Should Purple Jesus have been ... Brown Jesus? According to a former Cleveland Browns personnel executive, who spoke to Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer on the condition of anonymity (as most recent Browns personnel people should), the team erred mightily in 2007 by drafting Wisconsin left tackle Joe Thomas(notes) instead of Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson with the third overall pick. The Minnesota Vikings, of course, took Peterson with the seventh overall selection.
"In my mind, it was a no-brainer. Adrian Peterson was the best running back in high school football, the best running back in college football and now he's the best running back in the NFL. He was Rookie of the Year and led the NFL in rushing last season. We had a chance to draft the best player in the NFL outside of Peyton Manning(notes) and Tom Brady(notes) and we blew it.''
Mr. X may have been right about Peterson in the abstract, but he lost me when he started talking about moving guard Eric Steinbach(notes) to left tackle "because he was making left tackle money" with the seven-year, $49.5 million contract he signed in March of 2007. First, this was one year after the Steve Hutchinson(notes) poison pill fiasco, when teams were giving $49 million contracts to guards like Larry "Bud" Melman used to hand out hot towels at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Second, I did a film review of the Browns' 2007 offensive line over at Football Outsiders, and not only was Thomas was the most impressive player on that line, the Browns had bupkus for guards outside of Steinbach. In the game I reviewed, right guard Seth McKinney(notes) was overwhelmed by Seattle's front four.
Then, there's the matter of how Peterson fits with the Vikings. Bringing up Hutchinson's name is important here, because his presence is key in making the Vikings' offensive line the kind of power unit it needs to be for Peterson and battery mate Chester Taylor(notes) to spin all those nifty iso blasts and backdoor cuts into the open field. Even with Thomas and Steinbach, Cleveland's line didn't have that kind of push, and without Thomas, Peterson's hypothetical career in Cleveland could have been very different. Just ask Jamal Lewis(notes).