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Thread: The Browns' Draft: Picks, Analysis, and the Future

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    The Browns' Draft: Picks, Analysis, and the Future

    With the 248th selection, the second draft under the Holmgren Junta is complete. This offseason, with addition of new coach Pat Shurmur, should mark the beginning of a transition in earnest toward the West Coast system and the re-institution of a 4-3 defense. I'll try to give an even-handed appraisal of the moves, what we can expect, and what we have yet to learn. I hope everyone enjoys it and can fill in the gaps I'll no doubt leave.

    Round One

    The Trade: This may be looked back on fondly one day as a move that helped the Browns turn the corner and come back into contention in the brutal AFC North. I agreed with every premise of the move. There were four truly elite players that were worth the sixth pick (or higher) in this draft (and I list them in no particular order): A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus, and Patrick Peterson. At #6, the Browns needed two teams to reach for a quarterback for one of them--any of whom would have filled a position of need for the club--to fall to them, and only one of them did. Their discipline, as it turned out, was our gain. The Falcons gave us a king's ransom. Their first round picks in 2011 and 2012, their second rounder in 2011, and their fourth round positions in both 2011 and 2012. A beautiful spot for the team to be in, and it signals an opportunity to make a real move toward contention in the 2012 season if McCoy turns out to be the quarterback, and a real opportunity to secure a high-pick quarterback in a deeper class if this season exposes immutable flaws. All in all, an excellent move.

    Round 1, Pick 21 (and the trade): Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor)

    Taylor is an enormous man at 6'3", 334 lbs. The Browns traded back up to #21 in order to take him, almost immediately after Iowa's Adrian Clayborn went off the board to Tampa Bay at #20. When they traded down to #27, I thought they might be targeting Clayborn or Cameron Heyward (DL, Ohio State); it would seem that I was right about Clayborn and wrong about Heyward (who will probably turn out to be a fine player in a few years in Pittsburgh). It looks as though the Browns had two defensive linemen they liked in Clayborn and Taylor, and when one went off the board they took the steps they felt they needed to take in order to ensure they got him. It may have needlessly cost them a third round pick, but they had that luxury after the trade with Atlanta netted them a virtual third rounder. They're putting together a stout middle of the defense, with Ahtyba Rubin and Taylor. I am a bit leery of having two NTs in the middle of 4-3, but this should help the team stop the run, a glaring weakness of the defense late in games last season.

    Round 2, Pick 37: Jabaal Sheard (DE, Pittsburgh)

    At 6'3"/264, Sheard projects as a defensive end, I think, and should have an immediate impact as rush end. The Browns chose not to gamble on Da'quan Bowers' knee here, and this conservative pick isn't sexy, but he was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East. An AFCA first team All-American, the Browns pick a dependable pass rusher should benefit from all the blocks eaten by Rubin and Taylor. The team doubled the size of the defensive line with these first two selections, and should boost a flagging pass rush and plug the center. A solid selection that won't turn heads, but probably won't bite them, either.

    Round 2, Pick 59: Greg Little, (WR, North Carolina)

    As someone who has agitated for a wide receiver for the last three seasons, I am ecstatic with this pick. At nearly 6'3", 220 lbs., he has great size for a receiver in a town like Cleveland with an open-air stadium late in the season. He has great skill, a really graceful player who would have projected a first-rounder had he played this season. With the selection of Little, who was suspended for the 2010 season for lying to the NCAA about some benefits he received, this means the Browns have drafted three players with 'character issues' in their past: Taylor was involved in a fight at a fraternity house when he played at Penn State before transferring to Baylor; Sheard in a fight in Pittsburgh as well; Little with 'improper' benefits. The Browns snagged a receiver who truly does have the potential to be a star in a few years if he develops. His highlight video on NFL.com will give you an indication of the type of potential he has as a player. Let's just hope he's in playing shape.

    The Browns had no picks in Round 3.

    Round Four, Pick 102: Jordan Cameron (TE, Southern Cal)

    Cameron is a large, pass-catching tight end whose 6'5", 254 lbs. body should serve him well in the West Coast system. He is an interesting prospect, and his selection ahead of several other prospects like Sam Acho out of Texas and Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State, tells us a bit of what the Browns are thinking as well. Evan Moore is not the most durable player, Ben Watson is probably seen as a temporary solution (with injury skeletons in his own closet, as well), and don't even get me started on the now-released Robert Royal, who may have been the worst free agent acquisition of all time. So, Cameron could emerge as a real weapon in McCoy's arsenal sooner than later, as the team looks to add dimension to their passing game.

