6 183 QB Spergon Wynn
6 206 OL Brad Bedell
6 207 OL Manuia Savea
7 209 DL Eric Chandler
7 225 S Rashidi Barnes

That gives me fifteen picks, and the top two picks and three in the top 32. Here’s what I would do with them:

2000 Redraft

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 1 DE Courtney Brown T Chris Samuels

Chris Samuels, originally chosen third overall by the Redskins, became an instant starter. He started every games he’s played in, and missed a total of four games due to injury over the past eight years. He’s also a 5-time Pro Bowl selection (2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007). Which of the two do you think has a better career? It’s also interesting to note that over the last two redrafts, three offensive lineman taken currently start for the Redskins (Jansen, Thomas, and Samuels).

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 2 none MLB Brian Urlacher

Urlacher became an instant starter his rookie season, starting 14 of 16 games. Outside of missing seven games in 2004 due to injuries, Urlacher has started every game since he became the primary Middle Linebacker. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and selected to the Pro Bowl every year except his injury year in 2004 and 2007 (6 times).

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 32 WR Dennis Northcutt FS Mike Brown

Mike Brown began the 2000 season as the Bear’s starting Free Safety, recorded the second most tackles on the team that year, and finished second (to Brian Urlacher) in NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year balotting. He started all but one game until 2004, when he injured his Achilles in the second game of the season. He returned in 2005, but missed the last four games with an injury. He’s missed most of the past two seasons with injures. Brown was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2005.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 62 none RB Reuben Droughns

Outside of RB Ahman Green, whom I traded for in 1999, I don’t have a reliable back, having passed over this position in the 1999 draft. His first four years weren’t remarkable, having battled injures with the Lions, who drafted him originally, and then with Denver. He has his breakout year in 2004 with the Broncos, rushing for 1,240 yards and six touchdowns. He then signed with Cleveland in 2005 and recorded his second 1,000+ rushing season with 1,232 yards. After a disappointing 2006, Cleveland released him and he signed with the Giants.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 63 RB Travis Prentice WR Laveranues Coles

Coles became the starting Wide Receiver for the Jets his second year in the league. He started every game from 2001 to 2006, averaging 81 receptions, 1038 yards, and 5 touchdowns. In 2007, he missed more than four games with injuries, and still totalled 55 receptions, 646 yards and 7 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl in 2004

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 79 WR JaJuan Dawson DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila

Gbaja-Biamila has become known as a pass-rushing machine. His yearly sack totals since 2001 are 13.5, 12, 10, 13.5, 8, 6, 9.5. That’s nearly 10.5 sack a year, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2003 because of it. The last two years he’s become more of a pass-rushing specialist as opposed to an every-down defensive end.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 95 DB Lewis Sanders WR Dante Hall

Hall is known more for being a kick returner than a wide receiver. He made the Pro Bowl in 2002 and 2003 as a special teams player. He also holds the NFL record in 2003 for returing a kickoff or punt for a touchdown four games in a row.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 110 TE Aaron Shea OLB Adalius Thomas

For the first four years of his career, Thomas filled the role of backup Libebacker and Special Teams player, making the Pro Bowl in 2003 for Special Teams. 2004 was his break-out year, amassing 72 tackles and eight sacks. For the last four years, he’s averaging nearly 80 tackles and nine sacks a season. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2006 as a linebacker.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 130 DB Anthony Malbrough DT Rob Meier

Meier is a solid defensive tackle, averaging 26.5 tackles and 2.5 sacks a season.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 146 DB Lamar Chapman QB Tom Brady

Its hard to believe Brady didn’t get drafted until late in the sixth round. He became the starter after Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury in the second game of 2001, Brady’s second year. Since then, he’s gone to four Pro Bowls, led the Patriots to four Super Bowls (winning three of them), voted Super Bowl MVP twice, and was voted league MVP in 2007. This past season, he broke the record for most TD passes by a quarterback (50), had 4,806 yards passing (third all-time), and a passer rating of 117.2 (second all-time). 31 teams are kicking themselves over this oversight.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 183 QB Spergon Wynn TE Jermaine Wiggins

Wiggins went undrafted and played mostly a backup Tight End role with New England, Indianapolis and Carolina for four years. His best statistical year was 2004 with Minnesota, when he made 71 catches for 707 yards and four touchdowns.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 206 T Brad Bedell SS Mike Green

“Mr. Irrelevant” in 2000, Green became the Bears starting Strong Safety by 200. until becoming a backup in early 2005. He then went to Seattle, where he’s struggled with injuries.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 207 OL Manuia Savea DE Adewale Ogunleye

