Tag Archives: Christian Kirksey


On “Draft Day” 2014 all the hype and talk in Berea, Ohio was about one rookie selected by the Cleveland Browns, quarterback  Johnny Manziel. But after 9 games into the 2014 season he is the least productive rookie to play in his class.

Manziel has thrown one incomplete pass, caught another pass that was nullified by a penalty and done nothing else but serve as Brian Hoyer’s back up, and that’s OK. Manziel hasn’t had to play because Brian Hoyer is playing above average football at the quarterback position by not making mistakes, connecting on timely throws and leading the Browns to a (6-3) record and into playoff contention for the first time since 2007 this late in the season.

Manziel-Gilbert-Farmer-Pettine Jersey Photo

While Manziel has had no impact on the Browns success this season, six other rookies either drafted or signed as free agents by G.M. Ray Farmer have made major contributions to the Browns best start since 1994.

Here’s what they’ve done:

1st round pick – CB – Justin Gilbert – Has started a number of games – 23 tackles – 5 passes defended


2nd round pick – LG – Joel Bitonio – Has started all 9 games and solidified the left side of the line.


3rd round pick – RB – Terrance West – Leads the team in rushing through 9 games with 396 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus he’s caught 7 passes for 39 yards and another score.


3rd round pick – LB – Christian Kirksey – 41 tackles – 2 sacks – 1 tackle for loss – 2 passes defended


Undrafted rookie – RB – Isaiah Crowell – 297 yards rushing with a 4.6 yards per carry average that leads the team. He also leads the squad with 5 rushing touchdowns.


Undrafted rookie – WR – Taylor Gabriel – 24 catches for 435 yards and 1 touchdown.  He’s averaging 18.1 yards per catch. He also has 1 kickoff return for 30 yards.


When you combine all of the offensive numbers from the rookies, they have accounted for  1,192 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. On defense, 64 tackles – 2 sacks – 1 tackle for loss – 7 passes defended. Not bad considering “Johnny Football”, the most celebrated rookie of the bunch has added nothing to this team through 9 games.


Dan Shonka from Ourlads.com, a scouting service that has been breaking down college player for the NFL Draft for 33 years, came away impressed with Browns G.M. Ray Farmer and his 2014 Draft!

Ourlads Photo


Manziel-Gilbert-Farmer-Pettine Jersey Photo

1st – 8th –  Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Gilbert fills a need at cornerback opposite Joe Haden. He gives the Browns potentially the best cornerback tandem in the AFC North. A cover corner with long arms, a good vertical jump who always seems to be in good position and around the ball. Not a good tackler and needs some work on his technique and getting closer to receivers at the line of scrimmage for a better jam.  BONUS- A great return man who can take it the distance as he did 6 times in college.  –  Should be a starter from day one.


1st – 22nd – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Like “Johnny Football”, the Browns maneuvered their way around the first round to come back and get who they hope will be their franchise quarterback of the future. A mobile, accurate QB with big hands, who was highly successful against the toughest competition on a week-in, week-out basis in the country. Has great leadership and plays with a lot of heart, desire, passion and was a playmaker in college. The big question is will his short stature allow him to make those same plays at the NFL level and can his smaller frame withstand the physical punishment of faster, quicker, stronger, more violent defenders in the NFL? It would be best for him to not be thrown to the wolves, especially considering the first game of the regular season is on the road at Pittsburgh. Sitting and learning for AT LEAST a half a season would be extremely beneficial to him.  –  But I could see if the Browns start the season 0-3 and head into their bye week winless, you might see him start the 4th game of the season at Tennessee.


2nd – 35th –  Joel Bitonio, OG, Nevada

Played left tackle in college but is probably better suited as an inside guy at guard, however his versatility is a major plus. When Mike Pettine was talking about getting tougher he had Bitonio in mind. Has a nasty steak in him which the Browns need.  –  Should be a starter from day one.


3rd – 71st –  Christian Kirksey, OLB, Iowa

Not a very powerful linebacker but has good athleticism, is quick, agile and a motor that never stops. Also a good cover backer. Needs to separate from blockers better.  –  Should start on special teams, but is 2nd or 3rd on the depth chart at linebacker.


