If you follow me on twitter, then you already know what I think about the fact that the Cleveland Browns (or any other team, had that been the case) selected former Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon in the second round of today’s NFL Supplemental Draft. For those who don’t do the twitter thing, I’ll sum up my feelings. Gordon, who last played as a sophomore in 2010, and who transferred to Utah without ever playing a game for the school, is a mostly unknown commodity. He’s a big receiver – 6’3 and 224 pounds – with 4.5 second speed in the 40 yard dash. He caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns during his last season of college football. Eleven of his receptions that year, four of his touchdowns, and 302 of his yards came in two games against Kansas and Kansas State. The rest of the time, he put up so-so numbers and played second fiddle to 2012 first round pick, Kendall Wright. I haven’t seen much of Gordon, but he looks like he catches with his hands rather than his body, he takes long strides and can get open down the field, and he’s a solid blocker. There were some questions about his off-the-field issues – a marijuana bust while at Baylor and his departure from Utah (said to be the result of financial hardship) – but those seem to have satisfactory answers. All told, I felt that Gordon represented a great risk, primarily because he hadn’t played in so long, and was not worth more than a fifth round draft choice. The Browns obviously saw things in a different light, and determined that Gordon’s potential on the field was worth a second round gamble.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Cleveland’s brass has taken such a gamble. In fact, it’s the second year in a row. In the 2011 draft, the team selected Greg Little in the second round who, like Gordon, had not played football in over a year. Little led the team in receptions, yards, and dropped passes as a rookie, so the verdict is still out. However, he’s shown enough ability to make the selection look promising. Before Little, the Browns history of drafting wide receivers in the second round has been more miss than hit. 1999 second rounder Kevin Johnson was solid for his first four seasons, but his career fizzled quickly and he was traded away. Dennis Northcutt was the first selection in the second round of the 2000 draft and lasted in Cleveland for seven mediocre years. The pick in 2001 was Quincy Morgan, who showed flashes in his second season before he became plagued by dropped passes and his career took a nosedive. In ’02, Andre’ Davis was the pick, and he proved to be more of a kick returner than consistent receiving threat. Then in 2009, the Browns drafted Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie for a double dose of disappointment. Cleveland’s second round receiver strategy has deserved about as much acclaim as the last half-dozen Adam Sandler movies.
But judging the Gordon pick based on the past disappointments of failed regimes isn’t fair to Cleveland’s current triumvirate of Team President Mike Homgren, General Manager Tom Heckert and Head Coach Pat Shurmur. Hell, judging the pick at all today is pure guesswork. But if we must speculate (and we must) we can look at the second rounders of the past three drafts – the drafts run by Heckert. In three years he’s made five second round selections: safety T.J. Ward, running back Montario Hardesty, defensive end Jabaal Sheard, Little, and right tackle Mitch Schwartz. Aside from Hardesty, all are expected to start this season, and the Browns have reason to be optimistic about their futures.
So while the Gordon pick may seem like a reach, even to me, it’s too early to make snap assessments. The Browns were thin at receiver and they did what the could in early July to attempt to bolster the position. They have a player in Gordon who they view as a potential future number one receiver. And whether you like it or not, they spent their second round pick nine months early to ensure that they would get him.
Last month, the looming specter of a Sports Illustrated story about Ohio State football players, cash, cars and tattoos led to the abrupt resignation of Head Coach Jim Tressel. A couple of weeks later, star QB Terrelle Pryor also jumped ship and announced his intention to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft. Because of my refusal to write about NFL (or any other sports-related) labor relations bull crap; and because of the general lack of any other type of football news, Pryor and the Supplemental Draft have become a favorite subject of mine lately. Alas, until they actually hold the Supplemental Draft, I have pretty much said all I can say about the former Buckeye QB. At least until I watch my recording of his episode of Jon Gruden’s “QB Camp.”
But not to worry. Yahoo Sports came to my rescue today with an interview with Will Lyles, a “scout” of sorts who was heavily involved in Oregon’s recruiting process; and who now says he was paid by the school with a check that was personally approved by Ducks’ Head Coach, Chip Kelly. And I do mean PAID. To the tune of $25 grand. This probably means that Kelly, like Tressel before him, will be shown the door, as Oregon attempts to soften any sort of blow from the NCAA. It could also mean that star RB LaMichael James, who has a friendship with/connection to Lyles, could opt to take the same path as Pryor. James, of course, finished third in Heisman Trophy voting and was the nation’s leading rusher in 2010. There is no doubt he will be targeted for questioning by the NCAA any minute now. The only way he’ll avoid this is to leave school for the pros, like Pryor did. And, in all reality, James is far more ready for the NFL than Pryor is.
Now, I want to be clear: there are no allegations (at this time) that James took any benefits or did anything else to break NCAA rules. Lyles reportedly counseled James and his family about how to avoid some standardized testing required by Texas high schools (James transferred to an Arkansas high school and ended up signing with Oregon) and was also a guest of James at a December awards banquet. But, with the amount of money that allegedly changed hands between Oregon and Lyles, it isn’t a stretch to think that the players he guided to Oregon received some sort of benefit for playing there. If I am wondering about that, I guarantee that the NCAA is as well. James can save himself the headache and anxiety that goes along with these kinds of investigations by leaving now. He or someone he listens to has to know that. That is why I think he may try to get the NFL to allow him into the Supplemental Draft. If he does gain entry, this will be by far the most meaningful Supplemental Draft since Bernie Kosar went to the Cleveland Browns in a draft I am too young to remember. I’ll be watching this situation closely. Stay tuned.
A couple of days ago, I made a case for why I think Terrelle Pryor will be chosen by the end of the 2nd round of the supplemental draft. The announcement that Pryor has indeed filmed an episode of “QB Camp” with Jon Gruden (set to air June 30th at 9 PM) would seem to bode well for the young man’s draft stock. Continue reading
Yesterday, National Football Post reported that NFL Supplemental Draft hopeful; and former Buckeye QB/memorabilia dealer/automobile aficionado, Terrelle Pryor, received a poor grade from National: a scouting service to which many NFL teams subscribe. Meaning they pay for this opinion. Good money too. According to the report, National gave Pryor a grade of 5.1, meaning they believe he is a late round draft choice. Worth a 6th or 7th rounder, they say. But this low grade does not mean Pryor will slip through the cracks and turn up in Saskatchewan. Not at all. In fact, 5.1 is the same score former Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick (page four of this slideshow) received prior to his senior season. Kaepernick, of course, was drafted by the 49ers in the 2nd round. They even traded up to make that pick. Fellow 2nd round pick, Andy Dalton, scored a 5.3. Boston College LB Mark Herzlich was a 7.2 and went undrafted. In 2009, the service graded second overall pick, Ndamukong Suh a 7.0: the same grade given to eventual 6th round pick, Greg Hardy. Point is, I don’t put too much stock in National’s grades. Continue reading