Ogunleye was undrafted and signed with the Dolphins in 2000, but sat out while recovering from a knee injury suffered during his senior season at Indiana. He became a starter in 2002 and recorded 9.5 sacks. The following year, he led the league with 15 sacks. He was traded to Chicago the following year, and has averaged 7.5 sacks a year as a Bear.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
7 209 DE Eric Chandler FB Dan Kreider

Kreider signed with Pittsburgh after being undrafted. He became the starting Fullback in 2000, and maintained that role until 2007. Never much of a ball handler, Kreider is known for his bone-crushing blocks.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
7 225 DB Rashidi Barnes G Brian Walters

Undrafted, Kansas City signed Waters as a free agent in 2000. He became a starter midway through 2001, and has missed two games since then. He was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

2000 Redraft Summary

With 13 picks, the Browns originally drafted the following positions:

  • two defensive ends (2)
  • two wide receivers (4)
  • one running back (5)
  • four defensive backs (9)
  • one tight end (10)
  • one quarterback (11)
  • two offensive linemen (13)

Of those 13 players, two never made it on a final roster, four more were out of the league within two years, and two others gone within four. That leaves five players that had careers lasting at least six years. Of those five, no one made a significant impact with any team they played on. its safe to say this draft class was a complete bust. That’s two years in a row of wasted picks.

With 15 picks in the redraft (two additional from the 1999 trades with New Orleans and St. Louis), we take:

  • two offensive linemen (2)
  • two linebackers (4)
  • two safeties (6)
  • two wide receivers (8)
  • one defensive tackle (9)
  • two defensive ends (11)
  • one quarterback (12)
  • one tight end (13)
  • one fullback (14)
  • one running back (15)

So I basically matched the positions, and addressed the defensive front seven with the extra picks and picking two less DBs. My 15 picks are all still in the league, although a couple are battling cronic injuries. I also nabbed six multi-time Pro Bowlers, and four others that have made at least one trip to Honolulu. This draft crop was a gold mine of talent late in the draft that year with two undrafted Pro Bowlers and Brady available until pick #199. With these first two new drafts, the Browns would have had the best offensive line and defensive front seven in the NFL, arguably the best QB in the game today, and a solid receiving corp, defensive backfield, and special teams. This team should have begun turning things around by the third season. Next, we look at the 2001 draft.

Cleveland Browns Redraft:1999

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan. Always have been. That said, following my favorite team has been more heartache than celebration. The move to Baltimore to become the Ravens was the worst, worse than the AFC Championship games against the Broncos. Since the team was “reborn” in 1999, its been more heartache. In nine years, the team has had two winning seasons, one playoff appearance (where they blew a huge lead and lost), three head coaches, two general managers (three if you count Davis as one as coach), up until this past year only one Pro Bowl player, and a huge amount of disappointment.

During the draft season in April, I began thinking how horrible of a job the Browns have done drafting players during those first six years, and seeing why the team has struggled as much as they have. The more I thought about it, and looked through the draft histories on nfl.com, the more that point hit home. For my own sanity, I decided to play Fantasy GM and go back in time to correct the problem.

I’m going to make a lot of assumptions. First, that the available players don’t change very much based on the changed picks of the Browns. I’m also assuming that the Browns draft position doesn’t change much the first couple of years from what they actually were (especially 2000 and 2001 drafts). Also that the players would have been just as productive with the Browns as they were with the teams that they actually played for. I’m also going to assume I can make a blockbuster draft deal in 1999 and sign a couple of free agents (one particularly) that went somewhere else in 1999 and had productive careers.

I also contemplated the idea of starting the franchise a year earlier in 1998. The Browns would have been off to an incredible start with a draft for the ages (based on 1999 draft picks). Imagine drafting Peyton Manning (QB, eight Pro Bowls), Patrick Surtain (CB, three Pro Bowls), Jeremiah Trotter (OLB, four Pro Bowls), Ahman Green (RB, four Pro Bowls), Hines Ward (WR, four Pro Bowls), Matt Birk (C, six Pro Bowls), London Fletcher (MLB, three Pro Bowls), and a couple of other solid starters. But since the team came about in 1999, that’s where I’ll start.

Front Office and Coaching Staff

Looking back, here’s where the problems all started. Dwight Clark as General Manager was a complete disaster. He was horrible in hiring both coaches and drafting players. In his stead, I would bring in Kevin Colbert as Director of Football Operations. He’s been nothing short of spectacular in that role with the Steelers. Here’s a great example of why the Steelers are one of the best franchises in the NFL — they hire great people to run the organization.

