A Gift From My Dad

My Dad and I with the Larry O’Brien trophy last August.

I was waiting to write about this until I was ready, but sometimes your plans change due to an amazing experience. I lost my Dad four weeks ago yesterday after a courageous battle with heart disease. My Dad was my best friend, my hero, and the strongest person I ever met. When I was a baby my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was given 8 weeks to live. He defied the odds and went on to live a healthy life for more than 20 years. He was able to further his dream of being an elected official and it all culminated when he was elected Mayor of the City of Maple Heights in 2007 . My Dad was an inspiration to so many people, but his will to live and never give up attitude is what I will always carry with me. At a young age, my Dad got me hooked on sports taking me to the local sports games, autograph signings and sports card shows. Like any kid once I realized I would never become a professional athlete, I knew I wanted to do the next best thing which was to cover sports. Now with a journalism degree and almost one year removed from college I have my Dad to thank for giving me my dream. I wanted nothing more than to be able to tell my father that I got my first job in sports media, but I am now more motivated to make it in this industry with the same never quit attitude that he had.

As an aspiring journalist, I am always listening to the sports talk shows here in Cleveland. Last week, I was listening to the Really Big Show on ESPN 850 with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer like I usually do in the mornings when I was inspired. Hammer encouraged any listeners coming to their draft party at the Hard Rock Rocksino to bring a good luck charm of some sort to bring the Browns good karma on arguably the most important draft night in franchise history. Anyone who knows my family knows what a huge collector my Dad was. He collected all things sports for me when I was little from bobbleheads to autographs. My sisters joke to this day that at one point when I was a kid if you would walk into my bedroom and jump the entire room would be shaking its head up and down at you from all of the bobbleheads. I knew I obviously couldn’t bring something like a bobblehead or an autographed picture so I had to find something small. This was sort of a difficult task considering my Dad gave up our Browns season tickets four years ago because he was finally fed up with the losing, but he still watched them every Sunday. I settled on a small plastic Browns helmet that he got me out of a gum ball machine.

The Next Level, Emmett Golden and Jerod Cherry, preview the 2017 NFL Draft at the Permco ESPN Cleveland Draft Party at the Hard Rock Rocksino on Thursday.

Fast forward to yesterday, the guys on RBS were sharing some tweets about what people were bringing to the Rocksino. I decided to tweet the show with a picture of the helmet in hopes that our special bond would finally bring the Browns some impact players. What followed was completely unexpected. Rizz and Hammer read my tweet on the air and the ESPN Cleveland Twitter account retweeted my tweet. The response was amazing! Many people reached out to me and one of them even shared a story about how he and his Dad bonded over football just like my Dad and I. This reiterated the fact to me that Cleveland sports fans are the best in the world. We have all experienced loss either with our beloved sports teams or our personal lives and somehow we always rally around each other. It’s that togetherness that makes Cleveland such a special place and it’s why people from out of town don’t understand why we love our home so much.

The Rocksino took care of my buddy Nate and I last night by providing us with the VIP experience for the draft party. It was an unexpected, but appropriate gesture because my father loved the Rocksino! Until his sickness progressed, there would be many times he would take me up there to have dinner and play the machines for a little bit. The draft party featured a buffet and the guys from ESPN Cleveland broadcasted all night. The mini Browns helmet definitely brought us luck last night as we selected three impact players and picked up a first round pick for next year (I will have more on this in my Browns draft recap this weekend). Before I left, both the Rocksino and ESPN Cleveland gave me some Bernie Kosar goodies. This whole experience had my Dad written all over it and I have no doubt in my mind he played a part in it. I want to thank Jill Middleton, Dave Shultz, and Sylvia Watson from the Hard Rock Rocksino for their generosity. The Rocksino was our favorite spot and it was so fitting that I had this experience here. I also want to thank Keith Williams and ESPN Cleveland for their kindness. Your radio station provides the best sports coverage in Cleveland and you always take great care of your listeners.

As much as I wanted to have my Dad watching this historic draft with me last night I know he was watching over me. He will continue to look out for me for the rest of my life because a part of him lives in me. I will use that part of him to chase my dream of making it in sports media just like he chased his dreams.

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Browns 2017 Draft Preview

After going 1-15 in Hue Jackson’s first season as head coach, the Cleveland Browns hold the number one overall pick in arguably the most important draft in franchise history. Executive VP of Football Operations, Sashi Brown, has compiled an impressive amount of capital in the form of draft picks for this year and next year’s draft. Cleveland holds four picks in the first 65 selections with three of them being at the top of the first, second, and third rounds. Coming off the worst season in franchise history, this draft will be a make or break draft for the Browns “Harvard Brain Trust”. Sashi, chief strategy officer, Paul DePodesta, and VP of Player Personnel, Andrew Berry have amassed their vast treasure trove of draft picks from trading down in past drafts by using analytics. This year the trading down comes to an end as this draft class is loaded with elite talent especially on the defensive side of the ball. Cleveland needs help at almost every position and it will be pivotal to their future if they stay put for once to select some cornerstone players. It is crucial that the Browns nail their early picks this year as a part of their rebuild and I will give you my prediction for their top two picks.

