Cleveland Browns Draft: 7 Rounds 1st Choice and Alternative Possibility
Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert are the braintrust in Cleveland and have a plan. That plan is to make Cleveland a dangerous contender in a division with two Super Bowl contenders ever year. In a division with the the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland has four games a year with teams that are taking two playoff spots a year.
The first major move was to change coaches and get everyone on the same page. The hiring of Pat Shurmur may not be a big splash, but he is the type of coach Holmgren is comfortable with who is familiar with the West Coast Offense (WCO). The move to the WCO was also adopted by the Cincinnati Bengals. That move has made both teams strategically more dangerous to both the Ravens and the Steelers. Finding weapons for the WCO would seem to be the priority for the Browns, but most of the pieces are in place for the offense.
The left tackle and center are both pro bowlers and the left guard is solid. The Browns simply need a right tackle, No. 1 receiver and guard. If they can secure another running back late, it would be a cherry on top. The Browns are set on picking a No. 1 receiver with the first pick. That sets the rest of the table for the organization and their draft picks.
Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie should be solid fits for the West Coast Offense, and Josh Cribbs will excel as crossing routes and quick slants. There is a need for a big play receiver, but is the first round the time to get that receiver? Although the best athletes and playmakers in the draft are on defense, the Browns have two opportunities to get an explosive receiver
The Browns will probably go with A.J Green with the first pick if he is available, but if Green comes off the board to earlier than the Browns select they will be going after Julio Jones. Past that first pick, the Browns will have to go after defense.
The need for players along the front seven is crucial especially in the 4-3. This mock details who the Browns primary pick might be and possible second options.
The 4-3 Defense Is Predicated on Having an Effect Front Seven
To assume everyone knows what a 4-3 defense is and why there is a need for improvements of the front seven is to first understand the alignments and responsibilities of front seven in a 4-3 defense. This is not to say all 4-3 defenses are created equal, but the basic resposibilities are the same and the type of athletes required to run it does not change.
The weak side defensive end and will linebacker have to be fast athletic players, and the Mike linebacker must be able to take on a full back while forcing plays towards the outside. The Browns can plug in D'Qwell Jackson in at the Mike, and Chris Gocong or Scott Fujita at the Sam or "strong side," but there is a gap at the will linebacker spot based upon their responsibilities.
The other hole in the Browns defense based upon the 4-3 would be at the rush end or weakside defensive end. They have to be fast physical and able to chase down plays from behind. One must be obtained in the draft as well as a defensive tackle to shade on the outside of the center. Ahtyba Rubin will be playing the nose tackle in the 4-3, but there is a need for a solid tackle to shade the outside of the guard.
Additionally in a 4-3 defense the corners are more physcial and will be called upon to make tackles at the line of scrimmage and will be blitzing from the backside based upon reads. That means that the corner has to be able to tackle as well as cover. Picking up a play-making corner could be a nice addition to the Cleveland defense.
Understand the West Coast Understand the Browns 1st Pick
The personnel required for the West Coast Offense:
1. Quarterback—Less emphasis on arm strength and more on accuracy and decision-making. The quarterback must be mobile in order to run bootlegs and roll out. They must be highly intelligent and able to find the mismatches. The WCO fits Colt McCoy’s style. He is very accurate, mobile and can find the fourth and fifth receivers. The Browns might get a developmental quarterback late in the draft or in the supplemental draft.
2. Offensive Line—Less emphasis on big maulers and more emphasis on athletic and mobile linemen. The West Coast Offense utilizes a lot of pulling and works with a moving pocket. The offensive line on the left side is solid with Joe Thomas with his athletism, but Eric Steinbach will eventually need to be upgraded. Alex Mack is solid and a pro bowler like Thomas, but the right side of the line needs an upgrade. Shawn Lauvao should have a chance to prove his worth this year, but the right tackle spot is in need of immediate help, which is no secret. What it changes is the type of lineman drafted.
3. Running Back—The running backs in a West Coast Offense are more utilized as receivers catching balls out of the backfield. That is the reason that linemen are to be more mobile than mauling. The running backs are also beneficiaries of more open running lanes from the defenses being spread out. Quicker backs with hands are a necessary evil in the West Coast Offense. Peyton Hillis offers the best of both worlds because he has shown soft hands and is hard to bring down. Montario Hardesty is and unknown commodity, and they could add another back someone like a Jaquizz Rogers from Oregon or Demarco Murray from Oklahoma.
