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.

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