Biggest Needs

  • Quarterback
  • Defensive End
  • Safety
  • Cornerback

Browns 2017 Draft Picks

  • Round 1-No. 1
  • Round 1-No. 12
  • Round 2-No. 33
  • Round 2-No. 52
  • Round 3-No. 65
  • Round 4-No. 108
  • Round 5-No. 145
  • Round 5-No. 175
  • Round 5-No. 181
  • Round 6-No. 185
  • Round 6-No. 188

No. 1 Overall-Myles Garrett, Defensive End, Texas A&M

Texas A&M defensive end, Myles Garrett. Photo: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

This pick is a no brainer to me. Myles Garrett is the consensus number one overall pick this year and it’s not even close. Garrett is the elite pass rusher that the Browns have never had and could easily build their defense around. At 6’4″ and 272 pounds, he put up freakish numbers at the NFL Combine by running a 4.64 40 yard dash, a 41.0 inch vertical jump, and 33 reps on the bench press. Garrett’s dominance at Texas A&M speaks for itself as he had 11.5 sacks as a freshman and 19.5 tackles for a loss as a sophomore with 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. He battled a knee injury in the beginning of last season but still managed to record 15 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in eleven games. There has been talk over the last few weeks that the Browns were split on taking Garrett or quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky with the first pick. While I do think Cleveland has legitimate interest in Trubisky with their second pick, I believe that taking him with the first pick would be a reach. Myles Garrett has the potential to be the next JJ Watt and the Browns CANNOT afford to pass on him. The Browns had the second worst rated defense in the NFL last season behind the San Francisco 49ers. Cleveland gave up 2,283 rushing yards last season, which was also the second worst in the league. Adding Garrett would instantly upgrade the Browns’ defense and would see the creation of a dangerous duo on the edge by pairing him with second year defensive end, Emmanuel Ogbah. As talented as Garrett is the one constant criticism that keeps popping up is the question of his motor. It was brought up again last week when Hall of Fame defensive lineman, Warren Sapp called him a “lazy kid that makes four plays a game.” Any questions about Garrett’s effort level will be put to rest when the Browns new defensive coordinator, Greg Williams gets to work with him. Williams is a no-nonsense coach who has a fiery passion for the game and you will be sure he will not let Garrett take any plays off. In my opinion the Browns have a very easy decision to make at number one by taking the best player in this year’s draft. However, if they don’t take Myles Garret at No. 1, the big man from Arlington, Texas has already issued a warning to the Browns in an interview with Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine earlier this month.

“If you don’t draft me No. 1, I will punish your team for the next 10 to 12 years. I’ll knock your QB out of the game every time we play you, and I’ll have to kick the hell out of No. 1, whoever it is.” -Myles Garrett

No. 5 Overall-Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (PROJECTED TRADE)

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) passes during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

For years the Browns have made it an April tradition to trade down in the draft, but this year I predict that they will trade up from the twelfth pick to the fifth spot to take their franchise quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky. A trade at this position with the Tennessee Titans would make sense for multiple reasons. The first being that the Browns have history with the Titans after they traded down with Tennessee last year to select Corey Coleman with the No. 15 pick. The second reason this trade makes sense is that the Titans have their franchise quarterback already in Marcus Mariota and trading down would enable them to select a receiver to pair with him. It is very possible that Trubisky could still be on the board by the time the Browns pick at number twelve, but with another quarterback needy team picking at No. 6 in the New York Jets it may be too risky for the Browns to sit and wait. At 6’2”, Trubisky has the size and arm strength to be a successful starting quarterback, but the main concern that comes with him is the sample size. He started only 13 games at North Carolina after sitting his first two seasons behind three year starter Marquise Williams. Last season, Trubisky ranked fifth in the country with a 68.0 completion percentage while throwing for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns. He also ran for 5 touchdowns and 308 yards. The skills and numbers are there, but the Browns will have to have patience as it will take a season or two for Trubisky to develop. Sitting Trubisky behind Cody Kessler or possibly Brock Osweiler (if he is still on the roster by training camp) would not be a bad thing as he showed his potential after sitting for two years with the Tar Heels. The Mentor native has said it would be a “dream come true” to play for his hometown team, but we have seen the good and bad of this narrative before. Youngstown’s own Bernie Kosar was the last great quarterback the Browns had, while Lakewood native, Brian Hoyer was having a breakout season until he torn his ACL in October 2013. Being named the starting quarterback of the Browns already comes with enough pressure, but being the potential quarterback savior and a Cleveland native comes with enormous expectations. I believe Trubisky can handle the pressure and if the Browns truly believe he is their guy then they should move up to get him.