4. Tight Ends—Tight ends who can stretch the field are at a primary and being able to block is even better in a West Coast Offense. Releasing as many weapons into patterns is the strength of the WCO and tight ends can be counted among them, remember John Frank and Dwight Clark in SanFrancisco. In Evan Moore and Benjamin Watson, the Browns have two tight ends that can catch and are adequate blockers. There is no need to get one in this draft. The Browns can stand pat.
5. Wide Receivers—In the WCO, short quick passes with YAC (yards after catch) yards, and precision routes is the basis of offense. Receivers that are dangerous in short areas and have burst will be successful. In the Browns case, this could be the most productive year for Josh Cribbs as he is built for a West Coast Offense and big enough to come out of the backfield if necessary as a back catching passes. There is a need for a true No. 1 receiver who can separate and has dependable hands...enter AJ Green or Julio Jones.
Round 1: Pick 6: AJ Green Is the Pick If He Is on the Board
AJ Green is the perfect prototype receiver for the Browns WCO. He can stretch the field and catches the ball away from his body. There are too many body catchers posing as receivers. The Browns will use motion and move AJ Green all over the field and create mismatches on slant routes, square ins and nine routes. He plucks the ball out of the air effortlessly.
The need for defenders is a priority for the Browns, but they want to give Colt McCoy every chance to succeed and getting a No. 1 receiver is one of their perceived greatest needs. Putting AJ Green with Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie and Joshua Cribbs take the receiving corps from a weakness to strength. Green will allow the other receivers to function in the roles that will fit them best.
Cribbs has the potential of being one of the most dangerous after-the-catch receivers in the league. The WCO is a chance for Cribbs really make an impact in the league as a receiver and not just a return man.
Option 2 at the First Pick: Julio Jones Is Just as Good and Physical at Receiver
Julio Jones in my opinion may even be a better option based upon his toughness and dense frame. Julio Jones plays hurt and is a willing blocker. The Browns are not leaving the first round without one of the two best receivers in the draft.
There is not a big drop off if Cleveland has to go with Jones. He did every drill at the combine with a fractured foot—the exact same injury that shelved Michael Crabtree at last year's combine.
Julio Jones does not avoid contact and is a gym rat and studies film. Like AJ Green, he is a plucker and not a fighter of the ball. There is a big drop off after Jones, so the Browns would likely take one of the best two receivers with the sixth pick. The offense has to become more of a threat to win the division.
Round 2 Pick 37: The Defense Begins to Rebuild in the Second Round
Cameron Heyward may not be there in the second round, but somebody has to drop and Cameron Heyward had a down 2010 by his standards. Much of the 2010 season Heyward encountered double- and triple-teams. He still applied pressure to quartrerbacks and in the Sugar Bowl was unstoppable. He was unstoppable with an arm that required Tommy John surgery
Cameron Heyward can play all over the line, which makes him a three-down player. On the interior he can play next to Ahtyba Rubin or slide to the outside. He is powerful in his lower body and has the quickness to chase down backs running away from him.
Towards the end of the first round, the Steelers or the Falcons could be looking at him. If he is not there, ample other players will be available that early in the second round. If the Browns can get AJ Green and Cameron Heyward in the first two rounds, they can already consider it a good draft.
Pick 37 2nd Round: 2nd Option
The Browns are going to go with a receiver in the first round unless Patrick Peterson is there. So the second round is going to be them filling their need on the defensive front seven. Both Adrian Clayborn and Cameron Heyward won't be gone in the first round, leaving the other to be drafted early in the second round.
Likely Adrian Clayborn will be the one available as his erbs palsy will scare off some teams, but he has played in high school and college with that same condition. He can be explosive and has a high motor. His production dropped off with the number of sacks he produced his senior year, but that can be attributed to teams game planning for him. Although sacks may drop, things like hurrying the quarterback and collapsing the pocket still make him a valuable asset.
Some of his fundamentals will have to be worked on, but he takes great angles to the ball and has busy hands when in the backfield swatting at the QB's arms.
Third Round Pick 70 First Option: Browns Stay on Defense
Mark Herzlich is a lot more that a cancer survivor; he is one heck of a linebacker. He was a top 10 pick before his cancer and is returning to form. At 6'4" 244 lbs he has good size. His front line speed is nothing to write home about, but he is still getting his form back.
