Can Greg Little be better than Julio Jones?

Who knows?

Some clueless Browns fans were upset that the Browns passed on Julio Jones and took the incredible trade offer from Atlanta. Jones may turn out to be a great receiver, but the main reason Jones was rated so highly has to do with his physical skills. He comes from a high-profile program and he wowed scouts at the combine. That said, Jones has a problem at times catching the football (like Braylon Edwards) and he didn’t exactly rack up big stats at Alabama.

With one of the extra picks the Browns received from Atlanta, they selected North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little in the second round. Take a look at the photo above. This guys looks just as imposing as Julio Jones.

Let’s compare the two. Both are big receivers. Jones is 6′ 3″ and 220 pounds, while Little is 6′ 2″ and 230 pounds. Jones has more speed according to his 40 time, though many argue that he didn’t display that speed on the football field. Meanwhile, Little is the strongest receiver in the draft. Both can excel in a West Coast offense where receivers get the chance to run after the catch. Little used to be a running back, so he’s hard to bring down. He also has an amazing vertical leap so he’ll be an asset in the red zone.

Yet when you read the scouting reports, the issue of “ball skills” runs in favor of Little.

Here’s the Scouts, Inc report on Jones:

Flashes strong hands and makes some spectacular catches. Shows the ability to contort his body and adjust to poorly thrown ball. Shows excellent awareness and body control along sidelines. Does a nice job of timing leaps when attacking the jump ball. However, he drops more ‘catchable’ balls than he should. He occasionally will allow ball into frame on occasion. Also will suffer from some focus drops. Needs to be more consistent in this area.

Now read what they say about Little:

Possesses strong and natural mitts. Catches the ball with hands and rarely lets ball into frame. Adequate sized hands (9 1/8′) and arms (33 ΒΌ’). Body control is above-average and can consistently pull in ball thrown outside of frame. Also flashes ability to elevate, fully extend and bring in acrobatic grab (See 1st QTR Pitt 2009). Tracks the deep ball well and flashes ability to pull in over the shoulder catch.

While Jones is more spectacular, Little is rated much higher by scouts when it comes to catching the football – something that’s quite important for a receiver!

This comparison highlights why the Browns had to make the trade with Atlanta. More picks give you more chances to strike gold.

Little fell to the second round because he took some improper benefits at North Carolina and was suspended for a season. But if you look at his skills, he has the potential to be as good or better than Jones. It will be fun to see how this plays out.

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News Flash – Braylon Edwards is completely full of himself

SPORTSbyBROOKS has the goods on the birthday party egomaniac and bust Braylon Edwards threw for himself in Detroit. Can you imagine having to eat some of this cake?

Joe Haden would still be a solid pick

After trading for cornerback Sheldon Brown from Philadelphia, most people are assuming that the Browns won’t target Florida cornerback Joe Haden with their #1 pick. That’s probably a good assumption, but I still think Haden would be a good pick if Eric Berry is off the board.

I just watched an interview with Haden on ESPN. He definitely comes across as a good kid. He’s very articulate and seems to be very personable. When you’re picking someone in the first round, the last thing you want is a character problem. After dealing with Braylon Edwards the Browns are probably very sensitive to that issue. If this interview is any indication, Joe Haden shouldn’t be a problem in that area.

Braylon Edwards is lucky nobody watches the NFL Network

Here’s stone hands Braylon Edwards dropping another pass. Funny.

Peter King offers up some bad advice

Peter King was down on the Browns before the season started, and given the terrible start, he looks pretty smart. Now he’s revisiting the topic, and his opinion hasn’t changed much, though he focuses on some irrelevant points like the 6-3 score of the Browns victory over Buffalo and Derek Anderson’s 2-17 performance. As stated on this blog, anyone who watched the football game knows that Anderson was not the problem on offense.

To his credit, King speaks with George Kokinis and Eric Mangini to get their thoughts on where the roster is now, and King acknowledges that the Browns were smart to trade Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

So, I asked Mangini and Kokinis in separate interviews, do the Browns have a better 53-man roster than they did at the end of the 2008 season?

Kokinis: “I think so. But it’s different. To go forward, the environment here had to change. We aren’t in this to put band-aids on the problem. We’re here to solve the problem. When you establish a system, it’s all about building a disciplined program conducive to winning, and you’re going to have people at first who fight the system. But we’ll find the true Browns who buy into what we’re doing. The one thing people need to understand is this situation wasn’t like Atlanta, where you can draft Matt Ryan and sign Michael Turner in free agency and win your division. This team was a long way away. Some free-agency periods and some drafts need to happen for the right amount of change to take place.”

