Thursday, July 14, 2011

KD's NFL Draft Grades - Cleveland Browns

The Browns were involved in the league's biggest 1st round trade, with Atlanta, who moved up to select Juilo Jones. The Browns the made another trade to move back up to the 21st spot, held by the Chiefs, by giving up a 3rd round selection. The Browns of course are transitioning from Eric Mangini's 3-4 defense to a 4-3 under new head coach Pat Shurmer. Anytime you have a team trying to make a huge transitition like that, it's usually a 2 year process at minimum; though it is a little easier to go from a 3-4 to a 4-3 than the other way around. The Browns had the leagues 31st ranked offense last year despite pulling off to major upsets, beating the Patriots and the Saints behind rookie QB Colt McCoy. The Browns managed to get him a few new weapons after upgrading their D-line. Let's see what they did.

1st round, 21st overall) Phil Taylor - DT - Baylor
Given the Browns traded down a few years ago and took C Alex Mack, it's not really a surprise they went with his counterpart on the other side of the line, even though the front office is different. Taylor himself was a bit of a head-scratcher as many people had him pegged as a 3-4 NT, and a lot of people had him going to Kansas City, who traded out of this spot. However, with Shaun Rogers taking off to New Orleans prior to the lockout, the Browns need a big body in the middle to go next to Ahtyba Rubin.

How he fits in: Taylor is massive, standing 6'4" and is down to 334lbs, yes, down to 334lbs. He's a big guy who can occupy blockers and take up double-teams, much the way Rubin already did as the Browns NT last year. Taylor's stamina isn't that great, and he's battled a sprained knee and turf toe already in his career. He should definitely push for a starting spot as a rookie, but he'll be rotated in and out of the lineup more than Rubin will be until he gets his weight fully in check.

Outlook:: For as big a trade as the Browns made, they're not really getting anything new. In reality, they're just reinforcing the interior of their 4-3 defensive line by putting him next to Rubin. Taylor's physical style of play will keep people from getting to the linebackers at the next level. All things considered though, the Browns could've taken Cameron Jordan or Da'Quan Bowers to upgrade their pass-rush. Even Julio Jones at 6 if they had stayed put would've been really nice for Colt McCoy. So, Taylor's going to have to make an impact to make that trade stand up.

2nd round, 37th overall) Jabaal Sheard - DE - Pittsburgh
Again, the Browns passed on Da'Quan Bowers here, fearing his surgically repaired knee and taking Jabaal Sheard over him. An underrated prospect who didn't garner the same headlines as Pitt teammate Greg Romeus, Sheard was often the better player and had a nice career across from Romeus. Sheard was a three year starter for the Panthers and won the 2010 Big East Defensive Player of the Year Award. He's got good size 6'2" 264lbs, and is pretty athletic and had a lot of 3-4 teams interested in him as an outside linebacker. Registered at least 10TFL s and 5 sacks in each of his three years as a starter and had 14.5 TFLs and 9 sacks as a senior. He should win one of the starting DE spots for the Browns as a rookie.

2nd round, 59th overall) Greg Little - WR - North Carolina
Adding another receiver was imperative for the Browns and they got a pretty good one late in the second round. Little came to Chapel Hill as a receiver, was then converted to running back, and went back to reciever in 2009. He is one of the most physical receivers in the Draft, but he also sat out the 2010 season while suspended for improper dealings with an agent. He also saw some time on the Tar Heels basketball team in 2007. At 6'2" 231lbs he's built more like a running back than receiver, and while he's certainly not a deep threat, he's a good all-around player whose well suited for the west coast offense. His best football is still ahead of him at receiver.

4th round, 102nd overall) Jordan Cameron - TE - USC
Ben Watson had a revival year last year under coordinator Brian Daboll, who is now gone. Alex Smith and Evan Moore are decent depth, but all three players are more plodders and better blockers than they are receivers. Watson's the best of the bunch, but he'll turn 31 this year. Cameron, a TE whose stock was rising after a good showing at the Combine is a guy who can stretch the seasm. A former basketball player at BYU, Cameron was the Trojans second TE as a senior after playing two years as a backup wide receiver. He's got excellent size at 6'5" 254lbs and clocked a 4.59 forty time in Indy. He's a "potential" pick as he only had 16 career receptions at USC, all coming as a senior. It is worrisome that his ypc average is just a paltry 7.6 for someone with his athleticism; only 1 TD in his career.

