Normally, at this time of year, sports radio telephone lines are filled with callers wanting to talk about the draft. That’s not the case in Cleveland this year because there are very few big names or skill position players at the top of the list.
People really don’t know how good the offensive linemen or defensive backs are, unlike in years like 2012, when Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were at the top of the draft and three other quarterbacks were taken, including Brandon Weeden, in the first round. Most of the mock drafts indicate that, other than QB Geno Smith of West Virginia, there may not be a skill position player taken until the 18th to 20th pick.
That said, I expect the Browns to take Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, if he is still on the board for the sixth pick.
Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky. Most Browns fans know Otto Graham took his team to 10 consecutive title game appearances in the AAFC and NFL. As the mid-’50s approached, Paul Brown knew he had to replace him. In the 1954 draft, with something known as a bonus selection, Brown took Southern Cal QB Bobby Garrett in the first round. They didn’t have scouting combines and interviews with prospective draftees as they do now.
Brown was shocked to learn on Garrett’s arrival in training camp that he had a speech impediment (he stuttered) and couldn’t call the signals very well in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage. He was quickly dispatched to Green Bay, where they weren’t aware of the problem either. In the trade, the Browns got Vito “Babe” Parilli, who actually split the starting assignments with veteran George Ratterman in 1956, the year after Graham came out of retirement and led the Browns to the title with a 38-14 win at Los Angeles.
After that 1956 season, Brown knew he needed a quarterback – for the present and the future. He had his eye on Len Dawson, an All-American at Purdue who was from Alliance. The Browns had the sixth pick that year, and stood by while Paul Hornung, Jon Arnett, John Brodie and Ron Cramer were taken with the first four picks. Only one more to go before Brown could get his QB for the next decade. Instead, he heard the news that the Pittsburgh Steelers picked Dawson.
Disappointed, Brown didn’t have much time to make the next pick. He considered Jim Parker, the All-American offensive lineman from Ohio State, which would have been a popular and safe pick. Instead he decided on Jim Brown, the running back from Syracuse. Good choice. The Browns then picked a QB with the 17th pick of the draft (second round), Milt Plum.
Dawson didn’t play much in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers made a trade for the great Bobby Layne. The Browns picked up Dawson after that, but he couldn’t dislodge Plum from the starting position. Plum had great quarterback ratings, although it would be hard not to have them when you could throw a flare pass to Jim Brown and watch him run downfield. Dawson then went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
It worked out well for all concerned. Hopefully, we can say the same about the Browns after this year’s draft.