Lansky’s Final Take

Selecting the draft’s premier edge rusher and arguably the top quarterback in this class with their first two picks would be a monumental success for the Browns. If the Browns take both Garrett and Trubisky as well as addressing their needs at positions such as safety and corner, they will finally be on the right track on this long rebuilding saga.

Browns 2016 Draft Preview

The NFL Draft kicks off tomorrow night in Chicago and the Browns will be on the clock with the eighth overall pick. Cleveland traded out of the number two pick last week in exchange for the Philadelphia Eagles number 8, 77, and 100 overall picks this year as well as their 2017 first round-pick and 2018 second-round pick. The Browns decided against taking a potential franchise quarterback with the number two pick in either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. I thought it was a great move as Sashi Brown and Co. as they added to their already loaded arsenal of draft picks. Brown stated this week that he knows who he will pick tomorrow night and that he has a backup plan to trade down if his guy isn’t there. I will give you the players that I think the Browns will select in either situation, as well as my prediction for their second round pick.

Browns Stand Pat at Number Eight

Elliott was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week for his performance Saturday; his 274 rushing yards ranks second in Ohio State single-game history behind only Eddie George’s 314 (1995).
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kryger-USA TODAY Sports

Sashi Brown said that the Browns are “locked in” on a player for the number eight pick. There a few options at this spot if some of the players fall, such as  defensive end, Joey Bosa of Ohio State, offensive tackle, Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss, and defensive end, DeForest Buckner of Oregon. Cleveland’s signing of Robert Griffin III was great, but they need to surround him with play makers. A great start to this approach would be running back, Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State. Zeke is the total package for a running back as he can run, catch, and block. He also has explosive speed and raw power that can change the game instantly. Elliott excelled at Ohio State rushing for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns in his sophomore season, while leading the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2014. Browns running backs, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have shown some potential, but they don’t have the complete skill set that Elliott possesses. He is the three down back that Cleveland has needed for years. If Zeke is still on the board at number eight, I would be shocked if the Browns passed up on him.

Browns Trade Down Again

Ole Miss wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell. Photo Credit-Rogelio V. Solis

If Sashi Brown’s guy is gone by pick number eight, expect Cleveland to trade down between the 13 and 15 picks. One of the Browns biggest needs are wide receivers. Cleveland will most likely move on from Josh Gordon after his request for reinstatement was denied by the NFL earlier this month. New head coach, Hue Jackson, loves receivers and I expect the Browns to add a few in this years draft. If Cleveland trades down I think they will take Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss. Over the past few seasons the Browns have had mostly smaller receivers in the absence of Gordon. At 6’2″, Treadwell is not small by any means and he fits the mold of receiver that Jackson craves. He is known for his ability to go up and win contested catches. He is also very reliable when it comes to third down and red zone situations. The one area where Treadwell is weak is that he lacks the speed for deep routes. He often struggles to break past cornerbacks in those type of situations. Despite his lack of deep speed, I think Treadwell would be a great offensive weapon to add alongside RGIII.

Browns Second Round Pick

Photo Credit-Chris Howell | Herald-Times Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Michael Thomas (3) during the Indiana Ohio State football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio Saturday, November 22, 2014. Chris Howell

Cleveland holds the first pick of the second round (32 overall), a pick that was stripped from the New England Patriots as a result of the Deflategate scandal. Like the number eight pick, the Browns have plenty of options at number 32. Even though the Browns signed RGIII, they are still in the market for a quarterback. One option is Michigan State QB and Walsh Jesuit’s own Connor Cook. I think Cleveland is more likely to take him in the third round, but the second round is a possibility. Another option is an offesinve tackle. The Browns are in need of serious offensive line help after the departures of Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz. There are will many solid offensive lineman available, but I think Cleveland will hold off until the later rounds. I think the most likely option at number 32 would be a wide receiver. Like I mentioned earlier, Hue values his receivers and I would love to see the Browns take Michael Thomas from Ohio State. Thomas has great hands and a big frame at 6’3″ and 212 pounds. He has the speed and skill set to be Cleveland’s number one receiver, but he is more likely to start out as the team’s number two option.

 

Lansky’s Bold Prediction

I think the Browns will stay put tomorrow night and select Ezekiel Elliott with the eighth pick. Zeke is a beast and he is the game changing player that Cleveland needs. I also think that the Browns will go receiver with the 32 pick and select Elliott’s college teammate, Michael Thomas.

