Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Evaluating Holmgren/Heckert- One Year In

The Browns' first season under H&H (5-11) showed the team needed help at the WR, LB and DB positions. 

GM Tom Heckert proceeded to address these needs in the offseason with the free agent signings of... RB Brandon Jackson and S Usama Young?? Jackson was hurt his first season and is currently the #3 RB behind Chris Ogbonnaya (and ahead of Montario Hardesty, ironically enough). Not a ton of value for a guy making over $2 mil. Young has been an abject failure. A poor season in his first year with the Browns (worse than the departed S Abe Elam) led to his benching in 2012 for untested former 7th-rounder Usama Young. But the worst part about this free agent period wasn't the busting of two low-risk, low-reward players. It was the fact that the WR and LB positions weren't addressed and no big signings were made or even attempted! I understand Heckert's philosophy of building through the draft, but do you have to sacrifice making ANY notable free agent pickups? D

The 2011 Draft was arguably no better than the year before. 

First Heckert traded the #6 overall pick for #21, #59 and a 2012 1st rounder. That's great in theory, picking up added picks, but the players those picks yielded haven't shown much thru 20 games. And the fact the Browns gave up a shot at Julio Jones (BPA at the team's #1 need position) for what amounted to be Phil Taylor, Greg Little and Brandon Weeden, this trade receives a C- right now, a C+ if Little becomes a #2 NFL WR and an A-/B+ if Weeden becomes a franchise QB (I'm not betting on either, let alone both).

DT Phil Taylor at #21 overall. Taylor seemed like a good pick at the time, and he very well still may be. The big man from Baylor made 37 solo stops and 4 sacks in 16 games his rookie season. He was quiet at times and dominant at others. It may be because of stamina, a questionable motor or just the rookie learning curve. Despite the reason, Taylor has missed all of 2012 with a pec injury sustained from lifting waits in the offseason. Doh! Other solid options at 21 would have been CB Jimmy Smith or QB Andy Dalton, but at the time, Taylor was a nice choice. His size, potential and fill of a need area give this pick a B.

Hopefully the staple of the 2011 Draft.
DE Jabaal Sheard at #37 overall. This is one of the best picks of the Heckert era. An area of need and a productive 20 games with the team thus-far (50 solo tackles, 9.5 sacks, 5 fumbles forced) make the team's 2nd round pick a good one. Sheard should lock-down a DE spot for a decade. A-.

WR Greg Little at #59 overall. Draft experts say WRs peak in their 3rd seasons. I look at AJ Green, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson and disagree, but I'm willing to give Little another 28 games to develop. He better start fast. With 860 yards (43 ypg) and 3 TDs in 20 games, Little has hardly looked like the #1 receiver he was made out to be. The slow start to his career wouldn't be as bad if not for leading the league in dropped passes in 2011 (and on his way towards a repeat) and ridiculous antics after each made catch. Again, I'll give Little time, but with Randall Cobb and John Moffitt on the board (among others), this pick is thus far a C.

The team's 3rd round pick was traded to KC to move up and select Taylor. The Chiefs used it to select Georgia DE Justin Houston (9.5 sacks), who has been just as productive if not more so than Jabaal Sheard. Insult to injury, but no grade for this missed opportunity. 

TE Jordan Cameron at #102. At this part of the draft, projects become more acceptable and Cameron is just that. But with Alex Smith, Ben Watson and Evan Moore already on the roster, was the pass-catching Cameron worth the selection? LB Sam Acho (10 sacks), and RB Kendall Hunter probably would have been more useful to this point than Cameron's 12 career receptions for 93 yards. I'll give him a year or two more to show something, but right now, this reach pick in an area that wasn't a need earns a C- only because of Cameron's potential.

FB Owen Marecic at #124. Worst pick of the Heckert era by far. I won't need to use any retrospective logic on this one, the pick stunk at the time and stinks worse now. The Browns had a great blocking FB with average hands in Lawrence Vickers yet cut him loose to pick up an intelligent and versatile Stanford product... with no business being in the NFL. Marecic has shown stone hands and putrid blocking ability. I doubt he finishes his second season on the Browns roster. This pick stunk of H&H's need for "West Coast change." The right move would have been to keep Vickers, draft Cortez Allen (Steelers CB). F

CB Buster Skrine at #137. I liked this pick and still don't mind it. You can't expect starters this late in the draft and Skrine hasn't looked like one in his brief NFL career yet (not his fault he has been pushed into a role he is not ready for), but he is very fast with good work ethic. It met an area of need and added depth and special teams ability. Yes, Denarius Moore or Jaquizz Rogers would have been a better pick, but we had already committed to Little and Hardesty so the Skrine pick gets a fair (in my opinion) B.

OL Jason Pinkston at #150. This pick is similar in my mind to 137. Pinkston is a solid depth guy who can play 3-4 OL positions, but he isn't a starter. Like Skrine, it's not his fault Heckert didn't sign a free agent OG and he has been pushed (literally) as a starter. I don't mind the pick at the time or now, but Pinkston should be a backup. B+

SS Eric Hagg at #248 was the Browns' final selection in 2011. Like 137 and 150, this pick was solid, but not for a starter! And that's what the Browns tried to make Hagg at the beginning of 2012 (due to Heckert FA signing Usama Young being... not... good...). It didn't work out, he's back to "swing safety" off the bench role where he belongs. But for a 7th round pick, making the team in Year 2 warrants a passing grade on it's own. B+

Final Grade: This draft doesn't look too bad on the report card with an A, 3 Bs, 2 Cs and 1 F, but most of those passing grades were at the bottom of the draft (and are thus weighted less than 1st or 2nd rounders). This draft will be known as either: A. a wasted opportunity to nab Julio Jones and still get Sheard or B. a useful filling multiple holes at DT, WR and DE. As of now, I'll give it a C based on Sheard's good production, Taylor's natural ability, Little's poor play, Marecic's utter bust and solid depth in the later rounds.

Pat's reacting to his coaching ability.
Mike Holmgren's major task after Mangini was fired was hiring a new coach. Apparently 10 days of searching were enough for Holmgren to make a very puzzling hire of Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Rams' O scored just 289 points (18 ppg, 26th in the league) and came up small in a division-losing Game #16 vs. Seattle. Shumur had no real pedigree other than an uncle close to Holmgren and a shared agent in Bob Lamonte. I  hated this hire at the time. It made no sense other than Shurmur's connections to Holmgren and his "knowledge" (?) of the West Coast Offense. This looked like a Michael Jordan coaching hire. 4 wins in 20 games later, with an offense puttering around worse than the Maurice Carthon days gives this coaching hire an F!

Sigh... I'm depressed after writing this, but I don't think you can spin it a whole lot more positive without lying to yourself. Next time, we'll take a look at the 2012 Offseason from Heckert's point of view and the "best of the rest" from Mike Holmgren. 

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