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Padanilam: Too soon to judge Browns draft trade

| Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It’s two weeks into the NFL season, and the Cleveland Browns are an abysmal 0-2.

Now, no one is surprised by this. It was expected by NFL experts, football fans — except maybe those who were feeling a little too much of the love for the new culture of winning in Cleveland’s other sports — and even those whose knowledge of football is cursory.

What many people might not have seen coming was the 2-0 start from the Philadelphia Eagles and their new quarterback, Carson Wentz. The No. 2 pick of this past year’s NFL Draft has been impressive in his first two games, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 468 yards, three touchdowns and, perhaps most impressively, zero interceptions.

And the Browns, who gave the Eagles the pick to draft Wentz in a trade, got to witness his play first hand when he beat them in the season’s first week, 29-10.

His play — and the success of the Eagles through two games — has a lot of people around the league and among those who watch it saying the Browns made a mistake in not holding onto that pick. Wentz could have been theirs, and they wrongly supposed he wouldn’t become the star he’s shown he has the potential to be, they say.

But those people are wrong.

That’s not to say Wentz won’t become a superstar, the franchise quarterback the Eagles hoped for when they pulled the trigger on that trade with the Browns. He very well might be. Yet, it’s only been two games, and the jury is still out on just how good Wentz is. After all, his two wins are against teams — the Browns and the Chicago Bears — that are a combined 0-4 this season and clearly do not appear to be trending in the right direction.

Yet, more than any overreaction to Wentz’s play and the Eagles’ start, the reason we can’t yet condemn the trade made by the Browns is that it’s too soon to judge the package the Browns got for him.

This offseason, the Browns made it clear that the organization was taking a new, analytics-guided approach to management with the changes to the front office. They made as much clear when they hired Paul DePodesta of “Moneyball” fame to be the team’s chief strategy officer.

Part of that approach was changing the way they value future draft picks as assets, as they have been undervalued in a win-now NFL for far too long. And the Wentz trade is a perfect example of this.

In the Wentz deal, the Browns gave up the No. 2 pick in 2016 and a 2017 fourth-round pick for the No. 8 pick and two other picks in the top 100 of the 2016 draft as well as a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick.

Then, during the draft, the Browns traded down from No. 8 to No. 15 in order to pick up another top-100 pick and a 2017 second rounder. They still got their guy in receiver Corey Coleman, who scored two touchdowns Sunday and wouldn’t have been a weapon available to Wentz had they stayed where they were in the draft, and now have an incredible 13 picks in 2017’s draft after acquiring and using 14 picks in this year’s draft.

Simply put, the Cleveland Browns are building a team brick by brick, choosing quantity of picks over the quality of them due to the belief that the odds of finding a star with one pick are significantly smaller than finding one with many.

And, with as many needs as the Browns have, can you really blame them?

They’re putting trust in their staff to find success with those picks. Early on, it looks like Coleman may be a hit, and some of those other picks might be too. And, as they still need a quarterback, they believe they can find one in future drafts once a foundation has been built to ensure that signal caller’s positive development.

So sure, the Eagles might be looking like geniuses right now with Wentz under center. But wait a few years, and the Browns might have a Super Bowl roster built around their own star quarterback.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

Contact Benjamin