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Mangini's Draft and Alex Mack


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Thursday, December 3, 2009


Mangini's Draft and Alex Mack


Of all the bad ideas floated by those who want to run Eric Mangini out of Cleveland, one of the most frequently abused is that Mangini's first and only draft with the Browns has been a "disaster." Such a disaster that "he should be allowed nowhere near" the team's eleven draft picks next April.


We'll ignore the inherent problems in making conclusions about an NFL draft after only one season* to point out that a big reason why the criticism of Mangini's draft has become so typical is that it's especially easy to criticize a draft when its top pick is used to fill one of the most unglamorous positions in football.



But center is also one of the most important positions, and the selection of Alex Mack in last April's first round is consistent with the build-for-the-long term approach that Mangini has brought to Cleveland. In responding to a comment at Posnanski's blog on Monday, we found strong support for the Mack pick in a 2009 Draft preview piece by CBS Sportsline's Pete Prisco that highlights so much that we love about what Mangini's brought to Cleveland.


It's worth excerpting at length:


If the two tackle spots and center are the three most valuable positions on the offensive line -- which everyone insists they are -- why is center so under-drafted?


The answer might be a simple one: Patience.

Or lack of it.


"Teams don't want to wait two years to have their first-round pick play," Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said. "And with centers, it's such a tough position that you sometimes have to wait."


With big dollars paid out to first-round picks, and coaches and general managers living on the edge in this era of instant gratification, it's easy to see why there is so much reluctance to take a position that might take some time.



It's not considered a premium position, until you don't have one.


"Then you know how important it is," Boudreau said.


There is a first-round worthy center in this year's group. His name is Alex Mack. He is from Cal and has the scouts drooling. At 6-foot-3 7/8 and 311 pounds, he has great size to handle the bigger nose tackles and good quickness to get out on linebackers.


"Having a guy who can make the calls, like a quarterback, is such an important thing," Boudreau said.


"He's controlling the guys in the huddle. He makes the calls. It's tough to get a guy who can do that."


"We all know to run the ball you need a good center, especially with all the big defensive tackles," one NFC personnel director said. "But as far as drafting them goes, it's just not a position that we take high."


Mack should change that. He's that good. But history says otherwise.


Centers of attention? Not on draft day they aren't, which might need some re-visiting by the league's decision-makers.


If you're like us, and think that caving to the pressures of this "era of instant gratification" is exactly what's been keeping the Browns franchise submerged for the last decade, you might be especially glad about the Mack pick. Even if not, it's hard to say that the Mack pick doesn't look like a very good one given the importance of the position, how tough it is to learn, and how well Mack has played there so far this season. It's also hard not to think that some of the Browns' other picks in the 2009 Draft weren't taken with a similarly long view.In any event, the consistency of the Mack selection with Mangini's long-term/big picture approach should give pause to critics of both.




We'll be back at 11:30 with a special surprise, maybe more Browns talk after that, and definitely a well researched pick for tonight's Civil War. Please let us know who you like in that one, and why. ----------


*Another question worth asking is whether anyone shouldn't get the benefit of the doubt when he's drafting for an organization that he'd only joined months before. The inherent disadvantage has to be significant when the person drafting hasn't had any in-season experience with the team whose holes he's trying to fill. Mangini's critics never bring this up.


We'd also like to know is if there are very many teams that have had as many or more 2009 draftees play as much as Mack, Massaquoi, and Maiava have for the Browns. It's understood that the depleted Browns roster has less talent than the average roster would to keep the rookies off the field, in theory. But isn't it normal for players not to be NFL-ready until they've been in the league for a year or two? Isn't that exactly why draftees are so often distinguished as "NFL-ready"?

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Great article - thanks for posting!


Another thing to consider is that Hank Fraley was deemed too old to start in Philly 3-4 years ago so Center was a bigger need than people think. The ONLY reason we added Fraley in the first place was in response to an unforseen injury to Bentley who's replacement from the Miami Dolphins got busted for steroids so it was on to Rex Tucker who never returned to a healthy enough football fitness following countless injuries. In short, we were injury/talent depleted enough to make someone's table scraps our main course. The unsettling thing, not to take anything away from Fraley's heart and work ethic, is that we are STILL counting on him to be the first lineman off the bench and report in as a tackle eligible receiver on occasion.


The ONLY offensive lineman Savage ever drafted well was a 3rd overall pick. That being the case, Lerner had to REALLY open his wallet for the following guys:

1) LeCharles Bentley

2) Kevin Shaffer

3) Joe Andruzzi

4) John St Clair

5) Lee Ann Womack

6) Eric Steinbach

7) Hank Fraley

There's others but you get the idea... We also had to do this at Nose Tackle and Dline and finally landed on Rogers after the following forgettables: Jason Fisk, Ted Washington, Corey Williams, Shaun Smith. The draftees were Babe Oshinowo and Andrew Hoffman. The only decent draftee was Rubin.


Thinking back to our 80s and even early 90s - we were getting late round/undrafted gems like Paul Farren (rd 12), All Pro - Cody Risien (round 7), Mike Baab (rd 5), Tony/T-Bone Jones (undrafted), Orlando Brown (undrafted). When you CAN draft because you're GOOD at it - you don't HAVE to overpay guys with best playing days ahead the way free agency often overpays guys for best days in the rear view mirror. In this day and age with salary cap and roster size restrictions, it's more important than ever to nail some late round picks especially on the oline. What people often overlook is when you commit the FA cake to a guy - he's your plan and it sets up the way you draft with the understanding you anly have 45-47 active roster spots. This year we had far too many holes to fill after going oline in rd 1. I was at least thankful someone had the smarts to increase our draft volume from 4 to 8 selections considering better teams than us had more picks.


I remembered a cocky Phil Savage saying something along the lines of - I'm here to improve the draft and bring in a better quality player here. And what did he do? He traded away day 1 of the 08 draft before leaving us a sum of 4 draft picks for the 2009 draft. MANY are blaming Mangini for this for reasons inexplicable to me. I'm not saying I'm fond of his "I got another secret." I'm just saying he got handed a pretty ratty deck similar to the one BB got here which took 4 years to reach playoff caliber football if we don't go Rogers Clemons and misremember.

- Tom F.

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