David Briggs: Browns, Buckeyes, Harbaugh headline draft winners and losers

David Briggs, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
·5 min read

May 3—Hope springs eternal at the NFL draft, where teams address all of their needs with an array of high-motor, good-character players and everyone goes home happy.

Like that lady on Seinfeld once yelled down to the runners during a New York Marathon party, "You're all winners!"

Or so we're told.

But, alas, it cannot be.

Without further ado, here's our annual list of draft winners and losers ...

—Winner: Browns

Games aren't won on newsprint, but if they were, I'd have to laugh at everyone predicting the Browns could make the Super Bowl this year.

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Why set the bar so low?!

If we're getting carried away, the Browns are looking good and only getting better. They return their entire offense and deftly continued to upgrade the defense with the selection of two top-end players they coveted: Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome (26th overall) and Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (52). That's on top of the offseason signings of safety John Johnson and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. (Also, major bonus points for the fourth-round selection of Central Catholic grad James Hudson, a star left tackle at Cincinnati.)

The Browns are an honest-to-God AFC contender. What a time to be alive.

—Loser: Jets

I'm not saying the Jets accidentally drafted the wrong guy when they picked Michael Carter — a running back from North Carolina — in the fourth round, then, perhaps realizing their mistake, took Michael Carter — a safety from Duke — in the fifth round.

But given the franchise, can anyone rule it out?

The homonymous picks called to mind the 2002 draft, when the Browns drafted Andre Davis (Virginia Tech receiver) in the second round and Andra Davis (Florida linebacker) in the fifth round.

—Winner: Alabama and Ohio State

Alabama and Ohio State are the two top-recruiting programs in the nation and it continued to show on draft weekend.

The Crimson Tide had a record-tying six players picked in the first round and matched the Buckeyes with 10 players drafted overall. Both programs have had 29 players selected over the last three years, tied for the most in the country.

—Loser: Michigan's coaching

Meanwhile, the Wolverines are no draft slouches.

With another eight selections this year — including defensive end Kwity Paye in the first round — Michigan has had 23 players selected in the past three drafts, tied with Georgia for the fourth most in the nation (LSU was third with 24).

The moral: Jim Harbaugh might not have enough high-end talent to keep up with Ohio State, but he sure should be better than 11-10 in UM's last 21 games.

—Winner: Lions

I've seen some criticize the Lions for not using their first-round pick on a playmaker, with one contrarian Detroit writer giving the franchise a D for the selection of Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

But last time I checked, the Lions aren't exactly one guy away from contention. Upgrading the league's worst receiving unit is a priority, but one of many.

Sewell should be a franchise cornerstone while the Lions' second and third-round picks — defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill — are solid foundation pieces. Not a bad start for the new regime.

—Loser: Roger Goodell's furniture

To the pantheon of chairs, from electric to rocking to the ones Clint Eastwood scolded and Bob Knight heaved, add the big leather lounger from the NFL commissioner's basement, which fans took turns sitting in on stage.

Or don't.

Can we all agree the chair gimmick was a little ... weird?

—Winner: Justin Fields

Can Fields become the first very good NFL quarterback to come out of Ohio State?

The Bears think so, drafting him 11th overall, and so do we.

Remarkably, for all of the Buckeyes' success over the years, their most accomplished NFL quarterback remains Mike Tomczak, a 15-year journeyman who retired in 2000 with more career interceptions than touchdowns.

But here's betting Fields is the one who busts the narrative.

And, if he doesn't, it won't be because he went to Ohio State or played in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes of today have a pro-style passing game — even under Urban Meyer, the quarterback runs became too much of a crutch — and Fields has all the tools to succeed, including a huge arm, rubber-peeling speed, and smarts.

Compared to Dwayne Haskins — drafted 15th overall by Washington in 2019 — Fields is as good or better in every area and is going to a much better situation in Chicago.

—Loser: Aaron Rodgers

It's tempting to ask Rodgers if he wants some whine with that Green Bay cheese. I mean, is this guy ever happy?

But, man, I can't entirely blame him, either.

As word broke before the draft that Rodgers wants out from the Packers, the bombshell report cast a renewed light on this mind-boggling fact: Not once in Rodgers' career has Green Bay drafted a skill position player in the first round.

Actually, that's not true. Last year, they used their first-round pick on his would-be replacement, Jordan Love, a project out of Utah State.

And this year? Just when you would have expected Green Bay to pick up an apology card and a dozen roses, it further antagonized the 37-year-old reigning MVP by spending its first-round pick on Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes.

If nothing else, you've got to admire the gumption.

First Published May 2, 2021, 5:59pm