T.J. Ward, second round pick of the Browns in 2010.
The Browns have several needs or holes to fill heading into the coming season. Whether they choose to select Patrick Peterson, Robert Quinn or A.J. Green is still undecided. The team is probably going to try and upgrade its defensive line or wide receiving corps by the time the weekend has ended.
If they move on either A.J. Green or Julio Jones on the first night of the draft, what does that mean for their first pick on day two? Or, if they choose a D-line player at No. 6 overall, do they then look for a WR to stretch the field and fit into their new west coast offensive system?
One thing is for sure, options will be a plenty. The team will need to solidify the other of their two biggest needs (WR, DL) with this pick.
Last season, I admit, I was completely skeptical of the T.J. Ward pick because, like many of you, I had no idea who he was. This is why I'm not a scout. They managed to find an absolute diamond in the rough and his punishing hit in the middle of the end zone against Jordan Shipley of Cincinnati cemented his place in our hearts.
These are the three difference makers the Browns can hope to land on Friday night.
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pitt
One guy that seriously hurt his stock at the NFL combine is Jonathan Baldwin. Originally expected to be a late first round pick, he will now be trying to find a home at the top of round two.
Baldwin has wonderful size, standing firm at 6'4" and has great athleticism. He ran his combine 40-time at 4.52 seconds, while he was expected to run in the 4.3's. Still, he has soft hands and if not for the quarterback carousel last season, would have posted better numbers than his 57 reception, 1,100 yard performance of 2009.
Regardless of his combine time, Baldwin is fast–damn fast. Watching footage of him, he runs by everyone. He also has the upper body strength to fight off press coverage and get open–something no other receiver on the current Browns roster can do. He would give Colt McCoy every bit as much of weapon as any of the top two products at the position and for the pick value, could turn out to be the best selection of the draft for the Cleveland faithful.
Paea loses his helmet on nearly every play.
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St.
I really wanted to find something I could say that I do not like about this guy, but I can't. He's 6'1" and just over 300 pounds. He now holds the NFL Combine record in the 225-lb bench press with 49 reps (and under one minute).
Paea (pronounced Pie-uh) plays angry–think about a guy completely opposite of Courtney Brown. His 40 time is in the 4.8's, but the thing I noticed when I watched some film–he's a mauler. It doesn't matter if it's one blocker or three, he splits defenders and hits running backs and quarterback with an unreal violence. Last season, he was the PAC 10's Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while registering 45 tackles, 10 for loss, and six sacks.
When I watched him play, one quote from a movie came to mind. Necessary Roughness: "You know how to playing winning, hard-nosed football? You play football like Ed Gennaro played football. A guy who gave his life for this football team. He was a 140-lb halfback and he played like a goddamn Wildman. No! Like a goddamn rampaging beast! And that's the way you gotta do it! You go out there! You tear their [expletive] heads off and you [expletive] down their necks! Let us pray."
The defense has long needed an attitude, an image and identity. T.J. Ward was the first piece and Paea would be the second. I'm literally salivating at the thought of him in town.
Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois
Wilson sort of intrigues me as a prospect for a couple of reasons. First, he's 6'4" and 250-lbs. Second, he runs in the mid 4.4's. He is the type of hard-hitting, sideline-to-sideline player the Browns have lacked since their return in 1999.
When I look at his stats, he was at his best in the biggest games. Against Missouri, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan, he amassed 49 tackles, two sacks and an interception. The Browns have consistently fielded teams with slow-footed, undersized and under-achieving linebackers.
Wilson would give the team some flexibility and maneuverability within its new 4-3 framework and a serious jolt of athleticism and speed on one of the NFL's slowest defenses.