Browns Draft Preview

Browns players at the new uniform reveal at the Cleveland Convention Center on April 14. Photo Credit-Nate Nealon

Browns players at the new uniform reveal at the Cleveland Convention Center on April 14. Photo Credit-Nate Nealon

This Thursday is the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, a night where the Browns have the opportunity to make some noise. Cleveland has two first round picks at the 12th spot and the 19th spot. I love the NFL Draft and have watched the 2014 film based on the Browns, Draft Day, to get ready for the big night. In the movie, fictional Browns owner, Anthony Molina, tells general manager, Sonny Weaver Jr. (played by Kevin Costner) to make a splash. Weaver does this by trading for the number one pick, then later that night he makes deals that help him to reaquire the draft picks he gave up to move to the one spot. The Browns may not make cinematic like moves this year, but Browns general manager, Ray Farmer, needs to make a splash! After a disappointing off-season filled with “text gate” and no major free agent signings, Farmer must address some serious needs with the first two picks. Here is a list of five players that the Browns have been linked to.

1. Devante Parker: Wide Receiver-Louisville

Louisville wide receiver, Devante Parker. Photo Credit-chatsports.com

Louisville wide receiver, Devante Parker. Photo Credit-chatsports.com

The Browns signed veteran receivers Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline this season. They are both solid pick-ups with experience, but production wise their best is behind them. With Josh Gordon sitting out this season due to another suspension, the Browns will need a number one receiver and Parker is that guy. At 6’3″ he is a big receiver with explosive speed. Parker is a play maker which is what the Browns desperately need. If Parker is still available at 12, look for Cleveland to take him.

2. Danny Shelton: Defensive Tackle-Washington

Washington Defensive Tackle, Danny Shelton. Creative Commons

Another serious option for the Browns at the 12th spot is defensive tackle, Danny Shelton. At 339 pounds, Shelton is the defensive monster that the Browns need. He is excellent at stopping the run and is a space-eater that swallows up blocks. Defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, was hurt the majority of last season and drafting another tackle would give the Browns a back up option. Pairing up Taylor and Shelton would make them one of the most feared defensive duos in the NFL.

3.Eddie Goldman: Defensive Tackle-Florida State

Florida State Defensive Tackle, Eddie Goldman. Photo Credit-newsherald.com

Florida State Defensive Tackle, Eddie Goldman. Photo Credit-newsherald.com

If the Browns address the need for a receiver with the 12th pick, then look for them to take a defensive tackle at the 19th spot. At this point in the draft, Shelton will be off the board, but there will still be some strong options at DT available. Malcolm Brown from Texas is one option, but it is possible that he will be picked before the 19th spot. Eddie Goldman will still be available and would be a great pick up. Like Shelton, Goldman is a great run stuffer and he can eat up blocks. Goldman’s physicality against the run is a huge selling point, but he struggles with pass rushing.

4.Todd Gurley: Running Back-Georgia

Georgia running back, Todd Gurley. Photo Credit-onlineathens.com

Georgia running back, Todd Gurley. Photo Credit-onlineathens.com

Another option with the 19th pick would be Georgia running back, Todd Gurley. Last season, Gurley put himself at the top of the Heisman conversation with 773 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns in the first five games. In week 6, he was suspended for four games for violating NCAA rules. When he returned on November 15, he tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season. Gurley has since been medically cleared and would be a steal for Cleveland if he falls this far. The Browns tandem of rookie running backs, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West showed bright spots last season, but were often inconsistent. One week they would have huge games and then the next week they would struggle. Gurley has a blend of speed and power that should not be overlooked. If Gurley is still on the board, I could see the Browns pull off a shock and take him at the 19th spot.

5. Marcus Mariota: Quarterback-Oregon

Oregon quarterback and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota. Creative Commons

Oregon quarterback and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota. Creative Commons

One name that has been linked to the Browns countless times over the last month is Marcus Mariota. The Browns quarterback dilemma is the top discussion of their off-season every year. This season has been no different with the puzzling signing of veteran journeyman, Josh McCown. There have also been reports that Cleveland has tried to trade for Philadelphia’s Sam Bradford twice. Many fans and experts seem to forget about Johnny Manziel. Manziel has been written off by critics after his disappointing rookie season and his voluntary time spent at a rehab facility. I am not ready to give up on Manziel after only seven quarters of play. Johnny showed a great deal of maturity by getting help for his off the field issues and he is ready to focus on football. Drafting Mariota would mean that the Browns have given up on Manziel and that would be a major mistake. Also to draft Mariota means that the Browns will have to trade some draft picks or even a key player to move up and grab him. I think Mariota is overrated and Ohio State helped to prove that by exposing his pocket passing inability in the National Championship game. Ray Farmer fueled speculation last week when asked if he would trade both the 12th and 19th pick for Mariota. Farmer responded by saying “Sure, why not?” Browns fans get ready because if Farmer has his way we may have two Heisman Trophy winners on our roster this season.

My bold prediction for this year’s draft is that the Browns will take Devante Parker with the 12th pick and Eddie Goldman with the 19th pick.