Mangini: “Yeah, I think the roster’s better. I think we have a much better chance of getting where we want to be with this roster moving forward. But it’s not going to be easy. What gets lost a little bit with our draft-day trade is how much money we saved over the long term by trading down — maybe $40 million. And those resources will be spent to build a better overall football team. That’s cash we’ll spend on more players.

“For now, we’re making improvements. Some of the improvements aren’t sexy — more energy at practice and in games, more intensity, playing complimentary football. But regardless of external perception, we have guys who care. And next year, we’ll have 11 draft picks instead of the four we had this year. That’s when you can do some building.”

My take: The roster is absolutely not better because no player of the skill level of Edwards or Winslow has been added. But I would have done all three deals that ManKinis did, because Winslow and Edwards were never going to buy into any long-term rebuilding program, which this has to be. There comes a time when team and player have to divorce, and if player has great success after the trade (Roger Clemens when he left Boston), it doesn’t mean he’d have had the same success in his original place.

Mangini’s point is critical here, and it displays the winning philosophy employed in places like New England. You judge a player not just by his talent and contributions, but also by the cost of keeping him on the roster. The Browns are building the team from the bottom up, with players who don’t have big names (or big salaries) but who play within the system. We’re seeing some of that displayed on the defense and on special teams. Also, the offensive line is starting to come together. The roster is better.

Also, King ignores the biggest issue that Mangini and Kokinis had to face – the collapse of Brady Quinn as the possible franchise quarterback of the future. They inherited Quinn, and Quinn worked hard and earned the chance to start, but he was beyond terrible. He didn’t make stupid mistakes, but he was unable to move the offense. Defenses dared him to throw downfield, and that also hurt the running game. Despite that, the Browns were competitive for most of their games, despite facing teams with a combined 14-2 record in the first four weeks.

That said, it was still an informative article, until of course King decide to dispense some advice – advice that Kokinis and Mangini will hopefully ignore after having a good laugh.

Because of the startup nature of the program, Kokinis said he’s been spending time in and around the team this fall, instead of concentrating his efforts on on-campus scouting. He said he’d do that after the college season. If I were him, I’d accelerate the process. I’d be spending three days at Texas turning over every stone on Colt McCoy, and three in Norman looking at Sam Bradford — as well as extensive time looking at the other quarterbacks in the 2010 draft, like Tim Tebow and Jevan Snead. That’s more important than whatever’s happening in his building right now.

This is amateur hour coming from a writer whose been around the NFL for years. Picking a young quarterback in the draft is the kind of pie-in-the-sky magic bullet that know-nothing fans think about. This approach might make sense if there was a Peyton Manning waiting to be drafted, but the four guys King mentions are more in the Tim Couch mold. Now, Couch wasn’t terrible, and the Browns didn’t help him much as he took a beating for years, but Couch was not worth the #1 pick in the draft.

Regarding Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow, I doubt either of them can even start in the NFL. McCoy reminds me of Brady Quinn, too small and below-average arm, and Tebow is a battering ram, not an NFL quarterback. He might be worth a pick as a future Wildcat quarterback, or as a project on a team that has an established starter, but he’s not the answer for a rebuilding team like the Browns.

Bradford is also another bust-in-waiting. he racked up big numbers throwing to wide open receivers in a conference that doesn’t play defense as Coach Stoops ran up the score hoping for a chance to redeem himself in the BCS championship game. When Bradford faced a real defense, he looked pretty average. he’s a second-rounder at best.

Snead is another guy getting lots of buzz, but he’s having a terrible year.

Snead has completed just 65 of 139 passes (46.8 percent) for 868 yards with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He ranks 11th out of the league’s 12 starting quarterbacks (and 97th in the nation) in passing efficiency.

He’s no Eli Manning.

Based on what I’ve seen so far from Kokinis and Mangini, I don’t expect them to waste a high draft pick on any of these guys. There may be a quarterback they like in the draft, and we saw Kokinis draft Joe Flacco in Baltimore, but that team had everything but a good quarterback, so that made sense.

I expect the Browns to keep stockpiling workers like offensive linemen or impact players on defense – the kind of unsexy picks you see from teams who want to be good year after year. Another possibility would be a running back, as they can contribute right away.

So, I’m pretty confident they will ignore King’s advice.

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