Cleveland Browns: Prospects to Target in the NFL Draft (2.0)
Oh, how things can change in two months. Like most prognosticators and amateur mock drafters will tell you, mock drafts change daily like the weather all the way up to late April when the Carolina Panthers go on the clock.
Two months ago, the first edition of this mock draft had Marcell Dareus putting on the brown and orange this season (if there is one). What has changed? In short, scheme changes and combine performances have shuffled the draft board for the Browns considerably in the last few weeks.
While the players who should be available to Cleveland at sixth overall have changed, the Browns' needs have not. Playmakers are still needed in mass quantity, and that likely isn't going to change through the draft alone.
Let's take a look at how the draft pool has changed since the last mock.
Scouting Services: CBS Sports and Scout.com
Round 1: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
A.J. Green can provide Colt McCoy a new favorite target for years to come.
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If Cleveland does indeed go with A.J. Green as the sixth overall pick, the only person cheering more than the legions of Browns fans will be Colt McCoy.
By selecting the 6'4'' Green with their first round selection, Cleveland fills one of its most glaring roster holes. What they receive in return for their investment is a player that upgrades their receiving corps from the moment he takes the field.
Put simply, Green catches everything that moves. He also isn't afraid to get tackled and has a talent for hanging on when taking a big hit. Green's speed and quickness separate him from the pack and put him at the top of the class along with Alabama's Julio Jones.
Green showed some immaturity issues when selling a jersey to an agent, but seems to have moved past it and grown as a player and person since. If he is on the board, expect Tom Heckert to back up his statement on not being deterred by character issues. A.J. Green is the real deal.
Previous pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska-Green is very likely to fall to the Browns if he gets by the Bengals. Enough said.
Round 2: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Stephen Paea has the potential to anchor Cleveland's new 4-3 defense.
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When Cleveland cut Shaun Rogers, they created a gaping hole at defensive line. Switching to a 4-3 defense requires depth on the line, and the team can begin to create that depth by drafting Stephen Paea of Oregon State.
At 6'1'', 303 lbs., Paea is a handful for offensive lines to take care of. His pass rush isn't much to get excited about, but Paea's true talent comes across in the run game. The leverage he is able to create because of his wide frame is useful in splitting double teams.
His strength and explosiveness make him a borderline first round talent, but most prognosticators see him as an early second round pick. The Browns would be wise to select Paea and start the rebuild of the defensive line right away.
Previous pick: Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon State-Matthews is a reach at this pick, and he seems to fit better in a 3-4 anyway.
Round 3: Allen Bailey, DE, Miami (FL)
Allen Bailey adds another piece to the Browns' evolving four man front
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They say defense wins championships, and the Browns are currently lacking in that department, in more than a few places.
The third round presents yet another opportunity for Cleveland to upgrade its front four by selecting Allen Bailey from the University of Miami. At 6'3'', 285 lbs., Bailey gives a size upgrade to the line and is a perfect fit for the 4-3.
Bailey isn't the most explosive end, but his agility and speed in pursuit make him a good match to the quicker type of end Tom Heckert has said he is looking for. He is a classic chase-down style end that would fit into the Browns' scheme.
Depth is everything, and Allen Bailey is a raw talent that will fit into the 4-3.
Previous pick: Marcus Gilbert, T, Florida-Gilbert will fall into the fourth most likely and Bailey fits the mold for a Heckert-style end.
Round 4: Marcus Gilbert, T, Florida
Marcus Gilbert, while a raw talent, can help provide depth on the offensive line.
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Previously, I had the Browns selecting Gilbert in round three. However, a poor Senior Bowl performance has Gilbert slipping into the fourth round. My rationale for selecting him still remains, however.
As a four-year starter at Florida, tackle Marcus Gilbert saw action against some of the best programs in the nation. He also gained experience in two national championship games.
At Florida, Gilbert learned to hone his run blocking skills against the speedy defenses of the SEC. His quick hands help him to sustain his blocks against the run and pass. Gilbert is able to attack linemen quickly, which helps him overcome his inconsistencies against 3-4 fronts.
What stands out about Gilbert is the quality of his competition and his durability. The main cause of Cleveland's inconsistency on the right side of the O-line was due to injuries and weak play. Gilbert could at the very least provide depth and a good presence on run blocking.
Previous pick: Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU-Toliver's stock has risen since the last mock, and with the pick of Green it makes no sense to reach for Toliver in a higher round.
Round 5: Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama
Mike Holmgren wants an intelligent backup to Colt McCoy. Cleveland, meet Greg McElroy.
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In recent weeks, Mike Holmgren has made it perfectly clear that Colt McCoy is his quarterback, but he will be drafting a young passer in the upcoming draft.
In the last three rounds, there are large amounts of low-risk, high reward talents. Holmgren just might find his quarterback in Alabama's Greg McElroy. Holmgren is looking for intelligence and a fit in the West Coast in his project, and no one fits the bill more than McElroy.
He scored a 48 of 50 on the Wonderlic, one of the highest scores this year. In addition, McElroy was a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Intelligence will help as McElroy's throwing motion will need to be tweaked for him to be a successful quarterback in the pros. His pocket presence and touch are attributes that should make him attractive to Cleveland late in the draft.
Previous pick: Evan Royster, RB, Penn State-Royster's stock dropped fast since the last mock, and Holmgren made it clear a QB would be taken in the draft.
Round 6: Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh
Dion Lewis could be a low-risk, high reward player for the Browns.
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One thing became clear about the Browns' running game last season: Peyton Hillis cannot do it alone. Since Montario Hardesty's future is unclear, drafting a running back late cannot possibly hurt.
In drafting the 5'7'' Lewis, Cleveland would get a small but quick running back that can change the pace from the rumbling Hillis. Lewis is able to mix his small speedy stature with toughness when he hits the holes, just the type of runner the team needs to backup Hillis and Hardesty.
Lewis is a risky pick due to his falling draft stock, but in the seventh round the biggest risks can pay off sometimes. Holmgren and Heckert need to take a look at running backs in the draft, and Lewis might just be the guy.
Previous pick: Alex Henery, K, Nebraska- Henery became unnecessary to draft when the team franchised Phil Dawson.
Round 6: Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State
Dane Sanzenbacher would give Cleveland a fast slot receiver and special teams everyman.
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This is another selection where I'm sticking to my guns, especially considering the Browns lack of speed at receiver.
With their final pick, the Browns need to take a risk on a receiver like Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher. He fits the mold of a speedy slot receiver like Julian Edelman. As a senior in 2010, Sanzenbacher caught 55 passes for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns.
At 5'11'', 182 lbs., Sanzenbacher is undersized for an NFL receiver, but his speed cannot be denied. As an all-state sprinter in high school, he developed the downfield speed that helped him to become a deep threat at OSU.
What cannot be underestimated about Sanzenbacher are his intangibles. He was widely considered a team leader at Ohio State, and was named the team MVP and most inspirational player in 2010. Cleveland would be making a huge mistake if they passed him up with their final pick.
Previous Pick: Sanzenbacher
Conclusion (for Now)
Can the Big Show bring back winning football to Cleveland?
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If Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert hope to change the culture in Cleveland and get the team to a Super Bowl, they need to use this draft to infuse the roster with young playmakers.
The seven players mentioned are just the beginning of the Browns' rebuild. They will need to infuse the roster with veteran leadership and other big names, but it is a beginning (until next mock draft).