Next would be the head coach. The Brown’s first new coach, Chris Palmer was a disappointment. Few may remember that he was the ugly stepchild choice for coach. The Browns were pushing hard for Brian Billick to take the head coaching job. But when he said he wanted to interview for the Ravens position before making a decision, Policy threw a tantrum and said that he was no longer considered a candidate. I’m not a fan of Billick, nor was I ever. But there were several other better candidates than Palmer to turn to. My initial list of candidates (in order of preference) would be these five coaches:

  • Andy Reid. Quarterbacks Coach and Assistant Head Coach with the Packers, Reid was hired ass head coach by the Eagles in 1999. Although initially criticized by the fans as a bad choice, Reid was amassed seven winning seasons, five division championships, and a Super Bowl appearance in ten years.
  • Marvin Lewis. Defensive Coordinator for the Ravens, Lewis built the Baltimore defense into one of the most dominating forces in league history. He missed out on several head coaching positions before being hired by the Bengals in 2003. Although he’s only had one winning season in six years, the struggles are more due to the poor ownership and questionable personnel decisions than his coaching ability.
  • Russ Grimm. In my opinion, one of the most underrated assistants in the NFL during the last decade. Grimm has interviewed for a number of head coaching positions, but not winning any of them. He’s established himself as one of the best offensive line coaches in the league, and well deserving of a head coaching opportunity.
  • Jim Haslett. Defensive Coordinator of the Steelers, Haslett would be hired by the Saints as head coach in 2000. He is the only Saints coach in their history to win a playoff game. After six years, Haslett was let go by New Orleans following a dreadful year that few head coaches could have been successful with the adversity the Saints faced in 2005.
  • Gary Kubiak. Offensive Coordinator for the Broncos, Kubiak helped build one of the most effective offenses in the NFL for nearly a decade, despite having massive personnel turnover during that period. He became the Texans second coach in their brief history in 2006, and has gradually improved the team each year.

Free Agent Signings

Now let’s tackle the players. First off, we need to get an element of veteran leadership. The advantage of a “new” team is that you don’t have any money locked up in players salaries yet, so you have more to work with than most, if not all, other teams in the league. Here are a couple of key players I would aggressively pursue:

  • LB Jamir Miller. Cleveland did sign Miller from Arizona to be the cornerstone of their defense, and the investment paid off. Granted, the defense wasn’t great during the three years Miller played with the Browns (before an Achilles injury forced his retirement), but he was effective. Miller was elected to his only Pro Bowl following the 2001 season, and was the “new” Browns’ only Pro Bowl player until 2007.
  • CB Corey Fuller. Another actual Browns signing, Fuller did a good job during his three years with the Browns.
  • G Adam Timmerman. Timmerman was a key blocker for the Packers and Brett Favre during their Super Bowl runs in the ’90s, and signed with the Rams in 1999, where he played a key part in transforming their offense into the “Greatest Show on Turf.” He would come at a high price, but worth the money to be the veteran anchor on the offensive line. Timmerman made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2001 with the Rams.
  • C Jeff Saturday. Saturday originally signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 1998, but was waived before the season started. He signed with Indianapolis the following offseason, where he went on to protect Peyton Manning since, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl selections (2005-2007).
  • QB Kerry Collins. The Browns need a veteran quarterback, at the very least to get clobbered until a true franchise QB can be drafted and protected behind a decent offensive line. Cleveland traded for Ty Detmer, and that was a disaster. Detmer was benched following the season opener, and watched as potential-franchise QB Tim Couch got clobbered behind a terrible line. I considered other free agent QBs such as Rich Gannon and Trent Green, whom both went on to have great careers with other teams since. But Collins is the most mobile of the three, which is important, and he had the most to prove at this point. He was a high draft pick for the Panthers and actually took them to the playoffs in his second year. However, 1998 was a disastrous year for him, both on and off the field. Collins would have come cheap, and would work hard to move past the previous year.
  • QB Jeff Garcia. Garcia was never drafted by the NFL and spent his first five years as a professional in the Canadian Football League. He signed with San Francisco in the 98-99 offseason, became the Niner’s full-time starter the following season, and has had a very good career. Although I would tab Collins as my starter, Garcia would make a good back-up.
  • QB Jake Delhomme. Undrafted in 1997, Delhomme spent the next couple of years on the Saints practice squad, participating in NFL Europe. He eventually left as a free agent to sign with Carolina and become their starter ever since.
  • K Phil Dawson. Another actual signing that worked out for the Browns. Dawson has been one of the few bright spots during an otherwise disappointing return of the Browns to the NFL.
  • P Chris Gardocki Originally signed by Cleveland as well, Gardocki, along with Dawson, were some of the most consistent kickers during the Browns early years since returning to the league.