    Round 4, Pick 124: Owen Marecic (FB, Stanford)

    You may remember Marecic from the Orange Bowl (when you weren't drooling over Andrew Luck) as ESPN promoted him as an old-timey, two-way player who started at both fullback and linebacker. As a pure blocker, this suggests that Lawrence Vickers (who I think is a restricted free agent this year) could be on his way out. The Browns will now have two blocking fullbacks, and in addition plan to use Peyton Hillis more at the position once Montario Hardesty comes back (hopefully) from his knee injury. He could also play a role on special teams as a blocker and tackler, given his background. He stands 6'1", 248.

    Round 5, Pick 137: Buster Skrine (CB, Tennessee-Chattanooga)

    Skrine has a great name (at least I think so), and he ran a 4.22/40 at UT-Chat (but 4.48 at the Combine makes this information questionable). Either way, he has great on the field speed, but is only 5'10", 186 and could have problems with big receivers. He adds depth at the corner position and could be featured in nickel and dime packages, as well as in the return game. The Browns needed depth at the cornerback position, as Joe Haden is developing nicely, but Sheldon Brown's advancing age and Eric Wright's inconsistent play have been troubling.

    Round 5, Pick 150: Jason Pinkston (OT, Pittsburgh)

    The big fella is 6'3", 317 lbs. with a 34" reach. He's the second Panther the Browns have selected, I would expect him to be groomed to play on the suspect right side of our offensive line. The left side is solid with Thomas and Steinbach, and Alex Mack is developing into a nice anchor at center; the Browns struggled to both run the ball and protect McCoy on the right side. I anticipate the Browns to tab second year player Shaun Lauvao as the starting right guard, a third round selection from last year who missed a lot of the season with personal issues and nagging injuries. Tony Pashos should return at right tackle, but I think Pinkston could be developed as a starter within a year or two.

    The Browns had no picks in Round 6.

    Round 7, Pick 248: Eric Hagg (S, Nebraska)

    For a second straight year, the Browns spend a late round pick on a safety from Nebraska (last year, they selected Larry Asante, who failed to make the team). A unanimous all-Big 12 selection in 2010, the 6'1", 209 lbs. Hagg should provide flexible depth in the defensive backfield behind emerging T.J. Ward. He demonstrated the ability to play nickelback at Nebraska, as well, may be able to contribute on obvious passing downs as well as in the kicking game.

    The Punchline

    The Browns address serious needs at wide receiver and on the defensive line and in the secondary. They failed to fill holes at linebacker, and have yet to develop or draft a potential 3rd down back for their offense, both of which they should shop the free agent market for once that activity is, you know, legal again. This draft sets the stage for continued improvement in 2011. Though the Browns have posted back-to-back 5-11 records, the team was clearly more competitive and played a much more difficult schedule in 2010 as compared to 2009; they were destined to lose games because they made costly mistakes. They turned the ball over too much, committed too many penalties, and did not tackle well enough to stop the run in big situations. The Browns' receiving corps, too, failed to get open against press coverage. These picks address as many of those issues as can be addressed in a draft, and the new program as well as a more favorable schedule should produce more wins and more confidence in 2011. The Browns are in a position to make a move to contend in 2012 if McCoy shows signs of developing into a franchise quarterback. If not, they are in quite the position to offer a substantial package for the right to draft Andrew Luck--if Holmgren believes the quarterback is the one piece missing.

    Post-draft Free Agents the Browns should (eventually) consider:

    Armando Allen (RB, Notre Dame)
    Brandon Saine (RB, Ohio State)
    Graig Cooper (RB, Miami)
    Andre Holmes (WR, Hillsdale)
    Terence Tolliver (WR, Louisiana State)
    Daniel Ziemba (OL, Auburn)
    Mark Herzlich (LB, Boston College)
    Jeremiha Hunter (LB, Iowa)
    Kendric Burney (CB, North Carolina)
    Deunta Williams (CB, North Carolina)
    Devon Torrence (CB, Ohio State)
    Deandre McDaniel (S, Clemson)
    Jeron Johnson (S, Boise State)

    Let me know if you think I'm overlooking anyone or anything. I don't think I looked at things through rose-tinted glasses, though.
    Last edited by mkocs6; 04-30-2011 at 09:47 PM. Reason: dates
    @kocsan

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    Great analysis - God I hope your optimism is well placed.

    The trade with the Falcons will hopefully be talked about for years. Atlanta acted like they've travelled 20 years into the future and seen his plaque in canton.

