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Published: Monday, 4/29/2013

Browns did draft game differently

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

The machinations of the NFL draft are often interesting, especially if you read between the lines.

For example, examine the savvy trade made by Buffalo early in the first round. The Bills, who owned the No. 8 pick, wanted to draft a specific quarterback who they felt would be on the board for awhile. Drafting right behind them were the New York Jets, AFC East rivals, who were targeting a receiver.

Then St. Louis phoned. The Rams wanted the No. 8 pick and there was no question why. They coveted West Virginia’s blur of a receiver, Tavon Austin, and suspected the Jets were poised to take him. So they offered their No. 16 pick and three others among the top 78 slots to the Bills for No. 8 and a third-round selection.

This was a value deal in a big way, with hardly any risk attached, for the Bills. And to put it over the top, they kept Austin out of the hands of a division rival. When No. 16 came around, Buffalo made easy pickings of the quarterback it wanted, E.J. Manuel.

It’s just one example of how you draft and kill three birds with one stone.

The Cleveland Browns offered another example of how to draft. It pretty much didn’t. Oh, the team took five players and got a couple pretty good defensive guys, pass rusher Barkevious Mingo and corner Leon McFadden, the latter coming early in the third round with the 68th overall pick. Then the Browns basically shut it down and started dealing for the future.

They turned a fourth-round pick into a third-rounder in 2014. They turned a fifth-round selection into a fourth-rounder in ’14. They’ll have six picks in the first four rounds and a total of nine.

Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi apparently felt, and not many would argue, the depth of last week’s draft was thin soup. So they shuffled off to, well, not Buffalo, but you get my drift.

The only problem with looking to the future is that the Browns’ present is so needy. Experts and fans alike felt one way to counter that was to snag a top rookie quarterback to challenge beleaguered incumbent Brandon Weeden. The Browns passed.

Banner felt there was more to Cleveland’s draft than met the eye and maybe that’s true.

The Browns forfeited a second-round pick when previous management took receiver Josh Gordon — 50 catches during a promising rookie year — in last year’s supplemental draft. So Banner incorporated Gordon’s presence into this draft. He did the same with receiver Davone Bess, who was acquired from Miami for a swap of similar draft picks that basically canceled out. The cost was next to nothing.

Bess isn’t a star, but he’s a valuable third-down weapon and brings a veteran presence to a young receiving corps.

The eye-opener was Cleveland trading a fourth-round pick to dreaded rival Pittsburgh, the first deal between the two franchises since 1968. The Steelers used that 111th overall pick to take Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas. The Browns, too, had a need at safety and when they finally pulled the trigger in the sixth round, they took Jamoris Slaughter. The Notre Dame safety is till rehabbing a torn Achilles. If Thomas pans out for the Steelers, Banner will get an earful for years.

What he’s hearing, though, is that dispirited Browns fans want the future now, not later.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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