Expansion Draft

With a core of quality veterans in place, let’s now turn our attention to the draft. Cleveland started out with an expansion draft, picking from the castaways and over-priced, past-their-prime veterans that the other teams made available. Needless to say, the Browns got very little from this other than players to fill out their roster. There was one oversight though. The St. Louis Rams made available a little-known quarterback that played primarily in the Arena League, Kurt Warner. I would make him a priority in the expansion draft, giving me four good quarterbacks on the team before I even hit the draft. Assuming Trent Green would still suffer his season-ending injury in preseason, I would then be willing to trade Warner back to St. Louis for future draft picks and/or ILB London Fletcher.

Pre-Draft Trades

The Browns traded two fourth round picks and a fifth round pick to San Francisco for a later fourth rounder, QB Ty Detmer and FB Marc Edwards. Neither trade worked out for Cleveland, so let’s scrap that deal. They also gave up a sixth round pick and two seventh-rounders to Chicago for a sixth-rounder. I’ll go through with that trade, as well as the one with Seattle, giving up an early sixth round pick for two later in that round.

The big draft trade in 1999 was between the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins. The Saints, under the direction of head coach Mike Ditka, swapped first round picks with the Redskins, and also parted with the remainder of their 1999 draft picks (3-7) and their first and third picks in 2000 to move up seven spots to select RB Ricky Williams. History shows they originally tried to pull off the trade with Cincinnati (3rd pick) for all their 1999 picks, 2000 and 2001 first round picks, and 2002 second round pick. I’m assuming I can make the exact deal offered to the Bengals, and slide down to the twelfth slot in the first round while picking up additional picks in rounds 3-7. I would also lobby for giving up the 2002 pick in exchange for defensive tackle La’Roi Glover.

I would also attempt to make a couple of trades to build a solid running game from the start. The first deal would be with Seattle for running back Ahman Green, a 1998 draft pick that played very little his rookie year. Seattle traded him to Green Bay the following year for a fifth-round pick and DB Greg Vinson, and also giving up a sixth-round pick. I would offer the fourth and seventh round picks from the New Orleans trade for Green. The other trade I would try to do would be giving up my last fourth round pick (110) to Kansas City for fullback Tony Richardson. Richardson was undrafted in 1994 and signed with the Cheifs in 1995. He would eventually be elected to four Pro Bowls (2003, 2004, 2005, 2007) blocking for Priest Holmes and Adrian Peterson.

Another trade I would attempt is with the Buffalo Bills. I would offer my fifth-round pick (148) for DT Pat Williams. Williams, an undrafted free agent the Bills signed in 1997, played very little to this point of his career. He, however, earned a starting spot by 2001 and played well. He signed with the Vikings  in 2005 and was elected to the Pro Bowl three times since. Another deal that I would attempt, although may be harder to pull off, is trading for De Jason Taylor at Miami. After his second year in the league, Taylor had an impressive 1998 season with nine sacks. I would be willing to part with one of the later third-round picks for Taylor. With those deals in place, here’s the draft picks I have (original Browns selections shown):

Round Number Player
1 12 (from New Orleans)
2 32 WR Kevin Johnson
2 45 LB Rahim Abdullah
3 62 DB Daylon McCutcheon
3 71 (from New Orleans)
3 78 DB Marquis Smith
4 99 (originally traded to SF)
5 139 (originally traded to SF)
5 144 (from New Orleans)
6 174 DT Marcus Spriggs
6 179 (from New Orleans)
6 187 LB Kendall Ogle
6 191 TE James Dearth
7 207 RB Madre Hill

That gives me 15 total picks in the draft, seven more than the original Browns draft. Looking back at the actual 1999 draft, its not exaggerating to say it was a disaster. Out of the original eleven picks, only four players had a career lasting longer than five years (Johnson, McCutcheon, Rainer and Dearth), and only one still active (Dearth). None of them came close to making the Pro Bowl. Let’s see what it could have been like:

1999 Redraft

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
1 12 none DE Jevon Kearse

Drafted by the Tennessee Titans as the 16th pick of the first round, Kearse showed his skilled immediately as a rookie, recording 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles, and named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was also named Defensive Rookie of the Month all but one month during the 1999 season. Kearse netted at least 10 sacks during his first three years, which earned him Pro Bowl selections in 1999, 2000, and 2001. He missed most of the 2002 season with a season-opening injury, but returned in 2003 to make 9.5 sacks.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 32 WR Kevin Johnson T Jon Jansen

