Expect the Rookie Class of the 2010 Cleveland Browns to Be Exceptional
There is a significant chance that all seven choices of this year's draft not slated for clipboard duty could see valuable time with the Cleveland Browns this season.
With the exception of the prize of this year's draft, Colt McCoy, every rookie has a legitimate chance to work his way into the playing rotation during the season.
First round cornerback Joe Haden will battle with Sheldon Brown and incumbent starter Eric Wright for a starting nod come opening day. The loser of the three way battle will see significant time on the field as the nickelback in three receiver sets, which are a staple in the NFL.
Haden is a physical corner who has respectable speed and a good recovery burst with great ball skills. Haden and rookie safety T.J. Ward have developed a bond during OTAs when they were often paired on the same side.
The 38th selection of the NFL draft, safety T.J. Ward has been battling Mike Adams for reps at free safety and if he continues to develop his pass coverage abilities, may very well be the opening day starter.
Ward is a fierce hitter with respectable speed, who must continue to shed the label of injury prone.
By far the most impressive rookie in camp has been running back Montario Hardesty. A 6'0", 225-lb sculpted rocket of a running back, Hardesty has consistently been in the right place at the right time and has known all of the audibles.
He has looked smooth and showed a nice burst through the hole without any evidence of an injury history. Coach Mangini has been unusually effusive in his praise of Hardesty, who has been running with the first team offense.
Hardesty runs great pass routes and sets up his blockers like a veteran.
Offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao is a 6'3", 315-lb beast of an interior lineman, who has been primarily working at guard and center. Lauvao is unusually athletic for a guard as he played tackle in college and is highly intelligent with an undergraduate degree and is working on a masters.
For fun, Lauvao competes in strongman competitions and can bench press 500-lbs. This combination of intelligence, strength, and athleticism should enable him to earn playing time on the line this season.
Strong safety Larry Asante was a three year starter at Nebraska who averaged over 70 tackles a season. He is a 6'0", 211-lb big hitter who also excels at wrapping up opposing ballcarriers.
Asante rarely makes mental mistakes and has a high football IQ thanks to the tutoring of Nebraska's Pellini brothers.
Asante has been leading the pack at strong safety so far this offseason. He has been well prepared on both the field and in the classroom. The most surprising development has been his ability to cover receivers.
Asante has accomplished all of this and they haven't even seen his greatest strength yet: tackling.
Sixth round pick Carlton Mitchell has a first round pick's size and speed combination. He has 4.41 speed combined with excellent leaping ability and a smaller man's explosion.
Now we need to see if he can put it all together. Carlton was a little dinged up in rookie camp and has been playing catch up ever since. He'll make a nice touchdown catch followed by a clean drop.
Lately, though, he has begun to stand out. "The one thing I like about Carlton is that he's gotten a little better each day," Mangini said. "With these guys (rookies), they might take a step forward or a step back. He's a hard worker. He has really good speed and good size. He's made some progress in terms of understanding his assignments and adjustments and things like that. He's gotten some good work in terms of the number of reps he's had."
It seems that Carlton has caught up with the rest of the rookies and is now competing pass for pass for a place on the roster and a role in the rotation.
Clifton "The Monster" Geathers got into a fight at practice on Friday with an unspecified lineman and was chastised by Coach Mangini for the second time this offseason. The first occurred when he leveled a punter on a special teams drill.
The 6'7", 300-lb defensive end is going to be a special player in this league if Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can harness his potential.
The Monster is strong, has a quick first step, and some rudimentary pass moves taught to him by his brother and uncle who both have NFL experience on the line. For this year, he can immediately line up on field goal blocking units.
If Geathers applies himself and a veteran like Robaire Smith takes him under his wing, there is always a possibility that later on this season the Browns could deploy the "The Monster" for a few actual plays here and there.
Colt McCoy was the 85th pick of the draft and number one in the hearts of many Browns fans. He is a 6'1", 215-lb athlete who is incredibly accurate, has a high football IQ, and is an unquestioned leader, both on the field and in the locker room.
He has an average arm, has durability concerns and was a product of the spread offense. What a lot of people overlook is he did play under center in his sophomore year quite a bit, so it is not a totally alien concept.
With regard to his arm strength and Cleveland Stadium, I have done quite a bit of research on the topic and it seems that the ability to throw in bad weather depends more upon wrist action than arm strength, and Colt allegedly has that wrist action.
I don't know if he will ever be "that guy," but for now I am satisfied with him being the guy in the baseball cap holding the clipboard while the first and second string quarterbacks try to lead my beloved Browns down the field.
It is conceivable that five or more of the Cleveland Browns draftees could see significant time in 2010. Six could see the field for more than a smattering of plays, and seven could have time for the announcers to point out their NFL lineage.
The Cleveland Browns personnel department deserves a definite thank you from the fans for this draft. Haden, Asante, Lauvao, and Hardesty will all be solid starters in their careers. Ward will definitely start if he can stay healthy. That's five out of eight right there.
Geathers has the potential to be an absolutely dominant defensive end if he stays motivated and doesn't pull knuckleheaded stunts like the fight the other day. Remember he was suspended in college for a bar room brawl.
Mitchell needs to work on his hands from what I've seen and read and I reserve judgment until he has. Too many Braylon flashbacks.
To make accurate projections on so many players is almost unheard of, especially here in Cleveland. Each of these players has a legitimate shot to be a productive NFL player, which is something that boys dream of and young men devote themselves for a chance at.
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