Kolonich at Reboot has a nice piece up on Greg Bedard’s tweets from Berea Wednesday. It’s always useful to get smart national perspective on the Browns’ progress.
Bedard’s nuggets included:
- A ton of teaching going on;
- Bedard likes Hoyer’s arm and release over Weeden and Campbell;
- DQ and all front seven excited playing Horton’s system;
- Kruger/Bess goodness.
But the tweet that got my attention was this:
That there is the best news I’ve heard out of Berea since… in a really long time.
That’s because Little is a potential stud WR. The open question was would he work at it? He’s quietly building a body of work that indicates he is.
First round athlete.
Tom Heckert drafted Little 59th overall in the 2011 with one of the Julio Jones picks. We don’t know but I will offer that Heckert looked at the premium to be paid for high-profile Jones out of Alabama and the discount available on the one-year-at-WR, suspended-for-2010 Little and saw value. We don’t know but I will offer that Greg Little in the second round made the Jones trade much easier for Berea.
The combine numbers back it up:
Of course it’s gamble; of course Little had not Jones’ polish. That’s one reason why he was there late in the second round. We’ll get to the other reasons, but first let’s linger on those combine numbers.
Prototype NFL WR height and reach? Check.
Straight line speed? Good; not crazy great but good for his size.
But then it gets interesting. The 40.5″ vertical is quite insane. Looking at the combine over the last three years (2011, 2012, 2013) Jonathan Baldwin is the only player in with a better height/vertical. Torrey Smith jumped a half inch higher but is an inch shorter. In other words, Little has first round measurables.
The other metric that no one talks about are his 27 bench reps. That’s the most for a WR since 2006 (which is as far back as the online combine records go on nfl.com). Don’t care about bench reps or upper body strength? I say, as long as everything else is in place, hell yeah. Blocking, YAC, all better when you’re stronger.
The bad seed.
So why the slide?
First there’s his suspension.
‘Greg Little received $4,952 in extra benefits, including diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas, Washington D.C. and two trips to Miami, among other benefits.’
Given that Marvin Austin (52nd overall, 2nd round, Giants) and Robert Quinn (14th overall, Rams) were also suspended and that an assistant coach was fired, it looks like a case of bad advice rampant at Chapel Hill in the full flower of its Butch Davis era. Couldn’t see that coming. But as far as suspensions go, this seems a lot more benign than weed, purple drank, or beating the crap out of other students or townies.
Second, there’s the limited experience at WR.
Little was listed as a RB in 2008. Probably not the worst plan given UNC had Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate at WR that year. Little moved to WR in 2009. His numbers are fairly bland until you get to his final three games:
- at BC: seven catches, 69 yards;
- at NCST: 6/159;
- Pitt: 7/87/2 TDs.
So that’s somewhere in the range of 7/100/1 at the end of his first year at WR. Something to build on if he’d played in 2010.
Last, the punting thing.
Gifs like this will turn off a lot of GMs. Gifs like this in your file when you’ve been suspended for a year are poison.
Does it show immaturity? Lack of sense regarding the impact to the team? Me first-ness?
Yes, yes, yes. It’s a flag.
But there’s no avoiding the diva aspect of the NFL WR. You can’t stop it, you can only hope to control it. If the data showed on-going drop issues, attitude problems in the locker rooms and practice, I’d be all over him for this as well as the Blot pose.
The data doesn’t show this. My eyes don’t show it. In the anemic Shurmur offense I saw good routes, no drops, strong running, and -correct me if I’m wrong- but I saw some strong downfield blocking. Or at least a willingness to perform downfield blocking.
Shurmur’s and MKC’s dog house.
In an early indicator of a desperately over-matched and insecure head coach willing to throw his players under the bus, Pat Shurmur decided to get tough with Little. Here’s Shurmur on his leading WR from 2011 while the Browns are 4-15 on his watch:
Shurmur warned Little that if he doesn’t hang on, he’ll be posing on the bench. “We can’t play a guy that’s going to drop footballs,” said Shurmur. “I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’ve had my conversations with him about that,” said Shurmur. “Now whether people see me ranting and raving on the sideline at a player — trust me, I have my conversations with him.”
We can ascribe some Captain Queeg tendencies to account for Shurmur’s words on Little. We remain bemused at MKC’s analysis of Little pre-draft.
The outlook: No one in this young corps cracked the top 50 in receptions or had more than five TD catches. Little led with 53 catches for 647 yards and four TDs, and rookie Gordon was second with 50 catches for a team-high 805 yards and five TDs. Benjamin has excellent speed but is small and raw. The Browns will likely add a veteran to mentor the youngsters. Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs will most likely walk in free agency.
What they need: The Browns need two more starting-caliber wideouts and should be able to add at least one in free agency. Some who might hit the market include Green Bay’s Greg Jennings, Miami’s Brian Hartline, Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace, Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe, New England’s Wes Welker and St. Louis’ Danny Amendola. The Browns should emerge from the free agent frenzy with an experienced go-to guy.
“Starting-caliber wideout” is a wildly subjective term. Chansy Stuckey was starting caliber in 2009, amirite? But fortunately Berea ignored MKC’s analysis. We shouldn’t have to point this out to the team’s primary beat reporter but:
Calvin Johnson wouldn’t be top 50 in receptions in last year’s Browns offense.
I love, love, loved that Little/Gordon tandem late last year.
I’m sticking with this comment and couldn’t be more pleased to hear reports like Bedard’s.
* But Bedard’s comments on Gordon aren’t great.