Last week, with Question No. 1, we addressed the Cleveland RFA and UFA situation.
This week, since the combine started today, we're going to look at the draft and what Cleveland could do.
So, let's get right to it.
Question No. 2: What does/should Cleveland do in the 2010 NFL draft?
I believe it’s fair to say that this is probably one of the most (if not the most) critical drafts in Cleveland Browns history. And as I’ve stated previously, it is critically important that the Browns “hit” on, at the very minimum, eight players in this draft.
The Browns currently have 11 selections in the 2010 draft available to bolster the current roster.
But, they cannot afford misses, even with 11 picks.
Eight players selected from this draft need to develop into contributing members of the team in the coming two years.
There are holes in basically every level of the defense from the D-Line, to the LB and DB spots.
Also, there are several areas of the offense that need to be addressed as well. Namely RT, WR, and TE.
Recently, all the talk has been about Eric Berry and Joe Haden, with Oklahoma State's WR Dez Bryant emerging as a candidate as well.
But, if I'm in Mike Holmgren's seat come draft day, I think the player they have to take at No. 7 overall, if he’s available, is Eric Berry.
The DB issues cannot be understated at this point and must be addressed either through the draft or through free agency.
As for Berry, he's a game changing safety that does everything very well—and some things (hitting, finding the ball, and pressuring the QB) excellently. He is considerably better than any other safety in this draft.
If for some reason he’s gone (which is possible), that will open up a multitude of options, all of which are worth considering. Perhaps they move down, or perhaps they choose Haden or Bryant.
To me though, I think the move becomes a trade down to select Donovan Warren or Kyle Wilson (both CBs) later and get talent basically equal to that of Joe Haden.
That move not only saves money, but it opens the possibility of acquiring more selections. And that is always a good thing.
Many will disagree with this stance, but my reasoning is simple.
As good of a player as Joe Haden is, to select a CB that high (No. 7 overall) is a very scary proposition.
No one wants to be the guy that let the proverbial “big one” get away. But then again, no one wants to be the one who drafted a “sure thing” who turns out to be the DB version of Ryan Leaf, either.
Recent history has shown us that CB’s in the top 10 are a crap shoot (see Tye Hill, Pacman Jones, and countless others taken there that have become marginal players), while guys selected later (Darrell Revis, Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Antonio Cromartie) have become Pro Bowl players.
Not to mention, paying No. 7 money to any DB outside of Eric Berry, who is considered the No. 1 DB in this years draft, doesn’t make much sense. So, the Browns can trade down, acquire a pick, and select Donovan Warren from Michigan or Kyle Wilson from Boise State and get basically an identical talent base for less money. They at least need to think about that.
All of this, however, may be a moot point. I really don’t see, right now anyway, where Eric Berry comes off the board before No. 7. Here’s how I think the first 10 go in the 2010 draft….
1. St. Louis Rams —Marc Bulger is as good as gone, especially since he’s owed $8.5 million on March 5, 2010 and has had so many injuries. That means there are only two QB’s on St. Louis’ roster (Keith Null and Kyle Boller).
Boller is a UFA and could sign elsewhere. They could acquire Mike Vick, but that still isn’t who or what the Rams need as a starting QB.
Regardless, in having such limited talent, they’ll be looking hard at a QB. I believe they will take either Jimmy Claussen or Sam Bradford because, frankly, they NEED one of them.
Pick: Jimmy Claussen, QB, Notre Dame
2. Detroit Lions —Last season they got their franchise QB and this time will be looking on the defensive side of the ball—although I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved down. That said, if they keep No. 2 overall, the only selection they can make here is the best player available in the 2010 NFL draft.
It’s a no-brainer for the Detroit brass.
Pick: Ndamukong Suh, DL, Nebraska
3. Tampa Bay —Tampa is a threat to select Eric Berry at No. 3 overall, because their defensive backfield is a mess right now (aside of Tiki Barber's brother). That said, their D-Line issues are even worse than their DB needs. That’s why I think they will address the D-Line with this pick and possibly get a DB or S in the second round.
Not to mention, Raheem Morris has publicly lauded Dawan Landry and Atari Bigby, meaning that Tampa could address their S needs via free agency.
Pick: Gerald McCoy, DL, Oklahoma
4. Washington Redskins —This is a simple forecast. Mike Shanahan has already stated he’s looking at a QB and I believe that’s what he does at this pick. Jason Campbell will be tendered and play for the Skins next season and, during that time, they’ll be grooming the QB of the future.
The transition will be similar to what happened in Denver with Cutler/Plummer. OT is a need as well but, as we all know, new regimes mean new QB’s, and I don’t see that changing here.
Pick: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
5. Kansas City Chiefs —The Chiefs have many needs at many positions across the board. However, I don't think any of them is more important than protecting Matt Cassel and, in order to do that, they'll have to draft line help.
KC has approximately $12.7 million allocated to go into Matt Cassel’s pocket next season, and they’ll not only need to, but want to give him some protection—unlike what happened in 2009.
Pick: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
6. Seattle Seahawks —In my opinion, this is the second team that is a direct threat to select Eric Berry. Seattle is in a position of need at the S spot. However, with the recent retirement of perennial All-Pro and future HOF tackle Walter Jones, they have a hole the size of a Mack truck in their line.
They’ll need to address that immediately, especially if they hope to have any offensive success this season by keeping Hasselbeck vertical. I think Pete Carroll gets his S with the 14th pick, and selects one of HIS guys, Taylor Mays.
