BEREA: Sanity and logic prevailed. And a little bit of humanity, too.
In a draft with no sure-fire quick fix at quarterback, the Browns decided not to force it, despite their dubious, circus-like collection at the position.
They resisted the temptation to move up. They resisted the temptation to move down. They stayed at No. 12 and found the massive man coach Mike Pettine needed to anchor his defensive line in 339-pound University of Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton.
After years of surprises and draft day drama, the Browns picked the player whom they’d been projected to want all along.
They also picked a player whom the fans will love, one who has already overcome great tragedy. Shelton thought he’d be gathering with his family Friday to remember the four-year anniversary of the death of his brother Shennon, 22, from a gunshot wound to the head during a fight Danny participated in.
Shelton said on ESPN that gathering will be rescheduled, although he acknowledged, “I know my brother’s watching from up above.”
A 17-year-old senior in high school in Auburn, Wash., who had already committed to the Huskies at the time of the shooting, Danny Shelton wasn’t even sure he wanted to go to college. He ended up a first-team All-America and a CoSIDA Academic All-America.
There is no guarantee that Shelton will earn a starting job before training camp ends, although judging by the ease with which he picked up NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the Chicago stage, that’s a good bet.
“I haven’t seen that before. The look of panic on Roger’s face was quite interesting,” Pettine said.
With the 19th pick, the Browns used the same smart strategy, declining to pick a receiver in a deep class to instead go for depth on the offensive line in picking Florida State tackle-center Cameron Erving. With center Alex Mack able to opt out of his contract after the 2015 season, Erving will provide valuable insurance should Mack depart, along with the versatility the Browns covet.
Since 1999, the Browns seem to be constantly attempting to right wrongs of past drafts. The pick of Shelton brought a flashback to 2006, when then-Browns General Manager Phil Savage let ex-coach Romeo Crennel pick pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley over nose tackle Haloti Ngata. Now with the Detroit Lions, Ngata turned out to be the Browns’ nemesis with the Baltimore Ravens. Shelton has drawn comparisons to Ngata, whom Shelton emulates.
After months of discussion over the Browns trading up for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and giving up the 12th and 19th overall picks and likely next year’s No. 1 for a player who ideally needs to sit for a year, the Browns played it safe.
You can call it chicken, I will call it safe.
After a day of rumors, including a possible trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Sam Bradford, the Browns may have realized the folly of that thought. They didn’t act desperately and risk acquiring a player who has torn his left ACL twice in the past two years, who has stated his aversion to signing a contract extension with the Browns, who will make nearly $13 million in 2015.
Even when opportunities arose, like when Southern California defensive end Leonard Williams slipped to the New York Jets at No. 6, the Browns didn’t start throwing around their 10 picks to move up.
“Trader Ray,” aka Browns General Manager Ray Farmer, turned into Rational Ray.
Perhaps in the coming weeks, the Browns will take advantage of the fallout from what happened before them. Perhaps they will consider Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon or Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger, both made expendable by the selections of Jameis Winston and Mariota, respectively. Perhaps they will pursue a trade for Jets holdout defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who has totaled 24 sacks in four seasons, after the New Yorkers found an insurance policy — and perhaps the draft’s best player — in Williams. The Browns still have plenty of salary cap space — $26.7 million, second-most in the league behind the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to the NFL Players Association — to pay a player like Wilkerson.
Taking big risks in the draft isn’t the best way to build a winning franchise. Making sane, logical moves is the right path. The smart, patient decisions the Browns made Thursday was a rare bolt of clear direction on what has usually been a night of chaos.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.