It's possible that a few years down the road, one of the great picks of the 2012 NFL draft will prove to be someone who wasn't even picked in the regular draft.
Browns receiver Josh Gordon was taken in the second round of the supplemental draft in July, nearly three months after the regular NFL draft. After a slow start, Gordon is starting to deliver on the promise he showed at Baylor.
To review, players land in the supplemental draft for a variety of reasons, often complicated and rarely good. In Gordon's case, he had starred alongside Robert Griffin III at Baylor in 2010, catching 42 passes for 714 yards and 10 touchdowns. But then he was suspended from the team for failing a marijuana test and ultimately transferred to Utah. He sat out the 2011 season as a transfer, and then left Utah and threw his name into the supplemental draft.
In the supplemental draft, a team can pick an available player in any round, but the the team forfeits the corresponding pick in the following season's regular draft.
Gordon, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, was seen as having a lot of athleticism and good hands, but he also had off-field baggage and had been away from the game for a year. Most pundits projected him as a third- or fourth-round supplemental pick, but the Browns jumped in and used a second-round pick on him.
"We are getting a really good football player and we are getting him a year early," Browns general manager Tom Heckert said at the time. "I think next year we will be sitting there going, 'Wow.' If he plays like we think he is going to play this year, I think it will obviously be a good decision."
Supplemental picks have rarely proved to be top-of-the-depth-chart talent, but the Browns clearly think Gordon can be the exception, as was another former Browns supplemental draft pick -- quarterback Bernie Kosar.
Gordon was not a factor in the first meeting between the Ravens and Browns, with just one catch for 16 yards. But since then, he has become one of quarterback Brandon Weeden's favorite targets.
Gordon has had four touchdown catches in the past four games and leads the team with 379 receiving yards. He is averaging 22.3 yards a catch and has given a spark to a Browns passing attack that the past few years has been hurt by receivers prone to dropping passes.
Ravens corners, particularly Jimmy Smith, have struggled defending the double move up the sideline, and you can bet the Browns and Gordon have noticed that on film.
“I think he’s shown me that he’s got a chance to be a pretty darn good player," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "Now, how far he goes with that we’ll see, but I’m seeing steady improvement. I think it’s fair to say the light has gone on a little bit."