The Browns have been looking to upgrade a weak receiving corps for years. They hope they have finally landed the most important piece through the unlikeliest of sources.
General manager Tom Heckert selected former Baylor receiver Josh Gordon on Thursday in the second round of the NFL’s supplemental draft. He was the only player chosen in the draft, and the first player selected in the second round since Tony Hollings by Houston in 2003.
The Browns hadn’t taken a player in the supplemental draft since quarterback Bernie Kosar in 1985.
“When you guys see him, that will be your first clue,” Heckert said when asked what he likes about Gordon. “He has a long way to go before he is elite as a player, but his size, athletic ability and speed are up there pretty good.”
The Browns submitted a second-round bid for Gordon in the blind draft. The Browns had the second pick in each round, behind Buffalo, after a weighted lottery. The Browns forfeit their second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Heckert, who treasures draft picks, had targeted Gordon for some time and determined it wasn’t worth the risk of waiting until the third round. The Bills could’ve taken him to start the third round, and Miami and Washington were considered threats later in the second round.
“We were going to take him in the second round, no matter where we were picking,” Heckert said. “That’s where we thought he was going to go. We weren’t real concerned about who else was interested.
“He is a guy that can come in here and be an eventual starter for us and make plays for us. Where we got Josh, I think it was good value and we get him a year early.”
Rookies are scheduled to report to training camp July 24.
“I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to become part of such a prestigious organization as the Cleveland Browns,” Gordon said in a statement released by the team. “I can’t wait to get started and acclimated to a new city as well as the team.
“I want to be able to contribute to the offense in any way I can, and I am ready to come in and work hard to make that happen. Being taken this high in the supplemental draft and mentioned among the likes of the Bernie Kosar is a humbling experience in itself, as well as a dream come true.”
Coach Pat Shurmur was excited about adding another weapon to his offense.
“I feel as though he possesses the skill and ability to be an outstanding player in this league,” Shurmur said in a statement. “He is an excellent addition to our 2012 rookie class.”
Gordon is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds with big hands and long arms. He was timed at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash during a workout Tuesday.
“The biggest thing is, I think the kid has great hands, has the ability to adjust to the ball and he is big. Those are some good qualities to have,” Heckert said. “Does he need some route work? Sure, but I think his other stuff outweighs some things. We think his ability is untapped and he will get a lot better as he picks up our offense and being around our team. We think he is going to be real good.”
Gordon was a starter for only one year in college. With Baylor in 2010, he caught 42 passes for 714 yards (17-yard average) and seven touchdowns as a sophomore. He was suspended indefinitely for failing a drug test and transferred to Utah. He was forced to sit out the 2011 season because of the transfer but practiced.
Gordon planned to play 2012 with Utah, but changed his mind after the regular draft in April and entered the supplemental draft. Heckert had Gordon in town for a visit last week and is convinced he isn’t a character risk.
“It’s something that we really did our homework on,” Heckert said. “I talked to a zillion guys at both Baylor and Utah. To be honest with you, I couldn’t find anybody to say one bad thing about the kid.
“There were some concerns about him, so I drilled him pretty hard. He didn’t back down and he told me everything that I thought I needed to hear from him. He promised that he would be a guy that we are going to love having in Cleveland.”
The Browns have a recent positive experience with a receiver who sat out his final college season.
Greg Little, a second-round pick in 2011, was ineligible at North Carolina for accepting improper benefits. But he started 12 games as a rookie and led the Browns with 61 catches for 709 yards and two touchdowns.
Gordon should be a step ahead of Little in the transition to the NFL because he practiced all season with Utah.
“We hope he comes in and plays right away. That’s the goal,” Heckert said. “A lot of it will depend on how he picks things up and all that stuff, but we expect him to play.
“Just because it’s the supplemental draft I think it’s a little different and most years there is not a player of Josh’s caliber, so you don’t hear about it very much.”
Heckert received plenty of criticism for not adding a marquee receiver in free agency or the draft. He tried to sign Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan but lost out to the Redskins. He targeted Baylor’s Kendall Wright with the No. 22 pick, but Tennessee took him at No. 20.
Heckert had other options in the second and third rounds but passed on Brian Quick, Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, Ryan Broyles and Rueben Randle, to name a few. He took Miami’s Travis Benjamin in the fourth round, but was still looking for someone who could become a longtime starter.
He believes he found that someone in Gordon, who will be teamed with running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden in a rookie triumvirate the Browns are counting on to be the foundation for an offensive turnaround.
“We hope so, that’s the idea,” Heckert said. “They are young, but we think we have gotten a lot better on offense in one draft, now you add Josh in the mix, too. We knew this was going to be a process, but we think we have gotten a lot better just in the last few months.”
Heckert remains optimistic Richardson and Weeden will be signed by the time training camp opens, but said he hasn’t talked to their agents in awhile.
“There is nothing new to report,” he said. “But, yeah, they will both be here.”