Although Johnson was a good choice and a productive player, but I believe in the philosophy that new need to start with building your lines. We started with defense in round 1, now we move to the offensive side. Jansen was a solid starter immediately for the Redskins, and didn’t miss a single game until 2004, when he ruptured his left Achilles in preseason. He then came back in 2005 and missed only one game the next two years, then broke his ankle in the season opener of 2007 and was out for the rest of that year.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
2 45 LB Rahim Abdullah G Randy Thomas

A second round pick, Thomas started immediately for the Jets, and has been a solid anchor for the Jets and Redskins throughout his career. During his four years with the Jets, he started every game but three (in 2001) due to an injury. In 2003, Thomas signed with Washington, playing in all but three games his first four years with the team. In only played in three games during the 2007 season, but returned in 2008 to start every game that year.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 62 DB Daylon McCutcheon OLB Joey Porter

Porter was drafted by the Steelers and was a starter from 2000 to 2006, when he signed with the Dolphins, where he continues to play. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 71 none WR Marty Booker

Drafted by the Bears in the third round, Booker had his breakout year in 2001 when he caught 100 passes for 1,071 yards and eight scores. The following year he nabbed 97 receptions for 1,189 yards and six touchdowns, and earned his only Pro Bowl selection. He signed with Miami in 2004, where he played for four years before returning to Chicago in 2008.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
3 78 DB Marquis Smith CB Mike McKenzie

Taken in the third round, Mike McKenzie was an instant starter at cornerback with the Packers until traded to New Orleans in 2004. He is still a starting cornerback with the Saints.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
4 99 none DE Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith was drafted by Pittsburgh and became their regular starter in 2000. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2005 as an injury replacement.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 139 none ILB Eric Barton

Drafted in the fifth round, Eric Barton became a starter for the Raiders in 2002, and signed with the Jets in 2004. From 2002 to 2006, he amassed over 100 tackles each season except for 2005, when he only played in four games due to injury.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
5 144 none DT Kelly Gregg

Gregg was originally drafted by the Bengals in the sixth round, but was cut during training camp, and signed with the Eagles. He signed with the Ravens in 2001, and became the starter at Nose Tackle in 2002. Since then, he averages over 66 tackles and 2.5 sacks per year.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 174 DT Marcus Spriggs TE Desmond Clark

Drafted in the sixth round by Denver, Desmond Clark has had a productive career with Denver, Miami and Chicago throughout his nine-year career. Since signing with Chicago in 2003, he’s missed only four games and averages 30 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns. He was voted as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2005.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 179 none WR Donald Driver

Drafted in the 7th round, Driver is a three-time Pro Bowler (2002, 2006, 2007) with career statistics of 577 receptions, 7989 yards and 43 touchdowns. He has at least 70 catches and over 1,000 yards six of the past seven years.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 187 LB Kendall Ogle C Todd McClure

McClure was originally drafted by the Falcons in the 7th round and became the starting Center midway through the 2000 season (he missed all of 1999 with an ACL tear), and has missed one game since. He’s started every game since 2002.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
6 191 TE James Dearth G Jamar Nesbit

Undrafted, Jamar Nesbit became a starter for Carolina in 2000, and missed only two games until he left for Jacksonville in 2003. Moving to New Orleans in 2004, he is an anchor on the Saints offensive line, playing in every game from 2003-2007. In 2008 he missed nine games due to injury.

Round Number Original Pick New Pick
7 207 RB Madre Hill LS Mike Schneck

Mike Schneck was undrafted and signed with the Steelers in 1999, where he played until 2004. He then played with Buffalo for two years before signing with Atlanta in 2007. He went to the Pro Bowl as a special teams selection in 2005.

1999 Wrapup:

With fifteen picks, three have made multiple Pro Bowl appearances (Kearse, Porter, Driver), with four others making it once (Booker, Smith, Morey, Schneck). The redraft duplicates  just about every single position taken in the actual 1999 draft (one less linebacker and defensive back), but also addresses two areas the actual draft didn’t cover, defensive end and offensive line. That’s big, considering how many talented offensive linemen came out of that draft. So in comparison, the redraft puts the actual picks of 1999 to shame. Granted, any team can look back and see what they overlooked. But its clear by looking at this initial draft, the Browns did a horrible job of evaluating talent that first year in attempting to build a team. Outside of a few players, you can even go so far as saying this first draft was a complete waste of time and hurt the team more than helped. Next, we’ll tackle year 2 with the 2000 draft.