3rd – 94th – Terrance West, RB, Towson

A power back that will get you the tough yards in short yardage situations. Prefers to deliver the blow as opposed to taking it, but that was against smaller competition, we’ll see if he’s able to do the same in the NFL. Has a good stiff arm, catches the ball well and has good feet. Ball security must improve again against stronger competition and needs to work on his blocking.  –  Has a chance to be Ben Tate’s backup right away.


4th – 127th – Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

Was the small college defensive player of the year at Lindenwood. 25 career interceptions. Has good size at 6’1, plus long arms at 33 inches and enjoys contact. But is raw and didn’t play against elite competition often and when he did in the East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl he was very inconsistent.  –  Should help on special teams and the Browns will try and develop him in to a starter down the road.  



1st Round – 8thJustin Gilbert   – CB –   6-0, 200 – Oklahoma State (Trade down with Bills, up with Vikes)

The Browns and new head coach Mike Pettine pick up a major asset in Gilbert, making their defense that much more formidable. They’ll just have to hope the much-needed quarterback they desire is still there later in the first round. – Doug Farrar – SI.com


1st Round – 22ndJohnny Manziel   – QB   –   5-11, 210 – Texas A&M (Trade up with the Eagles)

Getting Manziel at this spot is a win for both sides. The Browns get the quarterback they so clearly need, and Manziel gets the pressure taken off a bit. The question is, who mentors him? New head coach Mike Pettine is a tough guy, Kyle Shanahan really isn’t, but the risk has been taken. The upside is enormous, and the potential pitfall is just as deep. – Doug Farrar – SI.com


2nd Round – 35 – Joel Bitonio   –   OT/OG   –    6-4, 315 – Nevada

Bitonio turns a solid spot — the offensive line — into an obvious strength for Cleveland. The versatile Nevada product could handle a starting guard job or bump Mitchell Schwartz inside from his RT tackle position. This draft spot is pretty fair for Bitonio’s talent level. But when are the Browns going to get Johnny Manziel a receiver, now that Josh Gordon may be done for the year? – Chris Burke – SI.com


3rd Round – 71 – Christian Kirksey   –   OLB   –  6-2, 220 – Iowa

A bit higher than Kirksey was projected to go, but he fits the mold of linebacker that the Browns want. He’s physical and can do a lot of different things on defense, including dropping effectively in coverage. Cleveland likely will slot him at an inside LB spot. – Chris Burke – SI.com


3rd Round – 94 – Terrance West   –   RB   –    5-11, 222 – Towson (Trade up with the 49ers)

Strength of opponent questions will undoubtedly dog West, but when you isolate his skillset, it becomes clear that the 5-11, 222-pound back can get to the edge in a big hurry, and has an impressive second burst for his size. West doesn’t have much of a learning curve. – Doug Farrar


Opening statement:

Farmer: “First and foremost, thank to everyone for hanging around late tonight. I know there’s been a lot of shocking supposedly news that we’re not going to comment on in regards to (Browns WR) Josh Gordon. We’re not going to comment on our players’ health status and anyone that’s on this roster. If there are any other questions pertaining to the draft we’ll be happy to answer those questions and move forward.”


On not answering players’ health statuses:

Farmer: “I think the regards of any players’ status, with regards to their contract or their health, it’s a private matter. To that end, I would say that it doesn’t behoove anyone if the player isn’t going to miss any time from any games that may be played.”


On the report that the Browns staff knew about Josh Gordon’s possible suspension before the draft:

Farmer: “I opened the press conference with the idea that we’re not going to comment about anything that has to do with Josh Gordon or any status of our players, in regards to their health.”


On why the Browns are not commenting on the reports in regards to Gordon:

Farmer: “To the end that the league has really stated what we can say and what we cannot say. Until we have definitive clarity as to what those things are, we’re going to remain silent.”


On if the reports affected how the Browns drafted players:

Farmer: “The reason why we pick and how we pick is truly predicated on our process. We go through the board, and again to add some clarity and some insight as to how the structure is worked or oriented – we organize the players, we rank them, we stack them, we stick to it. We believe in – you do the work for a reason. You take the best players available. You establish your team by going through that process and making sure you draft the best guys and how you had them ordered of who were the best players in college football.”


On if the reports regarding Gordon put a damper on what was a big day for the Browns:

Farmer: “I think it still is a big day for the Browns. We picked up three good football players. We went into this draft, and we had an opportunity to acquire players, and we did just that. The first young man that we took (OL) Joel Bitonio, is going to help this football team tremendously, as well as (LB) Christian Kirksey, as well as (RB) Terrance West.”


