The Cleveland Browns made some surprising moves last night in the first round of the NFL Draft. They traded away their No. 4 draft position, picked up defensive back Justin Gilbert at No. 8, and after 21 other players had been drafted, scooped up much-talked-about quarterback Johnny Manziel. Plain Dealer sportswriter Bud Shaw was following all of this last night -- he talks with ideastream's Nick Castele about the draft.
CASTELE: So there was a lot of speculation before last night, will the Browns or won’t they go with Manziel? I know you had argued that they should take a pass on him. I guess they didn’t take your advice. Is this how you expected things were going to unfold last night?
SHAW: Well I certainly believed it was the right thing to take a pass on him at the top of the draft. I just felt that there were players there that had -- were higher rated players that had more value to the Browns. And I think they agreed with that, which is why we saw them trade down from No. 4. My biggest issue there wasn’t that they passed on taking Johnny Manziel, but that they delayed their pick and lost out on a few fairly dynamic players like Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, the two of them.
I thought it was a real boost to the city and to the image of this team, as sort of this dying brand, that they were able to come back in and – to the first round – and draft a player like Manziel, who obviously gives – brings a lot of, kind of sexiness, almost, to this town as a football player, given what he did in college.
CASTELE: Now the fact that 21 players were drafted last night before the Browns scooped him up, is that at all significant to you?
SHAW: Well, it is in one sense. There are a couple examples of quarterbacks sort of sliding to later in the first round. The Browns did this very thing a few years back with Brady Quinn, who was expected to go in the top five. The browns took Joe Thomas at No. 3 that year, then came back in and traded up and got Quinn at No. 22, just as they did Manziel. So there are, you know, obviously examples of this happening, and quarterbacks who slid and did quite well -- Aaron Rogers of Green Bay is an example of that. So it remains to be seen. The questions about Manziel are the same. Does his game translate to the NFL? It’s a very playground kind of football that he plays, and he’s not the biggest guy in the world. I think we saw him slide because people were concerned that his body wouldn’t hold up in this league.
CASTELE: Now what can you tell us about the defensive back, Justin Gilbert?
SHAW: He’s a very dynamic player. I think once they saw that they could get a No. 1 draft pick from Buffalo for trading out of No. 4, I think they had Gilbert circled on their board all along. They needed a starting cornerback to play opposite of Joe Haden. And Gilbert also brings the added aspect of being able to make big plays as a return man. He returned six kickoffs for touchdowns during his college career at Oklahoma State.
CASTELE: Now we’ve just got a couple of seconds here, but there have been a lot of surprises in the history of the Browns recently, the firing of coach Chudzinski, the shakeup in the front office. Do you think the team needs to prove, or do you think in this draft it has proven to the public right now that the team knows where they’re going here?
SHAW: I think the jury is still out on that. I think a lot of it will depend on how successful Johnny Manziel is here. If he turns out to be a first-round disappointment, I think what they did last night will get lumped in with a lot of other so-so drafts from previous regimes.