    As for Taylor - don't be leery about having two NTs on the line. It worked for the Vikings for a few years, and at the very least, they can spell each other and stay as fresh as a 340 pound man can be during the 4th quarter. Let's just see Ray Rice deal with 680 pounds on the nose.

    and I just watched Little's highlight reel and am thinking of ordering his shirt already. If McCoy doesn't flare out, this could be a fun season.

  3. #3
    I'm not as optimistic about the drafted players, but yes the haul the Browns received should improve this team immensely for this and next year. Personally, I think the way to go is to have a 3-4 defense. IMO, in today's game, only a 4-3 Tampa 2 type defense can work if you have 4 dominant down linemen. If you can get pressure with 4 guys rushing, then your defense could be good. If not, I believe the whole system will be subpar.

    A 3-4 by its nature causes more confusion is why I prefer it. Phil Taylor is going to occupy the Gilbert Brown spot in Holmgren's defense. He'd be an ideal nosegaurd in a 3-4 (just sayin).

    Greg Little is a "Head Case" with a capital H & C. There is no doubt that he has T.O. ability, but he also has T.O. drama as well. How about that, another T.O.! Let's hope for the Brown's case that he produces like the real T.O. Otherwise, you're looking at a stick of locker room dynamite with a short fuse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ripperlicious View Post
    I'm not as optimistic about the drafted players, but yes the haul the Browns received should improve this team immensely for this and next year. Personally, I think the way to go is to have a 3-4 defense. IMO, in today's game, only a 4-3 Tampa 2 type defense can work if you have 4 dominant down linemen. If you can get pressure with 4 guys rushing, then your defense could be good. If not, I believe the whole system will be subpar.

    A 3-4 by its nature causes more confusion is why I prefer it. Phil Taylor is going to occupy the Gilbert Brown spot in Holmgren's defense. He'd be an ideal nosegaurd in a 3-4 (just sayin).
    In general, I agree with you about the merits of the 3-4. I think with Mangini out of the picture, though, the Holmgren Junta is not comfortable with evaluating talent for that defense--for a 3-4, you require a lot of highly intelligent players with hybrid skill sets, and it's not easy to get it right. The Browns had been attempting to build a 3-4 front since 2005, and it hadn't gone terribly well. I think four down linemen can still work in the NFL. The Eagles' defense, with which Heckert is most familiar, runs an aggressive 4-3 scheme that works quite well.

    Taylor is an ideal 3-4 NT, and Rubin could play on the strong end in a heavy 3-4 package. I think the Browns expect to use multiple fronts, and wouldn't be surprised if we see some 3DL formations throughout the year, especially with the increasing number of nickel and dime packages necessarily to cover offenses in the modern NFL. But, having the big guys to stop the run when we put all those DBs on the field is a comfort.

    Greg Little is a "Head Case" with a capital H & C. There is no doubt that he has T.O. ability, but he also has T.O. drama as well. How about that, another T.O.! Let's hope for the Brown's case that he produces like the real T.O. Otherwise, you're looking at a stick of locker room dynamite with a short fuse.
    This may be so. But the business of college football has gotten so blown up that we sometimes forget these guys are 19, 20 years old. It's easy to be a jackass when you're that age, and I can say so with some authority because I'm not that far removed from it and remember a bit more about it than I wish I did sometimes. Now, he may stay moody and temperamental well into his twenties, but he's still a developing player. He moved from runningback to wide receiver in college with great success, and he's highly advanced for someone who's theoretically still learning the position. The skill is there.

    The other thing we shouldn't overlook is that this is a guy who's actually paid a penalty for his actions. Everyone reacts to that differently, and we'll have to wait and see how he comports himself now.
    @kocsan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
    Great analysis - God I hope your optimism is well placed.

    The trade with the Falcons will hopefully be talked about for years. Atlanta acted like they've travelled 20 years into the future and seen his plaque in canton.

    As for Taylor - don't be leery about having two NTs on the line. It worked for the Vikings for a few years, and at the very least, they can spell each other and stay as fresh as a 340 pound man can be during the 4th quarter. Let's just see Ray Rice deal with 680 pounds on the nose.

    and I just watched Little's highlight reel and am thinking of ordering his shirt already. If McCoy doesn't flare out, this could be a fun season.
    Yeah, I'm obviously looking for upside potential here, but I think this is one draft where basically everyone makes the team and contributes something just because of the lack of a free agency period where a lot of veterans can fill in and claim roster spots. I think they grabbed two immediate starters in this draft, and that Little will be the 3WR at the beginning of the season, moving his way up the ladder by the end. The rest of these players are a little longer term projects or situational players, but I think Cameron (who is a former basketball player, by the way), Marecic, and Skrine can and will contribute this year.

    It should be a fun season.
    @kocsan

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