On if he is concerned with the depth at wide receiver:

Farmer: “I’m not concerned with my depth at wide receiver.”


On why the Browns haven’t drafted a wide receiver:

Farmer: “At the time that we made our selections, we took the best player available for what we wanted to do. There were players available, we stuck with our board, as we looked at that board when it was our turn to select, we took the name that was the best name for us at that time.”


On why he is not concerned with the depth at wide receiver:

Farmer: “I’m not concerned with the depth at wide receiver because we play games in September, and right now there’s still plenty of opportunity for us to acquire players and to make things happen. Whether its trades, whether it’s drafting someone the next day, whether it’s players that get cut or we acquire somebody from the street. There’s always opportunities to acquire players. From our prospective, that where we’re focused on is using every opportunity to acquire players that become available.”


On what they saw in West:

Farmer: “We saw a young man that was strong. He was tough. He was physical, and he played like a Brown. He embodied those properties that we talked about before. Not to be a tall back, he’s a shorter back, but he’s a thick-framed kid over 220-pounds. He ran well. He caught the ball well. He was able to demonstrate he could take contact and stay on his feet. He was also light-footed enough to make people miss. There were plenty of good things to like about Terrance West.”


On if acquiring tough players in the draft has been an emphasis:
 “Yeah, we have a plan of how we’re going to build this team. We’re going to build it on character. We’re going to build it on toughness. I think what we’ve done so far in this draft embodies that, and that was important to us, not just to talk about it. You’re not going to stand in front of a room and say, ‘Hey, let’s get tougher.’ What you do is you get tough people in that room. As we’ve said all along, that’s football, a tough sport for tough people, and we feel for us to compete in this division and in the NFL that that’s the model we’re going to take.”


On Kirksey’s ability to play inside or outside linebacker:

Pettine: “That’s one thing we like about him is his position flexibility. We’re in the business of adding outstanding football players who fit the ‘play like a Brown’ attributes, and we’ve always been one in our system to really cherish a player that can play multiple spots. He can play the MIKE, play the WILL, play outside on the edge if he had to. He has some strong safety type attributes, which I think today’s linebacker is something you’re looking for given the athletic tight ends and the spread formations you’re getting.”


On if Kirksey fits the mold of what he said previously about wanting more speed instead of size:

Pettine: “I think that’s fair to say, that you’re always looking to improve your speed, defensively, I think at certain positions that you’re willing to sacrifice speed because I also think that adding strength and adding bulk is among the easier things to do once a player gets to this level. It’s hard to get them significantly faster. We’d rather take the better athlete, the faster guy, and trust in our strength program and what we do nutritionally and in the training room that we can add that.”


On how RB Terrance West complements RB Ben Tate:

Pettine: “I think it will be a good mix. I think it’s very difficult in this league, especially in this division and especially in our mindset; we’re going to run the football to put all of that on one player. I think when you have guys who can play off of each other and feed the hot hand and have a guy go for a series or two and replace him, what’s nice about both of these guys is that they can both catch the ball so there’s no issue with this guy can’t be on the field on third down.”


On if it’s easier to project a running back from a small school’s NFL capabilities than other positions:

Farmer: “I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but I do think when you watch the tape, there are several opportunities that you can watch a guy like Terrance West play against bigger competition. I think that helps the projection some. When you get a guy that has opportunities, I’ll give the easiest example of Khalil Mack, how big of a prospect would Khalil Mack have been had he not played Ohio State and had that type of game in that situation? I think that when you see guys have these opportunities against the bigger schools and they demonstrate how they belong in that environment, it does make a little bit of the projection easier.”

On the need on the offensive line and where OL Joel Bitonio will play:

Pettine: “The great thing about Joel is that he has position versatility. He’s a guy we think can play all five spots. We’ll get him here and see what the best spot is for him. It’s likely at guard, but when you talk about Play Like a Brown and what we’re looking for in an offensive lineman, he truly embodies that. We wanted to upgrade our toughness, our nastiness and that’s one of the things that jumps off the tape when he plays.”