Pick: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland or Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers (whoever grades higher)
7. Cleveland Browns —The Browns get the second coming of Ed Reed…..
Pick: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
8. Oakland Raiders —They have so many needs, I don’t honestly know where they’ll go. But the fact that the O-line is so suspect, I believe will be a position of concern.
That said, Al Davis is blinded by speed, similar to a drug addict with his fix. So, maybe he reaches for someone here a la Heyward-Bey and selects….Carlos Dunlap? After all, he is a 6'6", 280 lb DE, that runs a 4.5 40-yard dash…
Pick: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland or Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers (whoever Seattle doesn’t take)
9. Buffalo Bills —They’re switching to the 3-4 and, presently, have no one that can fill the NT position in that scheme—which is critically important in the 3-4. I think they will address that need with this pick because, if they wait too long, Terrance Cody, Dan Williams, AND Cam Thomas (all quality NT’s) will be gone (and likely will be gone before Round Two when Buffalo picks again).
Some say a LB here, possibly McClain, but decent LB’s are littered through this draft.
Pick: Dan Williams, NT, Tennessee
10. Jacksonville Jaguars —The Jags need help in several spots but, at this position, I think they trade out of this pick. Initially I thought it could be Derrick Morgan from GT or Jason Pierre-Paul from USF, but I think their biggest target is one Tim Tebow.
So possibly trading down, acquiring picks, and drafting a safe player later could be the strategy here.
Although, they do need a WR badly to compliment Mike Sims-Walker…
Pick: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
Now keep in mind all of this is BEFORE the combine. As it's starting today, this all could (and likely will) change drastically afterwards. But in general, I think teams are drafting for need more than best player available this year.
Back to the Browns…
Moving into the second round, I think the pick could be LB Brandon Spikes, LB Darryl Washington, or CB Kyle Wilson. Wilson is being graded by many scouts on the same level of Joe Haden, and one in particular said this:
“Kyle Wilson is a phenomenal CB. Has strong lateral movement and elite speed. A keen sense of the ball’s position throughout the play. Can get into the WR’s hip pocket easily, and can read any play thrown out there. Solid upper body, and will grow. \Legs are what you like to see from a CB, tight and lean. Good knee positioning on cuts. Skills translate well to the NFL level. Best NFL comparison: Charles Woodson. Likely comparison: Antoine Winfield. If he had gone to a bigger school, would be No. 1 CB in draft.”
Frankly, after reading that, I’d be very happy with Kyle Wilson. Based on what the scouts are saying (most echo that sentiment), Wilson may be a second round steal…if he lasts that long.
That's why either moving down or selecting another position of need becomes possible. Because, even though Haden is an elite CB prospect, there are others who could grade out very similarly to him, and that means Cleveland can afford to wait.
Reaching on a prospect can be a killer, and there's no sense reaching for someone when there's similar talent later.
In the third, I’d like to see Heckert and Holmgren get some help for Jerome Harrison at the RB spot and select someone like Toby Gerhart, Anthony Dixon, or LeGarrette Blount at 71 overall—both of whom are physical runners.
With the 92nd pick, perhaps someone like Ohio WR Taylor Price (a Reggie Wayne clone) or a QB would be nice.
To me, one of the most underrated QB's in this draft, is Troy QB Levi Brown. This is a kid that threw for 4,254 yards, 23TDs, and averaged 372.2 per game. He's got great size (6'4", 223 lbs), and a phenomenal arm...think Brett Favre.
Most will say that the fact he came from the spread is an issue but, when he was at Richmond University for two years he played in a pro-style offense. So he knows the game from that standpoint, and Holmgren may see him as a potential candidate to be groomed into the future Browns QB.
We all know that Holmgren will be looking for a QB. In the event that Quinn falls flat on his face this season, he’ll have a rookie being groomed. At this point, however, I don’t know that there’s anyone in the top of this draft at the QB position that will provide Cleveland a true “starting caliber” QB, outside of Jimmy Clausen.
All that said, what happens if Clausen falls down the board for some reason and becomes available at No. 7?
Do the Browns then select him?
Jimmy Clausen, playing under Charlie Weiss in his pro-style offense, spent some time under C and in the gun and has learned how the pro game is run.
I think in this draft, Clausen is probably going to be the consensus No. 1 QB because of that experience, and would warrant a selection at No. 7 overall. His work ethic has been praised by NFLers he’s been working out with, and most really tend to be impressed with his demeanor.
Clausen is currently working out with Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney, Ray Lewis, Reggie Wayne, and countless other Pro Bowl players in Southern California, so for them to praise Clausen’s work ethic is saying something.
If Clausen is somehow available at No. 7, then I believe that would require Holmgren and Heckert to strongly consider the selection of Clausen. Because if this scenario plays out, Berry will be gone.
In the fourth round and beyond, I think the move is to take the best available at your need. However, should there be someone in the fourth round on that has some high upside, perhaps you reach. But again, the importance of hitting in this draft cannot be overstated and I expect them to draft smart, athletic players with potential late.
Right now, most of Browns nation is waiting with bated breath to see what the team of Holmgren and Heckert does in this draft and how they address the current roster needs.
But, I think what most Browns fans are really waiting for is to see that someone can manage the front office the right way and move Cleveland towards being a competitive team.
I believe in Holmgren and Heckert, and I believe that Cleveland is on the right track. It all starts today with the combine and continues in April with the draft.