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While a year ago, Browns fans agreed nearly unanimously that Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren were excellent at identifying and selecting talent in the draft, folks now seem to be divided on whether or not "Team Walrus" is really all that good at hitting the jackpot on draft day.
Personally I find all the ship-jumping premature and think the Browns front office, despite whatever else they do wrong, does continue to draft well. Sure, they've had some missed opportunities here and there over the last two drafts, but you would be hard pressed to find a team that hasn't.
While this year's class failed to produce an instant star like the 2010 class did with Joe Haden, several of the team's rookies did play notably well for NFL first-timers.
We'll start with WR Greg Little, who is obviously still very raw, but showed some legitimate potential as a pass-catcher despite the offense's largely disastrous season. Little still needs to clean up his game quite a bit, but the raw talent is there and most of his flaws are inexperience-related and correctable. He should be a solid No. 2 receiver before long.
While he only saw limited action, CB Buster Skrine showed a lot of potential. And while he could obviously use a stricter fitness regimen, DT Phil Taylor looks like he has a pretty high ceiling as well.
OT Jason Pinkston, oft maligned along with the rest of the sputtering offensive line, also actually did a pretty decent job considering he was asked to step in and start as a rookie despite not necessarily projecting as a starter at all, even down the road. No one is suggesting Pinkston is the answer to any of the line's problems going forward as a starter, but he's already proven he'll be valuable for depth.
And finally, the Browns' rookie standout of the season, DE Jabaal Sheard. As an early second-round pick, Sheard has turned out to be better than advertised and better than his draft slot would seem to indicate. While we have to qualify (at least to a degree) most of the positive statements we make about the other 2011 rookies, Sheard needs no excuses made for him.
His only errors and shortcomings were those typical of a rookie in his position who is still learning. His aggression, nose for the ball and stamina proved to be excellent.