NFL Draft 2011: Ranking 10 WRs the Cleveland Browns Should Consider
Entering the 2011 Draft, the Browns have a number of needs to address. Among the most pressing: defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, right tackle, right guard and wide receiver.
While many of us in the Browns' camp feel that WR is not the Browns' most desperate need, it's certainly a problem area for the team and undoubtedly the most talked about need they have entering the draft. Thus it warrants some investigation into the WRs entering the draft this year, and an examination of which of them might be good choices for the Browns.
The following are 10 receivers eligible for the 2011 draft who might be a good fit for Cleveland. Because there is so much disparity in opinion on exactly what point in the draft the Browns should be seeking to fill their needs at WR, I've tried to include a cross section of WR talent from those projected to go in Round 1 down through those projected to go in round 7.
As always, your opinions are valued in this matter, so please share your thoughts on the Browns and the wide receivers they might draft in 2011 in the comments below!
1. A.J. Green, Georgia
As I've said over and over throughout my draft-related publications, I am not in favor of the Browns taking a receiver in the first round. Too many first-round WRs turn out to be busts, and the Browns have greater needs on the defensive front seven and the offensive line.
However, there are those who would disagree, and of course, we don't yet know what Heckert and Holmgren have planned for the draft. Like it or not, the Browns picking a WR in Round 1 is still a distinct possibility.
And if they were to do so, the best they might hope for is Georgia's A.J. Green.
Personally, I feel that Green won't even be on the board when the Browns make their pick at No. 6 (he has Bengals draft target written all over him), but if he is, he may be tough to pass up.
Even those who approach first round receivers with extreme trepidation due to the possible bust factor can see that Green has legitimate NFL-caliber talent. While rumors that he's the next Larry Fitzgerald seem premature, the fact that the comparison has been made at all is worth noting.
Green caught every pass he was thrown on his Pro Day, and was a one-man highlight reel throughout his college career at Georgia. If there is a WR out there worth gambling a first-round pick on, it is Green above anyone else.
2. Julio Jones, Alabama
The Crimson Tide's Julio Jones can't quite match the projected potential for Green, but he comes close enough to be drafted in the first round.
With Green likely off the board at No. 6, the Browns will certainly be looking to Jones if they decide to select a receiver in Round 1. If the Browns were to decide to spend their first round pick on Jones, I would hope that it would be a trade down scenario, but this doesn't mean Jones is at all lacking in talent.
One of the most attractive things about Jones is that he simply doesn't drop passes. After the Browns suffered so many setbacks in 2010 because their receivers couldn't hold onto the ball, the appeal of a receiver who can haul it in and hang onto it like Jones is pretty high.
Jones wasn't always so sure-handed; He was lambasted by scouts early in his college career for racking up a lot of dropped passes. But as his time at Alabama drew to a close, he appeared to be much more locked in and went from being a player plagued by the dropsies to a player who nearly always managed to hang on.
Opinions on his routes differ; Some scouts think he's a sloppy runner, while others think he has great agility. The truth is, Jones has had games where both of those assessments were true. How he'll do with routes going forward in the NFL remains to be seen.
One more thing Jones gets points for is toughness. He played hurt for the latter half of his last season with Alabama, and it wasn't just that he stayed on the field with an injury; he stayed on the field and was a productive WR while injured.
3. Titus Young, Boise State
Boise State's Titus Young is tops among the next tier of WRs the Browns should look at; second and third rounders.
Young has blazing speed and makes razor sharp cuts on his routes. He's relatively small for an NFL receiver, but watching him on the field tends to make you forget that. Given the struggles Browns' receivers had with proper route running in 2010, the appeal of a precision runner like Young is obvious.
Young is currently projected to go in either the second or the third round of the draft. Which of those is the truth will impact whether the Browns should be realistically considering him. It probably isn't appropriate for the Browns to go with a WR in Round 2, and their pick is also too high in that round for Young. If they were going to do that, they'd have to trade back.
If Young were to last until the third round, the chances he winds up being selected by the Browns are much higher. I doubt he's on the board when the Browns make their third selection, but if he is, they would do well to consider him at that slot.
4. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy
Over on the comment board of my Browns mock draft, there was much debate over whether the Browns should target Jernigan or Greg Little (see next slide) in Round 3.
The argument for Jernigan was that while many thought he seemed to be slightly inferior to Little talent-wise, he comes with none of the baggage that is plaguing Little.
Looking at Jernigan's specific skills, the most striking thing about him is his pure athleticism. He has excellent bursts of speed and excels at getting open even if he has to outrun and outmaneuver a number of defenders to make that happen.
Unfortunately, Jernigan will probably be selected by another team (I hear Atlanta a lot) in Round 2, which is earlier than the Browns would likely consider him. It's tough to choose between Jernigan and Little at the start of the third round, but it's most likely not going to be an issue, as Jernigan probably won't be on the board that long.