On comparing West to other running backs:

Farmer: “That’s interesting. I will tell you that the best attributes about this kid, again, he’s a shorter, more compact-frame kid. I don’t want to say he’s quite as short as… It’s kind of interesting because I actually piece guys together in my head. I don’t just give a simple comparison. He’s kind of like a Maurice Jones-Drew build, but he’s actually a slightly taller kid, but he’s got the same kind of thick-ish frame when you look at him – big legs, barrel-chested kind of kid – but he’s a nifty-footed kid. People are going to say it sounds like an egregious comparison, but he kind of has the (former NFL RB) Jerome Bettis nifty-footed guy kind of feel to him when you watch him play.”


On where running backs were selected in 2014 was a result of the class or the position and how the position is currently valued:

Farmer: “That’s a really interesting question because when you look at that fact, a lot of running backs didn’t go. After they did start to go, there’s always a thing that we call “runs”. They started to make a run on running backs, and even the linebacker crew, there were no real linebackers selected after the first two, as far as guys who were considered inside guys that play stacked and off the ball. There was a wide gap, I guess, in the league’s view of the top two guys in (Ravens LB) C.J. Mosley and (Steelers LB) Ryan Shazier that went early and then you through a lull of those guys not going. It could speak to the fact that people thought this draft was deeper in other areas and people wanted to make sure they capitalized on those other players sooner, but eventually like you saw here recently, there was a big push in both the linebackers and the running backs to try to catch those numbers up to some of the league averages that usually exist.”


On if the Browns hesitated to trade in the third round, considering the number of picks it left for Rounds 4-7:

Farmer: “I don’t think there was any hesitation. I think that at the end of the day, the object of the draft is to get good football players. In a general context, the closer you are to the front, supposedly, the better chance you have at the talent that is available. From our perspective, we took an opportunity to get a young man that we thought really was going to go soon. Getting back into the back end of the third round, we had an inkling that other teams were going to try to circle the wagons on (RB Terrance West) when it got to the compensatory picks and so we felt that we needed to jump back in before he disappeared and we had a chance to select him at 106.”


On when the Browns may have clarity on Gordon’s status:

Farmer: “Again, I don’t know the answer to that question so whenever we do have clarity, we will definitely express our sentiments then.”


On explaining why the team hasn’t shared more information on Burleson or Gordon:

Farmer: “I would tell folks that until I have something to tell them, there’s nothing I can say.”


On not providing more information on Burleson’s reported injury status:

Farmer: “I will tell you that in the context of what we’re doing, Nate Burleson is not going to miss any games for our football team. Does it really matter if he was here or if he was missing or if he decided not to come to the offseason program at all? The two are somewhat in my mind really not that big of a deal of where the guy is going to be in training camp. Is he going to be available to play and practice? If those things are legitimate, then I don’t know if they really matter for us to get into what the details are.”


On if Burleson will participate in mandatory minicamp:

Farmer: “Again, we’re not going to comment on players and what their statuses are.”

Pettine: “The league doesn’t require us to discuss injuries at this point.”


On spending time with Manziel today:

Pettine: “I did. He had an excellent visit.”


On learning about Manziel today:

Pettine: “To me, it was more about starting to go in-depth with some of the football stuff. We had a pretty good feel for what he knew football-wise, but I think we were more interested in Johnny the person during that process. I didn’t personally get much of a chance to speak football with him yet, the coaches did. In the brief amount of time I got with him today, we got into some of the stuff that he was taught, some of the stuff that he enjoys doing football-wise.”


On a concern with media, particularly entertainment media, scrutinizing Manziel as a face of the franchise, specifically referencing the TMZ photos with champagne:

Farmer: “Anytime you have a celebrity or you’re popular, there’s going to be people following you and giving you unwanted attention. I think there are definitely opportunities. The average person has had champagne or has drunk out of a bottle, but they just don’t get pictures taken of them. The fact that he is that and he knows what his celebrity is or his star, he’s going to have to learn to understand that people are going to follow him and take pictures of him. He’ll get there. I said this the other day: He’s had a steep learning curve with regard to how quickly popularity and fame can affect someone’s life. When a guy does things and the pictures surface, it’s a part of a process. To say that he’s completely the face of the franchise, I don’t know if that’s the case at this moment.”


On having a large gap between picks tomorrow and if he’s still looking to trade more picks:

Farmer: “Assuming someone would want to come and make a trade, we would definitely listen. If opportunities present themselves and there’s a trade that makes sense for us, then we’ll definitely look to potentially move a pick, move around or do the things we need to do to acquire the players that are available.”