He did not look good in the Senior Bowl, but who cares. Charlie Frye looked like the quarterback of the future in the Senior Bowl, and now he might as well be on the island on "Lost." Once Mark gets in a system, he will be and asset and a leader on the team.
Mark Herzlich's fall could be a lucky break for the Browns in the third round.
Round 3 Pick 70 2nd Option: Sam Acho, Texas Adds to the Pass Rush
The Browns are going to stay on defense even if Mark Herzlich is not available. Sam Acho can apply pressure in the 4-3 from the edge. He has a very good lean coming off a block. He can sometimes over pursue and has to get better against the run. At 6'1" and 262, he is a tweenerish DE but is rocked up with muscle and will only get stronger and better with NFL coaching. He was under-developed as a pass rusher in Texas.
If he can get more moves and is coached up, he can become a very effective pass rusher in the NFL. He seems to get stronger as the game goes on, but lacks focus on what to do with it. He must be developed as a pro, and if he is, he can work into a player with a lot of upside.
4th Round Pick 102: The Browns Get Speed at Corner
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A 4.37 40-yard dash....oh, you need more? Seriously he is fast, and the Browns are aching for speed all over the field. He is very fast and has good ball skills. He is good in zone coverage, although he needs to get more physical at the line of scrimmage. He is a solid tackler as are most Ohio State defensive backs, but could stand to beef up his frame.
He has to get better at not looking into the backfield and has to become a bit more instinctual. He can develop into a playmaker. The Browns could add a speedy athletic corner which would be a great addition in the fourth round.
4th Round 2nd Option: If Chikwa Is of the Board Get That Right Tackle
Demarcus Love may go in the third round because of his versatility. He played left tackle, right tackle and guard for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Bobby Petrino's offense required linemen to be able to play both sides of the field. He was elected captain twice and has experience pulling and trapping. The initial burst is not there, but his hands are like vice grips once he grabs a defender. Pro coaching could turn Demarcus Love into a solid starter.
He has the tools and has a healthy mean streak. The Browns like his leadership and the fact that he can play multiple positions on the offensive line. Playing in the SEC, he has faced superior rushers including Cameron Heyward in the Sugar Bowl.
5th Round Pick 137: Depends on If They Got a Right Tackle in the 4th, If Not...
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... Go get Joeseph Barksdayle. This pick only makes sense depending on if the Browns stayed on the defensive side of the ball in the fourth round. If they did stay defensive in the fourth, look for them to go offense in the fifth round. Joseph Barksdale is a beast and not ideal for the West Coast Offense, but in the fifth round, he would be to good to pass up if Cleveland does not take one in the fourth round. Barksdale is a warrior and ironman who can also seal the outside. Although he can play left tackle, he will make his money at right tackle. His athleticism is not great for the left side but is excellent for the right. He can also be kicked inside to play guard in the pinch.
He faced the same SEC competition. In a West Coast Offense that will utilize a moving pocket, Barksdale can slide and move well for his size. He needs to be coached up on some technique issues, but there is not a player in the draft who doesn't. He can be a steal if he is available in the fifth round. In the later rounds, it is all about value and Joseph Barksdale in the fifth round could be highly valuable to a weak right side.
2nd Option at the 5 Spot Is Underrated...Runs in the Family
I do not care what his measurables are or how he is rated, Casey Matthews needs a Browns uniform. His motor does not stop. He is not Clay Matthews, but he does not have to be. He is a linebacker who is physical and has a nose for the ball. Smarts account for a lot at the linebacker spot. Diagnosing plays can give a slower linebacker the edge. Casey has good lateral movement, and all the negative reports do not jive with what I have seen on tape.
What I have seen on tape is a player who anticipates where the ball is going to be and gets there. He can be an immediate lightening rod on special teams and may work his way into a starting role. All I know is fool me once shame on you, fool me twice... and I don't want to be the team that passes on another Matthews.
Sixth Round Pick 168: The Browns Can Go After a Long-Term Back-Up
Greg McElroy is a pro ready quarterback. That is not to say that he is the best quarterbacks in the draft, but he is one of the most pro ready. What does "pro ready" mean? First of all he played in a pro style offense and is able to take snaps from under center, as well as decipher defenses. If anyone has seen Cam Newton draw up a play on the board, one can easily see that knowing how to read a defense and decipher a play with multiple reads cannot be overestimated.
