Cleveland Browns' First-Round Draft Priority: Defense, Defense, Defense!

Brandon SommersCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2011

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Da'Quan Bowers #93 of the Clemson Tigers against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This may be the strangest offseason in the history of the NFL.

The NFLPA has decertified, the players are filing suit against the owners and the owners have locked out the players.

There's no free agency and no trades, but the strangest thing of all just might be the incredibly murky waters of the first 10 picks of the NFL Draft.

Predicting the draft is always a bit of a crap shoot, but I've never seen so much uncertainty as to who might be the top choice. That uncertainty seems to hold true for all of the first 10 picks.

We usually have some inkling as to who our teams may be targeting, or at least have it narrowed down to a couple of players, but not this year.

Many are clamouring for the Browns to grab Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, while others are certain Cleveland will address the gaping holes on the defensive line. Yet others are insisting they should just take the best player available, which usually ends up being Patrick Peterson.

I've seen at least eight different players projected as the Browns' pick at No. 6 in different experts' mock drafts.

So, who should the choice be? Well, much of that will depend greatly on who the teams ahead of them select, but I've come to the conclusion that there are really only four players worthy of the Browns' consideration.

Those players are DaQuan Bowers, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson and Nick Fairley.

I list them in that order because that's the order of priority I feel the Browns should look at them. It now seems quite likely that one of these players will be available when Cleveland picks.

So, why these four?

Well, let me start by explaining why a couple of the other players rumored to be going to the Browns should not be the pick.

Let's begin with A.J. Green.

Green is an amazing talent. There's no doubt about it, and the Browns really do need a big-play wide receiver.

The problem is that wide receiver isn't the Browns' only need and the WR class is very deep through the third round this year. While Green may be an amazing talent, he isn't as good a prospect as Bowers, Miller or Peterson.

I've seen some apply the opposite logic and say that the defensive-line class is very deep as well, but I don't see defensive ends in the second or third round who would fit the Browns' scheme and have the potential to be game-changers.

Cameron Heyward and Allen Bailey may be available in the second round, but neither are suited to play in a 4-3 system. Meanwhile, there's a list a mile long of quality wide receiver prospects who will be available through the third or even fourth round.

Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss, Leonard Hankerson, Titus Young, Randall Cobb, Jonathon Baldwin, Greg Little and Edmund Gates all have the potential to be excellent NFL wideouts.

The second player I'd like to address is Marcel Dareus.

Dareus has all the makings of a bust. All his buzz revolves around his size and one play he made in the national championship game well over a year ago.

My question is, where's the production? Dareus was a beast his junior year, and all but disappeared this past season.

He reminds me very much of Glen Dorsey. Dorsey finally started to develop this year for the Chiefs, but he hasn't come close to living up to the expectations of a high first-round draft choice.

The next question you may ask is why I've prioritized Bowers, Miller, Peterson and Fairley in that order.

It seems quite apparent to me that Miller and Peterson are the two best players in this draft by a long shot. Both are freak athletes who know how to translate their athleticism into big plays on the football field, and both consistently played at an elite level in college.

So, why would I put Bowers on the list ahead of them?

Simply because Bowers fills a greater position of need. The only reason I rank Miller and Peterson above him is that Bowers has a few more questions to answer.

Bowers is a freak athlete too, but he didn't start producing until his senior season. He's also recovering from a knee injury, which hurts his stock a little as well.

But Bowers has a skill-set comparable to Julius Peppers. He can be a game-changer, and the Browns need a game-changer at defensive end right now more than they need one at cornerback or outside linebacker.

The reason I've prioritized Miller ahead of Peterson is that the Browns already have a game-changer at cornerback, so linebacker is a greater need.

Fairley is a different story. He, like Bowers, only showed up for his senior year.

While defensive tackle is still a greater need than cornerback or linebacker, Fairley's talent is not as dominant as Miller or Peterson's. He comes with some questions but he could be a player in the mold of Tennessee-era Albert Haynesworth.

So there's my answer to the first-round question. It may be convoluted, but I promise it makes perfect sense to me.

If Bowers is available, he's the pick. If he's not available, Miller's the pick. If Miller's not available, Peterson's the pick. If Peterson's not available, Fairley's the pick.

Problem solved...but what if none of them are available?



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