Haden was not the sexiest pick possible when the Browns picked. That honor would have gone to running back C.J. Spiller, who went two picks later to Buffalo. Or safety Eric Berry, who went two picks earlier to Kansas City.
Which meant that Haden, Spiller and Texas safety Eric Thomas were among the players the Browns discussed. But GM Tom Heckert said the team took the guy they liked best. It was a case of Heckert trying to avoid the one thing he learned he should not do when he was in Philadelphia: Reach for need.
"Compared to other players available, we just thought he was the best fit for us," Heckert said.
Coach Eric Mangini called it "a pretty easy decision."
Interesting, because the Browns have two corners in Eric Wright, whose play improved as 2009 progressed, and Sheldon Brown, acquired from the Eagles in the last month. Mangini said there is no immediate plan to move Brown to safety, and that he's happy to have three corners.
"I think the one thing that Joe does give us right away is some depth at the position," Mangini said.
The seventh pick in the draft a year ago, Darrius Heyward-Bey, received $23.5 million in guaranteed money from Oakland. Assuming Haden receives close to or a little more than that, that's a lot of money for "depth." The flip side: Mangini will never oversell a player.
Haden is a Brown because Berry is a Chief. It's no secret the Browns liked Berry a lot. Heckert admitted as much.
"I don't know what would have happened had both been there," Heckert said.
It's fair to say Berry would have been in Cleveland. Safety was a large need. So was offensive right tackle. and so was receiver. The Browns, though, drafted to the area where there is some need, but not as much as the other positions. Haden might join Wright to form a formidable young cornerback tandem, or he could be a nickel back, behind Brown.
Mangini called Haden "a green-sticker guy" who "can come in here and compete to start." Green sticker means he fits all the characteristics that Mangini likes: smart, tough, hard-working, competitive, selfless ... a guy football means something to.
Those are all good traits.
Tim Tebow visit on the same day, and Tebow gave Haden a glowing review. But Haden was dogged in the pre-draft process by his 40-yard-dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Reports had him running in the 4.52-to-4.58 second range, which is not considered adequate for NFL corners.
But Heckert said Haden ran in the combine with a back injury, and he ran because he had committed to running and didn't want to back out because of the injury. Heckert saw that as a positive. Haden said he strained his back working out -- his father is his workout coach -- prior to the Combine, and aggravated it at the Combine.
The Browns attended Florida's Pro Day on March 17, and were satisfied with Haden's times, which were reported in the 4.45-to-4.48 range.
"He's fast," Heckert said.
Haden started in 40 games at Florida, and was a consensus All-America as a junior, his final year. He played quarterback in high school, and competed to play wide receiver as a Gator.
History would say the pick should not have been a surprise. Heckert took Lito Shepherd and Brown in his first draft in Philadelphia, and Mangini took Darrelle Revis in his second draft with the Jets.
The pick came after many reports that the Browns were trying to trade up to acquire the first overall pick. Team president Mike Holmgren said on ESPN he'd offer many of his picks to St. Louis so he could draft quarterback Sam Bradford, and ESPN reported the Browns had called St. Louis shortly before the draft started.
But a source close to Bradford told Fanhouse's Dan Graziano in New York that the Browns were never truly in the chase for Bradford. And Heckert downplayed any possibilities.
"We talked to (St. Louis)," Heckert said. "But that's about it."
When the Browns placed the call to Haden to tell him they were taking him, he shed what he called "tears of joy."
"I loved Cleveland when I was there (attention: Joakim Noah) and I was just happy that they liked me enough to draft me," Haden said. "On the phone (Mangini) told me, 'You're on TV so try and smile for us.'"