McElroy considers himself a starter and will work at that level coming into the league. He can develop into a solid No. 2 quarterback and can add young depth at that position on the Browns roster. This may seem like a waste with so many needs, but the Browns are developing a long term team and not instant fixes. Developing a back-up quarterback for Colt McCoy can pay long range dividends.
Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert keep dropping hints they want to take a quarterback in the draft, and this round could be the one they pull the trigger. In this draft, teams do not have the advantage of using free agency to fill in gaps. Teams are going to examine character a lot more in this draft and take less risks as a failed pick may not be filled by a free agent acquisition.
2nd Option with the First Pick of the 6th Could Bring a Physical Cornerback
Brandon Hogan's biggest problem is he has had legal issues, being arrested for DUI and driving with a suspended license. He also had an injury, but the reality is that in the sixth round you are looking for special team players who can push to contribute in other areas on the team.
Brandon likes to hit and has played quarterback and receiver in college. That makes him an intelligent corner who should be able to recognize formations and get catch the ball. He is dangerous after the catch as a defensive back and can return interception to he house. He would be great on kick-off team and can be taught the corner and develop. He is very rough around the edges as far as his technique, but given time can supplement the defensive backfield with toughness.
Pick 170 2nd Pick of the Sixth Round: The Browns Can Add More Defensive Help
Brian Rolle is a smaller will linebacker in the 4-3, but at the next level he will immediately contribute on special teams. Brian Rolle has lateral quickness and front line speed. He can drop into pass coverage easily and has good hands. As a weak side linebacker, he can fly all over the field as he has a high motor.
He can be exceptional on special teams, and he adds depth to the linebackers. The linebacking group could be a stronger unit with the addition of Brian Rolle from a speed perspective. He has to get a mean streak that seems to be missing from his game.
2nd Option with the 2nd Pick in the 6th: Quick with Good Hands
Derrick Locke is a scat back with good hands out if the University of Kentucky. He is different from any of the backs currently on the Browns roster. He runs a 4.40 40-yard dash and is not afraid to run off tackle. He is elusive through the hole and can make tacklers miss. He is an excellent return man and can take those responsibilities from Johshua Cribbs, allowing Cribbs to work on being a receiving threat.
He has a three-headed offensive attack as a returner, running back and slot receiver. On a team that has Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty, Derrick Locke can be take 15 carries a game and prolong the carries of the other two backs.
He is a perfect back for the WCO.
7th Round Compensitory Pick Number 248: Iowa's Klug Adds Depth at DE
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Karl Klug is predicted to go earlier in the draft, but I don't see how. He is undersized for a defensive tackle and not quick enough to be a starting defensive end in a 4-3. He is a hard-nosed football player who overachieves. He is one of those guys with character who is hard to cut.
With NFL coaching and some added strength, Klug could provide depth on the defensive line and start on special teams. He has good change of direction and is stout against the run. There will be challenges for him in the pros to produce against much better offensive tackles, but he is a player who is able to stunt and can be used all over the defensive line. He is another player who has a nice controlled mean streak and takes things personal when he is beat.
Klug is a solid tackler and smart player who will come into camp and put in the extra hours it takes to try and earn a spot on the team.
The Browns Can Use This Draft to Set Up Long-Range Success
Alex Mack was a big contributor when he was drafted, and the following year TJ Ward and Joe Haden. This year the Browns need to up the number of starters from this draft.
If they can come out of this draft with four potential starters, they will have made substantial progress in competing for the division. Their draft could add these players if all the first options are available, so the team could potenially look like this:
Quarterback: Colt McCoy
Running Back: Peyton Hillis, Monterio Hardesty
Wide Receivers: A.J. Green, Joshua Cribbs, Mohamad Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie
Tight Ends: Ben Watson, Evan Moore, Robert Royal
Right Tackle: Joseph Barksdale
Right Guard: Shawn Lauvao
Center: Alex Mack
Left Tackle: Joe Thomas
Right End: Marcus Bernard
Defensive Tackle: Ahtyba Rubin
Defensive Tackle: Cameron Heyward
Left End: Matt Roth
Sam Linebacker: Mark Herzlich
Mike Linebacker: Scott Fujita
Will Linebacker: D'Qwell Jackson,
Cornerback: Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Eric Wright, Chimdi Chekwa
Free Safety: Abe Elam
Strong Safety: T.J. Ward
There is a potential for the Browns to secure players who can contribute this year and again take another step forward in the rebuilding of the franchise.