4th round, 124th overall) Owen Marecic - FB/LB - Stanford
The Browns want to move on from the style of FB that Lawrence Vickers is and want to bring in a banger to lead block for Peyton Hillis. Vickers, more of a receiving FB/H-Back hybrid was a decent blocker, but they didn't get the most out of his versatility. Marecic, who played both FB and ILB for the Cardinal, is probably the best blocking FB to come out in the Draft this year. Marecic has good size at 6'0" 248lbs and is definitely a throwback type of player. He's decent in short yardage situations and gives you a little something in the receiving game, though make no mistake, his job is going to be to open holes for Peyton Hillis. That said, it's a little early to take a FB in the 4th round, but given the style of offense the Browns will have, it makes sense.

5th round, 137th overall) Buster Skrine - CB - Tennessee-Chattanooga
Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, and Coye Francies give the Browns three nice prospects at CB, and they have some developmental prospects in DeAngelo Smith and Ramzee Robinson. That said, the ability to improve the depth in the secondary is a thing Cleveland wanted to address and did so with Skrine. An undersized corner at 5'9" 186lbs, Skrine has timed in the 4.3's despite running an official 4.48 forty. He was a three year starter at UTC, whose most famous football alum is Terrell Owens, and while his tape, by all accounts is pretty average, his workouts are outstanding. He might have been overdrafted, but he could push for a dime spot as a rookie and may offer something as a backup kick returner to Josh Cribbs.

5th round, 150th overall) Jason Pinkston - T - Pittsburgh
Having to play John St. Clair at RT is no fun for any team, and the Browns tried to find his immediate replacement here with Jason Pinkston. A left tackle at Pitt, Pinkston is built more like a G at 6'3" 317lbs, but he still might have a home at RT in the NFL given the likes of smaller, physical guys who've succeeded there in Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, both Ravens, and even a younger Mark Tauscher for the Packers. Pinkston should push St. Clair and Tony Pashos for the RT spot, and may even slide inside to challenge Floyd Womack at RG if he can't make a push on the outside. An experienced player, Pinkston's a bit of an underachiever and has shorter arms than you'd like. Cousin of former Eagles receiver Todd Pinkston.

7th round, 248th overall) Eric Hagg - S - Nebraska
T.J. Ward might've made as big an impact as a rookie S of any player since his former Oregon teammate Jarius Byrd a few seasons ago. Sabby Piscatelli and Abram Elam both struggled at the SS spot and neither may be long for a starter's role. Hagg, a player with decent size at 6'1" 209lbs, was a two and a half year starter for the Cornhuskers and has experience at both CB and S. It was a S where he made his biggest impact as a senior playing next to Prince Amukamara. Hagg notched 49 tackles, a sack, two hurries, 4 PBUs and 5 INTs to win Nebraska's Defensive MVP Award. He's played a combination of safety and nickel corner, so he offers some versatility with where you can play him. He should be able to unseat one of the Browns backups in the secondary and find a role to contribute in as a rookie.

Overall Grade: B-
Other than the big trade with the Falcons, the Browns had an under-the-radar type of draft. Nothing too flashy, just meat and potatoes at positions of need. Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard should both start and will have every chance to make an immediate impact as rookies. Greg Little should fill a role, but isn't the deep threat the Browns needed, nor is he the true #1 WR that the Browns could've had if they kept that 6th overall pick and selected Julio Jones. Owen Marecic will be a nice lead blocker for Peyton Hillis and will fill some roles on special teams and can even double as a LB if needed, though it's pretty early to spend a 4th round pick on an offensively one-dimensional FB. Skrine might have been overdrafted as well, but he and Eric Hagg could push for certain roles in the secondary as rookies. Pinkston could play either RT or RG, but must play up to his potential. I think the Browns had a lot of chances to add more talent to their roster, but went conservative in many cases and didn't get enough back in the Falcons trade to warrant a higher grade from me.

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