5. Greg Little, North Carolina
The chances that Greg Little is selected at the start of the third round are pretty good. He has talent that would slate him slightly higher, but character issues that position him slightly lower. When you reconcile the two, early third round seems to be a good estimate for when Little will go.
The character issues surrounding Little should certainly be a concern. Lord knows we don't want another Braylon Edwards. However, it is unfair to Little to assume he'll be that problematic. There's a risk of it, to be sure, but fortunately, it's far from a guarantee.
Part of what makes it tempting to risk the possible character problems is that Little's talent is unquestionable. Perhaps most appealing for the Browns, Little is exceptional at gaining yardage after a catch, which is something the team's receivers have struggled mightily with in recent years.
6. Cecil Shorts III, Mount Union
Mount Union's Cecil Shorts III has generated quite a bit of interest for a Division III receiver, particularly among Browns fans due to his Ohio roots.
There's good reason to think the Browns could be targeting Shorts: they were the only team to watch his outdoor workout at Mt. Union on his Pro Day. His performance there was a bit disappointing, but that was largely due to terrible weather and field conditions.
It's tough to determine how Shorts will fare against an NFL defense because he was primarily facing D-III defenses in college. However, it's also tough to ignore the fact that he managed to stand out as an NFL prospect despite not playing for a high profile team.
Shorts could be gettable for the Browns in Round 5, and perhaps could even go as low as Round 6. Whether he's worth a fifth-round pick is questionable. If he's still available in Round 6 though, he might be hard to pass up if the Browns are still in the market for a receiver at that point in the draft.
7. Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M
West Texas A&M's Stephen Burton wasn't showing up much on anyone's draft radar a year ago, but a lot has changed since then.
Burton was excellent at his Pro Day workout, showcasing his finest attribute, which is blazing speed.
For the Browns, Burton isn't a perfect fit. They already have a young speedster in Carlton Mitchell, and since Burton is projected to go around the same time as Shorts, it seems unlikely the team would select Burton given the choice between the two.
However, this doesn't mean Burton couldn't do well for the Browns. If Shorts is off the board in Round 6, Burton is a great pickup at that point in the draft. There is some speculation that Burton could go earlier (most likely in the fifth, but some mocks have projected him going as early as the fourth), but it seems doubtful.
If the Browns have a shot at Burton in the sixth round, he's definitely worth considering.
8. Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
A lot of folks have dismissed the idea of the Browns drafting Ohio Stater Dane Sanzenbacher as misguided impartiality toward the hometown team, but that's not entirely fair to Sanzenbacher.
While he's shown as being selected far too early for his talent level in some Browns mock drafts for this very reason, that doesn't mean he's not a viable draft option for the Browns…provided he's selected in a slot appropriate to his skills, that is.
Realistically, Sanzenbacher looks like about a sixth round choice. While his speed is a bit of a concern, he has proven in his college career that he can make up for a good bit of that with great hands and excellent agility.
While his OSU roots aren't a good reason to select him at a higher draft slot than his talent warrants, they do make him a good choice over other receivers of equal skill.
9. Denarius Moore, Tennessee
For those looking to project draft slots for WRs, Tennessee's Denarius Moore has been a hard man to nail down. Projections for him are all over the place, ranging from the third round back to the tail-end of the seventh round.
Obviously, Moore going in the third round is a pretty absurd prediction. He has trouble breaking tackles and even more trouble getting separation. However, he has good speed, is focused in his route-running, and appears to be an intelligent, precise player.
I don't think it's realistic for the Browns to even consider Moore anytime before Round 6. Even then, Burton and Sanzenbacher will be tough competition for him for the Browns' attention. Still, as a sixth-round pick, he's pretty attractive, and if he were to last until the seventh round, he'd be an absolute steal.
10. Ryan Whalen, Stanford
Everyone knows the draft is a crapshoot in the sixth and seventh rounds, particularly at a spot like wide receiver. Sometimes you get a huge late-round steal like Reggie Langhorne (a seventh round selection in 1985), sometimes you get an unknown with top-notch potential like Carlton Mitchell (sixth round, 2010 draft), and most of the time, you get a guy who will never see a single game of action in the NFL.
Suffice it to say, there isn't much to lose when making late-round selections. This means that if the Browns were to burn their seventh-round pick on a WR, it might be worth taking a chance on a guy whose talent isn't at the top of the charts, but whose intangibles look pretty darn good.
Ryan Whalen from Stanford is a guy who might fit the bill. Whalen is a notably intelligent player who used his smarts to put up some pretty good numbers during his college career at Stanford.
Whalen is projected to go anywhere between the fifth and the seventh round, and while he doesn't appear worthy of a fifth-round pick, he'd be a great guy to take a flier on for the Browns with their final pick in the draft. Should he still be on the board at that point.