NFL Browns new GM passes draft test
Phil Savage says expectations for the rookies should remain realistic.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Phil Savage didn't select a long snapper, any Miami Hurricanes or anyone from West Texas A & amp;M.
One thing became clear after Savage's first NFL draft as general manager of the Cleveland Browns: He's no Butch Davis.
The rookie GM came away from the draft pleased with the Browns' eight selections, particularly in landing Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards -- the highest-rated player on Cleveland's board.
But unlike Davis, the former Browns coach who gushed unashamedly about his picks, Savage was realistic about what to expect from this year's rookie class and the Browns, who are again rebuilding after a 4-12 season.
"You want to fill every hole you have," Savage said. "That's the frustration of the draft. You know you can't do that, but you try. The draft really lets us know how far we have to go as a team."
Savage succeeded in acquiring an immediate-impact starter in Edwards, although coach Romeo Crennel cautioned that the All-American would have to "earn" his starting spot. That shouldn't be a problem for Edwards, though, whose knack for making big plays is something Cleveland's offense is desperate for.
Savage added a young quarterback (Akron's Charlie Frye) and a pair of defensive backs (Oklahoma teammates Brodney Pool and Antonio Perkins) who can play special teams right away.
He also brought in two linebackers (Kansas' David McMillan and New Mexico's Nick Speegle) and a nose tackle (Virginia's Andre Huffman) who have played in the 3-4 scheme, and a mammoth offensive tackle (Virginia Tech's 6-foot-7, 330-pound Jonathan Dunn) to develop.
Beginning with Edwards, Savage said the Browns stayed mostly true to their pre-draft plan. On Saturday, Savage had a list of 20 players he wanted -- and got three. And Sunday, he picked five of the players on a second-day list of 25 desirables.
All in all, a productive weekend.
"We have made some strides," Savage said.
Mini-camp is next
Next up for the Browns is signing a few free agents before next weekend's rookie mini-camp. On Monday, the club agreed to terms with Ohio State defensive end Simon Fraser (6-6, 288).
Savage, who built his reputation with Baltimore, has restructured Cleveland's scouting department since taking over in January. He installed a different grading system for prospects and solicited more advice from coaches in hopes of minimizing the kind of draft-day mistakes the Browns have made since 1999.
That's a solid approach, but it's also what New England, Miami, Baltimore, Cincinnati and several other teams are doing, which makes it much tougher for teams to find the hidden-gem players.
"It's hard to find those quality bargains even in the later rounds because your board gets wiped out now," Savage said. "There are people out there that are really qualified to do this and that was the thing that impressed me the most. There really were no big surprises and the players came off the board in fairly close order to the way the league had them."
As much as anything, Savage hoped his first draft in Cleveland would restore some lost trust in Browns fans, who grew weary of Davis taking mostly players he recruited in college or ones he thought he could develop.
Savage, who has likened the inexact draft to a Par-5 hole in golf, stayed right down the fairway.
"If you go back and look at what we did in free agency and look at what we did in the draft, we feel like we're in pretty good shape from where we were three months ago," he said.