Pending suspension of Gordon puts damper on Browns' draft

By Dave Hackenberg | Toledo Blade Published:

By Dave Hackenberg | Toledo Blade

Late Thursday night, after the opening round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Cleveland fans were toasting Ray Farmer and Sonny Weaver alike.

Sonny, of course, is Kevin Costner's character in the movie Draft Day. He made a couple bold draft trades as the fictional Browns general manager, all the while squabbling with the team owner and the head coach and the salary cap expert.

Farmer, the nonfictional equivalent, also was bold in his first draft as Cleveland's GM, trading down and picking up a 2015 opening-round pick from Buffalo, then moving back up to get his new coach's first choice in cornerback Justin Gilbert, then bouncing around again later in the round to set the Cuyahoga River ablaze with excitement by snagging Johnny Football.

Alas, we should all know by now that the Browns are not a Hollywood movie. They tend to be more of a trailer park reality series, sort of Honey Boo Boo meets Honey Badger.

Hopefully, the homeless gent who persuaded owner Jimmy Haslam to draft quarterback Johnny Manziel is not the same one who peddled a bag of weed to premier receiver Josh Gordon. But it would fit this only-the-Browns script.

Cleveland fans hadn't even slept off their hangovers from Thursday night before hearing reports that Gordon had flunked another drug test -- if reports are accurate and appeals fail he is facing a year-long ban from the NFL -- and that No. 2 receiver Nate Burleson had suffered a broken arm. He's expected back by the start of camp, but temper that optimistic thought with this being his second forearm fracture in less than a year.

OK, stuff happens. But, Browns fans, wouldn't it be cool if it happened to some other team for a change?

Interestingly, it turns out Farmer and the Browns' brass knew about Gordon's situation well in advance of Thursday night's opening salvos of the draft. And that casts a new light on the proceedings.

Why did Buffalo give away much of the 2015 draft -- its first-round and fourth-round picks -- to the Browns in order to move up five spots? That's how badly the Bills wanted the top receiver in the draft, Sammy Watkins of Clemson.

Knowing the state of its receiving corps, even with Buffalo offering lucrative future picks on a silver platter, should Cleveland not have been equally and wildly interested in Watkins or Mike Evans of Texas A&M?

In fact, though, the Browns didn't appear to react. Even in subsequent rounds, after Gordon and Burleson became public knowledge, Cleveland followed by selecting a guard from Nevada, a linebacker from Iowa, a running back from Towson State, and another cornerback, this one being the first NFL draft pick ever from Lindenwood (Mo.) University. They traded their pick in the seventh round.

"We organize the players, we rank them, we stack them, and we stick to it," Farmer said. "We believe that you do the work for a reason. You take the best players available."

As an explanation for his lack of attention to sudden needs at receiver, Farmer pointed out, "We play games in September," and said there will be plenty of opportunity "whether it's trades, (late) drafts, players that get cut, or we acquire somebody from the street."

That latter thought begs for a punch line, but we'll pass. That's what Johnny Football will be doing. We'll have to wait to see who is around to catch it.

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