On if this draft is deep enough to find starters through three rounds, and if Kirksey could be part of the rotation this year:

Pettine: “Our draft philosophy as we’ve already stated is to bring players in to compete. We’re not going to have players walk into jobs. We are confident that he will come in and be able to compete and be in a position to potentially win a starting job. We’re also very confident in the linebackers that we have here. The tremendous value where we had him rated on the board and where we took him, it was an outstanding pick for us. We’re looking forward to getting him here and seeing him go to work.”


On trades and watching the draft unfold during the past 24 hours:

Farmer: “It’s been painful. When you watch guys that you really want go, it’s not good to watch them go. There’s a reason you do all the work. There’s a part of being a scout that you start to endear yourself to certain guys. You like certain players. You want certain guys. Sometimes you watch guys go, and you (sighing noise) and you get the devastated look and the feel of ‘I wanted that one,’ but, there’s nothing you can do. All of the boards are different. All boards are completely different than everyone else’s in the league. To that end, I don’t know where the other 32 teams have a specific player ranked. As he comes up on our board, and we think there’s value there, we take him. That’s the same with everyone else. They look at the guy and they look at their board, and as those players fit their needs, their wants or desires, they make the selection. Oftentimes, there are names that get called that you were hoping, ‘Man I hope this guy lasts until this point or I hope he makes it to this point in the draft,’ and there are just opportunities where other teams valued that player higher than you did.”


On positiions of need that the the Browns may address tomorrow:

Farmer: “Getting a good football player and making sure that he’s the right type of guy for us. Again, the No. 1 thing I think we’ve been focused on is letting players come to us, staying focused on and relying on what we know about each guy, relying about what we know about each team, working the phones so that we understand what’s happening in and around that position that we may have to take a player and then making those adjustments. Like I said previously with Terrance West, we didn’t think he’d make it to 106. We wanted the player so we did what we had to go to make sure that we got the player. Those are the things that I think really come into play. When there’s an opportunity to make the selection or to put yourself in a position to make a selection, then you take those liberties and those chances when they’re available.”


On if it is optimal to acquire certain position players during the draft compared to others:

Farmer: “I think as we said, we’re going to stay focused on the board and let the players come to us as they come.”


On comments about doing backflips when DB Justin Gilbert was selected:

Pettine: “That wasn’t literal that was a metaphor (laughter).”


On the experience of watching the board and staying with the process:

Pettine: “The staff has done a good job, and I’ve tried to do it a little more subtle than the staff has as far as letting them know what positions we’d like. Ray’s been great in taking the input from the scouts, set the board and then adjusted it based on what the coaches saw. I think that this was an important year for that to happen given that it’s first year of new systems, where are idea of a SAM linebacker and a safety and an offensive guard and what those look like in our system. There are some subtle differences from team to team, and it was important for Ray. He was great with it to listen and take in that input and adjust the grades accordingly, and I think that he kind of leaned toward the coaches some in certain situations in knowing that we knew best what we were looking for system-wise. If you would’ve said to me that after two days of the draft that we’d be sitting with the guys that we got and the value that we got for those picks, I would’ve done two mental backflips instead of one.”


On Kirksey’s leadership traits:

Pettine: “Those were the things that we were looking for, a two year captain. Those are the things that you are looking for, the intangible stuff. I know that it’s a cliché and we use over and over again, but we truly look for those attributes. He’s passionate about football he loves football and that comes across very clearly when you talk to him, and that’s one of the reasons why we were thrilled to turn the card in.”


On evaluating the Bronws’ draft process as it related to trades and selecting Manziel:

Farmer: “We managed that situation very carefully. From the time that we made our selection of Justin, we had our eyes on multiple players. Johnny was in a bundle of guys, and as we went through that process, you know a team’s needs or you think you know a team’s needs and kind of where they may go or where they may strike. We worked through that process diligently of making phone calls, monitoring time on the clock and who could potentially trade, and it just really came down to just a final phone call with the Eagles to where we finally got that deal done. We monitored that situation from one point in the draft until we picked him.”


On being confident that there is currently a No. 2 receiver on the roster:

Farmer: “I do. I feel like there are multiple receivers that can have a chance to contribute to our team. In that I think that those guys that are here, as well as guys that may not be here, will have that chance. Yes, I do feel that we have a guy on the roster that can definitely contribute in that starting capacity.”