Joel Bitonio was arguably the most versatile offensive lineman available in the 2014 NFL Draft. Yet, despite his accomplishments at the University of Nevada, Bitonio was still available in the second round as the Cleveland Browns were on the clock. Perhaps dropping from the first round was somewhat justifiable given the amazing offensive line talent declaring for the draft this year, but Bitonio’s career definitely stacks up against all of them.
Starting his final 38 consecutive games for the Wolf Pack showed Bitonio’s amazing durability. Starting the first 26 at right tackle, the final 12 at left tackle and producing an astounding 58 touchdown-resulting blocks showed his remarkable versatility and productivity.
The only downside to Bitonio’s pre-draft resume was his relatively small-school status. Yet, anyone familiar with Nevada football is aware of their team’s reliance on physical, athletic offensive linemen. Bitonio matched that description impeccably, and while he was somewhat overlooked by NFL Draft pundits after his final snap with the Wolf Pack, he was considered a legitimate first-round talent by the day of the draft.
There really wasn’t a reason for Bitonio’s mild draft-day fall. Had quarterback Johnny Manziel been selected in the top ten as had originally been predicted, Cleveland might have taken Bitonio with their second of two first-round draft picks (the first being spent on CB Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State University). However, regardless of when he was selected, Bitonio may have ended up in the perfect situation.
Many see the Browns as a team on the rise. With the aforementioned Manziel being selected to be the quarterback of the future, as well as free agent running back addition Ben Tate and rookie back Terrance West rounding out an intriguing backfield, Cleveland’s offense has an awful lot of future potential to work with. Additionally, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is among the NFL’s best at his position when not suspended.
That certainly gives Bitonio an impressive surrounding cast. Also having All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas and Pro-Bowl center Alex Mack as potential mentors along the offensive line gives the young man from Nevada a great deal of knowledge and experience at his disposal. That, of course, is never a bad thing for a player with high expectations and lofty goals for themselves like being the Browns right tackle of the future.