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2014 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Solid Day Two Overshadowed by Josh Gordon Report
After having a very successful day one of the 2014 NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns fans headed into day two pretty much on cloud nine. Owners of a shiny new potential franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel, an outstanding talent to pair with Joe Haden at cornerback in Justin Gilbert and two extra picks in the 2015 NFL Draft (first and fourth rounders), it seemed as if the Browns were headed in the right direction finally.
That new positive direction slammed to a screeching halt about an hour before round two started on Friday evening, as ESPN reported star receiver Josh Gordon had failed another drug test and would be facing a potential one-year suspension. To make matters even worse, ESPN broke news that newly acquired wide receiver, Nate Burleson, suffered a fractured arm during mini-camp.
With the news of Gordon looming over the head of general manager Ray Farmer, Browns fans entered the draft thinking their team would address the wide receiver position early on Day two. Instead, Farmer stuck to his board and addressed two major team needs before shocking many by trading back into the late third round.
At No. 35 in the second round, the Browns selected Nevada offensive lineman, Joel Bitonio. The 6’4” and 302-pound lineman played primarily at the left tackle position in college, however, many people think he will make the move to either right tackle or guard at the NFL level. Bitonio is a natural mauler who has a mean streak unmatched by many of the line prospects in this draft. If he had longer arms and a little bit more bulk, he likely would have pushed some of the top tackles in this draft class for a first round selection because he would have been able to stay at the left side of the line.
Instead, he fell right in the laps of the Cleveland Browns at the top of round two. With Kyle Shanahan installing the zone blocking scheme, an athletic player like Bitonio who is light on his feet is going to be a major asset to a Browns line that struggled on the right side last season. The only question the team has now is whether he will move inside, or if former second-round pick Mitchell Schwartz will be making that move.
After passing on a wide receiver in the second round, a number of the highly rated ones came off the board in a hurry after the Browns picked. Thus, many people felt Farmer and company would for sure select one with the No. 71 pick in the third round. However, those people would be wrong again.
Instead of selecting a receiver, the Browns addressed a major need by selecting linebacker Christian Kirksey from Iowa. Moved to the outside his final two years at Iowa, Kirksey expects to move inside when he joins the Browns. For those who were tortured by watching Craig Robertson play inside linebacker and struggle all season in coverage, Kirksey is going to be a major upgrade for the Browns.
Standing 6’2” and 233 pounds, Kirksey boasted a 4.58 40-yard dash at his workout. He has long arms and has solid range on the field—hence why Iowa moved him to outside linebacker. His biggest asset is in coverage, as he was utilized in a nickel role at times in college covering wide receivers. He is also very good at covering tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.
Once Kirksey was announced as the team’s pick at No. 71, everyone began looking to the third day of the draft and the team’s two picks in the fourth round as potential landing spots for a wide receiver. Instead, the Browns team name flashed across the screen as a participant in a trade at No. 94 in the fourth round—and all of Cleveland thought they were finally getting the wide receiver they have been waiting all night for.
Unfortunately for Browns fans that wasn’t the case, as the team had traded back into round three to snag Towson running back, Terrance West. In order to make this move, the Browns gave up pick No. 106 in round four and pick No. 180 in round six, which limits them to just two picks on the final day—one in the fourth round and the other in round seven.
West is a bulldozer of a running back, standing 5’9” and 225 pounds and compared by many to Washington Redskins late-round gem, Alfred Morris. He was touted as the best one-cut and go running back by many draft analysts, and with the zone blocking scheme being installed in the new offense, he seemingly is a perfect fit who can help share the load with newly signed Ben Tate. West is also the type of guy that rarely goes down on first contact, which will be perfect in a highly physical division that plays in poor weather the final two months.
If you remove the Gordon news, the Browns really did a great job on the second day. They filled two major needs and landed a guy who is going to be a major security blanket for the injury-prone running back they signed in the offseason. However you cannot ignore the Gordon news, so the team failing to draft a wide receiver is certainly a major disappointment for the fans, especially when guys like Marqise Lee and Jordan Matthews were there for the taking at No. 35.
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