Drafting for the Browns' West Coast Offense Starts with a First Round Weapon

Derek TalibContributor IIIApril 11, 2011

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  A.J. Green #8 of the Georgia Bulldogs pulls in this reception against Craig Stevens #46 of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The West Coast offense is well suited for the Browns receivers and Quarterback Colt McCoy.  The 2011 Draft is deep in the areas the Cleveland Browns need the most help: defensive line, right tackle and linebacker. 

Where the draft is not deep, is in elite receivers.  After AJ Green and Julio Jones there is a giant drop off in talented receivers. Good receivers are all through the draft, but not elite, not dangerous.

The biggest mistake teams make in a draft is drafting for need first and then best athlete second.

The freakish corner from LSU Patrick Peterson is a one of a kind athlete.  He is a big physical corner that has the potential to move to safety as his career moves forward. Placing him next to Joe Haden could leave the Browns with a dynamic duo of cornerbacks for years to come.  The Browns however have a opportunity to select the best receiver on the board when they pick, in AJ Green.         

The West Coast offense is predicated on creating mismatches against the defense.  The 3-4 defensive scheme uses oversized linebackers blitzing all over the field. The kryptonite to the 3-4 scheme is a well-run West Coast offense. 

The West Coast offense will spread out the linebackers and make those oversized linebackers have to cover receivers on crossing routes, and quick slants, chasing them all over the field.  Picture in the movie Rocky II where Rocky had to chase and catch a chicken. The West Coast offense is like releasing four or five chickens at onces. Colt just has to find the most open chicken.  

All Browns fans know the importance of having a good defense, but these fans have watched their defense on the field all too much. The best defense gets worn down if they are always on the field. AJ Green can help open up a under achieving offense and be the first true weapon on a struggling team. Browns fans have been starved for playmakers, and adding AJ Green gives them a true threat at wide out to add to Peyton Hillis in the backfield.

The West Coast offense changes more than the need for an athletic receiver: it will also effect the type of lineman that will be drafted. Brian Dabol’s offense could use a mauling physical right tackle, but in Shurmur’s offense, an athletic quick tackle has much more value. 

Demarcus Love, from Arkansas, in the fifth or sixth round would have value. He has exceptional length and needs to beef up in his lower body. His athleticism is a perfect match for the West Coast scheme and he has played multiple positions. His ability to seal and hook defenders is where his value can be seen.

Joseph Barksdale from LSU could be a great addition, showing durability with explosion. He has started on the LSU offensive line since his sophomore year, and handled some of the best pass rushers in college football.

He is a solid left tackle back up, but is a starter Day 1 on the right side. He should be there in the third round. The Browns can go receiver in Round 1, defense end in Round 2, with a right tackle in the third. The beauty of Barksdale is he is a starter at either tackle spot.

Mohammad Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, and Brian Robiskie can find new life in the West Coast.  Josh Cribbs is one of the most dangerous men in the NFL on kick returns; now add the ball in his hands on a crossing route where a trailing 3-4 linebacker has to stay with him, and it spells a mismatch. Adding AJ Green offers the offense a legit No. 1 receiver that has soft hands, a big body, and excellent speed.     

The Steelers and the Ravens both run the 3-4 defense, and both do not have depth at the corner spot.  If both teams opt to go to a nickel package against the Browns, the quarterback will look for that mismatch. 

Adding AJ Green, the Browns could have Peyton Hillis and Josh Cribbs in the backfield at the same time, with both going out into patterns. Mohammed Massaquoi and AJ Green would be their "X" and "Z"  receiver, with Benjamin Watson at the Y.  The offense would then spread the defense out, giving the advantage to the offense. 

Mike Holmgren knows what type of player and athlete is needed to run a West Coast offense, and now in coach Shurmur, he has a head coach that also does.  There is huge difference in the “Big Show” Mike Holmgren telling his head coach what he needs and the head coach and GM already knowing. 

The Cleveland Browns are in a position where they can no longer bring a knife to a gun fight. They have to fill their roster with viable athletes to work within their new system.  

Unlike, Braylon Edwards, AJ Green catches the ball.  He can keep drives alive. In a draft deep with defenders, the Browns can gain instant contention status by addressing those needs later rounds.  Their offense can be immediately upgraded with the addition of one playmaker on the edge, and an agile athlete at right tackle.

In a division filled with physical, big defenders, Mike Holmgren may know the remedy is running away from them, instead of running through them.  Colt McCoy may not have the biggest arm, but he has the smarts and accuracy to recognize where the mismatches are and deliver the ball on time. 

The Browns are, for the first time sinse 1999, developing their own culture and pouring the mold for what makes a new Cleveland Brown player: smart, athletic, and team first. Patience in Cleveland may finally be paying off in 2011.