CLEVELAND – With the Cleveland Cavaliers claiming the city’s first sports title in 50-plus years and the Cleveland Indians on a proverbial rampage, people have all but forgotten about Cleveland’s football team—the Browns.
Thanks to the heroics of LeBron James, the once local media-favorite Browns have taken a proverbial backseat in terms of sports relevance in Northeast Ohio, which ironically may work in their favor this coming season.
After years of frustrating fans in ignoring the wide receiver position—most notably former Browns GM Ray Farmer—Cleveland traded down from No.2 overall to No.8 with the Philadelphia Eagles (for next year’s first-round pick) and again with the Tennessee Titans (for next year’s second-round pick) at No.15 to nab perhaps college football’s most electrifying wide receiver in former Baylor Bear Corey Coleman.
In an era of smaller, quicker and more explosive wideouts such as T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate and DeSean Jackson, Cleveland needs to only look roughly 115 miles to the southeast and down the I-80/Ohio Turnpike to their hated arch nemesis in the Steel City to get a glimpse at perhaps the NFL’s most dangerous player in 2017 NFL MVP candidate Antonio Brown of the Super Bowl favorite Pittsburgh Steelers.
While I’m not comparing the 5’11, 185-pound Coleman to Brown, clearly the new Browns front office saw the need for more speed and an explosive playmaker that can immediately become that elusive No.1 wideout that they have lacked for so long and desperately needed.
In tabbing the former 2015 Biletnikoff Award winner, who caught 74 passes for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns, the Browns appear to be serious in identifying a prospective playmaker.
Quickly, name me the LAST Browns wide receiver—not tight end—that finished in the top 20 for 1,000-plus yards, touchdowns and catches NOT named Braylon Edwards and Josh Gordon?
Other than Kevin Johnson with 1,097 yards in 2001 and Antonio Bryant with 1,009 receiving yards in 2005, the AVERAGE leading Browns wide receiver has caught 60 passes for 824 yards (13.7 yards per catch) and five touchdowns, per FootballNation.com*
While oft-injured former Browns wideout Travis Benjamin had his best season in catching 68 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns, it was mainly due to the absence of the aforementioned Gordon and the free agent bust that was Dwayne Bowe.
While former wideout Brian Hartline was more than serviceable, the Browns clearly missed the oft-suspended Gordon in so many ways on the field in 2015.
Why the Browns have passed on the likes of superstars such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones makes even the most die-hard Dawg Pounder’s blood boil. Thankfully, Farmer is now elsewhere and Cleveland now appears to have a clue with a more analytics-driven front office that sees the value of a playmaking WR such as Coleman.
In addition to Coleman, the Browns nabbed an absolute gem in former Colorado St. standout in Rashad Higgins, Jordan Payton out of UCLA and Ricardo Louis out of Auburn and the future of Cleveland’s offense looks promising.
While he may struggle out of the gate, don’t be surprised to see Coleman leave his mark and make an immediate impact in Cleveland and their offense in 2016.
(Editor’s Note: Information from FootballNation.com used was from 2012, after the drafting of both Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon)