2007 NFL Draft brings hope for Browns, Lions fans

When it comes to the NFL Draft, football fans get excited to see who their team will pick up this year and what kinds of crazy trades will happen.

Normally, Browns fans and Lions fans alike are left with a sour taste in their mouths. Both teams have had to watch their former fellow cellar-dweller, the Cincinnati Bengals, make some draft-day steals and rise to the level of playoff contender. Meanwhile, Cleveland and Detroit have picked up a countless chain of flops and busts with the occasional star player in between.

Or they select a great player that happens to get constantly plagued by injuries, whether it be on the field or on a motorcycle.

This year, both teams found themselves high in the draft order once again, unable to solve some of the problems that had plagued them. For Lions fans, it was a day of anticipation mixed with fear. How would Matt Millen screw things up this year? Would he go with Brady Quinn, the highly-hyped quarterback out of Notre Dame? Would he pick his fourth wide receiver in five years with Georgia Tech’s phenomenal Calvin Johnson? Either way, there were still plenty of other issues that had to be fixed, and unless Millen found a way to deal with them, those “Fire Millen!” chants would be back in full force in September.

Meanwhile, Browns fans seemed to be torn between Quinn and Wisconsin offensive lineman Joe Thomas. Both were positions that the Browns needed help badly at, and Quinn was the choice many experts were putting with either the Browns or Lions.

But picking a quarterback in the first round has come back to bite both teams. Mention Tim Couch, Joey Harrington or Andre Ware and you’ll either get a menacing stare or people will pretend they never existed.

So when I sat down at the TV on Saturday, I expected the worst. I expected to once again to be throwing things at the TV screen with each Lions pick, and I expected that the Browns fans in my dorm would do the same.

But something happened. The Browns and Lions actually managed to do good for once. Not great, as they didn’t solve all of their problems, but there’s hope for both team’s futures. And in Cleveland and Detroit, a little bit of hope can go a long, long way.

With their second overall pick, the Lions passed on Brady Quinn and went for Calvin Johnson. But when ESPN cut to Ford Field, the Lions fans there were mostly standing and cheering, even though they’d just drafted another wide receiver.

Perhaps it’s because of what kind of character Calvin Johnson has when he’s compared to some of the other players the Lions have picked up. While other players might have spent their summer working out in the weight room to get ready for the fall, Johnson spent time working at a joint venture between the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Emory University. His job was to help design a cost-effective latrine for developing nations.

We’re trying to find a better way for countries with no water sanitation to have sanitation without catching all the bacteria and diseases,” Johnson said to the Washington Times. “We had to come up with a better way for countries in Africa and South America that don’t have efficient water sanitation. We’re trying to go out there and test it out next year.”

On a team that seems to be half made up of players who are disgruntled, lazy or too busy blaming each other for the Lions’ woes, Johnson will be a force for change. Even if he had only half of his 178 receptions, 2,927 yards and 28 touchdowns in college, Johnson has the kind of character and personality that Detroit severely needed.

Meanwhile, for Browns fans it was an especially interesting day. With Brady Quinn still on the board, it seemed logical that he would be the Brown’s choice to be the new face of their franchise. Born in Dublin, Ohio, Quinn had grown up as a Browns fan, and after his highly successful collegiate career, Browns fans believed he would be the one to finally bring them to the Super Bowl after so many close calls.

The Browns surprised just about everyone, though, and picked up Joe Thomas. Though Thomas filled a need on the Browns’ offensive line and the pick was received well by some fans, others were unhappy that Cleveland still didn’t have a star quarterback for the future.

For poor Brady Quinn, though, it was just the beginning of a long day. It seemed that he, too, expected to be going to Cleveland, but instead, it turned into four hours of being passed by team after team. The Miami Dolphins, desperately in need of a quarterback, passed on him for Ohio State’s Ted Ginn Jr. The New York Jets traded up, and it seemed like they might take Quinn, but they instead picked a defensive player.

Meanwhile, according to several sources including USA Today and ESPN, Quinn slid down the board until he got a call from the Baltimore Ravens, the mortal enemies of the Browns. Baltimore was set to pull off a deal that would let them move up to the 23rd pick and take Quinn. It seemed as though the life-long Browns fans would be playing in the NFL under enemy colors, something that Browns general manager Phil Savage was fearing.

But all of the sudden, Savage has gotten a deal worked out with Dallas, moving up right in front of Baltimore to draft Quinn with the 22nd pick.

Naturally, the Browns fans attending the draft in New York City went nuts. Brady Quinn would certainly be a help after their offense ranked near the bottom of the NFL, and drafting Thomas gave their new quarterback some much needed protection.

While these draft picks might not turn into immediate gains for the Lions and Browns, they are a sign of hope that things might just turn around this time. And as Lions and Browns fans will tell you, that’s been a long time in coming.

Send comments to Brian Szabelski at [email protected]