Browns General Manager Tom Heckert liked former Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon so much that he made the aggressive decision to use a second-round pick to bid on him this afternoon before learning the order of the NFL’s supplemental draft.
Heckert got his guy, and he was willing to forfeit the Browns’ second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft to make sure it happened. It’s the first time the Browns have picked a player in the supplemental draft since 1985, when they nabbed quarterback Bernie Kosar.
“We were gonna take him in the second round, and whatever happened, happened, no matter where we were picking,” Heckert said this afternoon during a conference call. “That’s where we thought he was gonna go, so we weren’t real concerned about who else was interested.”
Gordon expressed his gratitude in a statement.
“I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to become part of such a prestigious organization as the Cleveland Browns," Gordon said. "I can’t wait to get started and acclimated to a new city as well as the team. I want to be able to contribute to the offense in any way I can, and I am ready to come in and work hard to make that happen. I enjoyed my visit there last week, and was very impressed with all of the people I met, including Mr. Heckert. I have also had the chance to speak with Coach [Pat] Shurmur on several occasions and I am looking forward to the opportunity to play for him. Being taken this high in the supplemental draft and mentioned among the likes of Bernie Kosar is a humbling experience in itself, as well as a dream come true.”
The order for the supplemental draft is determined by a weighted lottery, the results of which were revealed to teams shortly before the event started at 1 p.m. The Browns were granted the second pick in every round, the league announced afterward.
The Buffalo Bills had the first pick, followed by the Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers, who rounded out the top 10, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS.
The supplemental draft is akin to a silent auction. If a team wants to bid, it sends an e-mail to the league office to declare the round in which it would like to select a player. The Browns had the winning bid. Gordon was the only player selected.
“Obviously we were hoping to get the earlier pick and we did, which was nice,” Heckert said. “But, yeah, we were gonna take him in the second [round] no matter what.”
The Browns lack a sufficient number of proven playmakers in their receiving corps, and they’re hoping Gordon will help satisfy a dire need. Heckert said Gordon could play right away.
“That’s the goal,” Heckert said. “Obviously we’ll see him here in a couple weeks [when training camp starts], but a lot of that will depend on how he picks things up and all that stuff. But, yeah, we expect him to play.”
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Gordon showed his potential as a playmaker when he was a sophomore at Baylor in 2010, compiling 42 receptions for 714 yards and seven touchdowns.
“I think the kid’s got great hands, he’s got the ability to adjust to the ball and he’s big," Heckert said. "Those are some good qualities to have. Does he need some route work? Sure. But I think his other [attributes] outweigh some of the things. We think his ability is untapped, and we think he’s only gonna get a lot better as he picks up our offense.”
Heckert said he believes Gordon has the potential to become a No. 1 receiver.
“He can start in the NFL,” Heckert said. “That’s obviously what we thought, and that’s what we still think.”
However, Gordon also has baggage.
Gordon was arrested in 2010 on a charge of marijuana possession, and he recently told the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain that Baylor suspended him indefinitely after he later failed a test for marijuana. Gordon then enrolled at Utah and sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. He reportedly chose to enter the supplemental draft for financial reasons.
Heckert said the Browns hosted Gordon for a visit last week and did extensive research on him. Heckert said he spoke with Baylor coach Art Briles, Baylor associate head coach Brian Norwood, the father of Browns receiver Jordan Norwood, and Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who was Gordon's teammate at Baylor.
“It’s something obviously that we really kind of did our homework on,” Heckert said. “There’s no question about it. We brought the kid in and met with him. I talked to a zillion guys at both Baylor and Utah, and to be honest with you, I couldn’t find anybody to say one bad thing about the kid. I really enjoyed meeting with him. It’s something that’s out there [and] we think we’ve done our homework. To say you’re always 100 percent [certain about a pick], we’re not really 100 percent on anybody in the draft, but we felt good enough that we think he’s gonna be a positive influence on our team."
The Browns made another gamble last year, when they drafted wide receiver Greg Little in the second round. Little missed his entire senior season at North Carolina because the NCAA ruled him permanently ineligible for receiving about $4,952 in impermissible benefits. Heckert acknowledged the similarities, but he said even though Gordon did not play in any games for Utah, he practiced with the Utes last season. Little was not permitted to practice at UNC during his suspension.
“There were some concerns about [Gordon], so I drilled him pretty hard when I was with him, and he didn’t back down and he told me everything that I thought I needed to hear from him," Heckert said. "He promised to be a guy that we’re gonna love having in Cleveland. To me, he seemed pretty fired up about being a Brown, and I think even when we brought him in, when he left, he said he hoped we were the team that picked him.
“I talked to a lot of people, and everybody loves this kid. They think he’s a really good person and a great football player. Everybody was on board with it, so it was good to hear.”
The Browns also attended Gordon’s Pro Day on Tuesday in Houston, where he reportedly posted a time of 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, bench pressed 225 pounds 13 times, recorded a vertical leap of 36 inches and a broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch. He pulled his left quadriceps during his second attempt in the 40, but finished the workout by running routes without dropping a pass, according to reports.
The Browns were hot on the trail of at least a few other receivers this offseason. In March, they pursued Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in free agency, and they targeted Kendall Wright, another former Baylor receiver, with the 22nd overall pick in this year's draft. Garcon and Morgan signed with the Washington Redskins, and the Tennessee Titans selected Wright 20th overall. The Browns later selected University of Miami receiver Travis Benjamin in the fourth round (100th overall).
With the selection of Gordon, the Browns have added another piece to their offense that they hope will be revived with the help of running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, all of whom the organization drafted this past April.
“We’ve kind of loaded up on the offense,” Heckert said. “They’re young, but we think we’ve gotten a lot better on offense in one draft, if you add Josh into the mix, too. We know this gonna be a process, but obviously we think we’ve gotten a lot better just in the last few months.”