NFL Draft 2011: Cleveland Browns First Round Big Board

Sam TothContributor IIIApril 23, 2011

StudJoe Robbins/Getty Images

"If we end up staying at where we’re picking, we are going to get a good football player. There are six guys and we are going to get a good football player.” – Tom Heckert, Browns GM

It’s a beautiful feeling to finally trust your favorite team’s general manager. The résumé Tom Heckert built in Philadelphia and the 2010 draft should provide Browns fans a confidence that could not be sniffed with Eric Mangini, Phil Savage, Butch Davis and Carmen Policy running the show.

I still see red when I think about Phil Savage giving up Haloti Ngata for Kamerion Wimbley and a sixth round pick (Babatunde Oshinowo). It takes a lot to upset an 18-year-old college kid on a Saturday morning with no responsibilities other than finishing a fresh hot pizza and some cold beers. Yet Phil Savage managed to mortify me.

On the other hand, I cannot help but feel giddy whenever I think of the draft selection of T.J. Ward. With sports media pundits and self-proclaimed draftniks railing the pick as the worst selection of the draft, Heckert did not care one iota because he did his homework and “liked” the guy. After a stellar rookie year, Ward looks to be a staple of the organization for years to come.

Yet, despite my admiration for the new Browns GM, I will still share my own thoughts regarding the upcoming draft.

This is not a mock draft. This is not who Todd McShay or Mel Kiper like the most. This is not who I believe the Browns like the most. Just my own personal opinion based off of years of watching college football, reading scouting reports and scouring YouTube highlights.

My big board is specific to the Browns. If I believe that one guy will be a 97 in Madden down the road, and another guy a 95, if the 95 plays a position of high need he will be higher on my board. It’s a balance.

So you will not find any quarterbacks on this board because I am a huge homer and do not think it is a position of need. I am eager to see how Colt McCoy progresses as he moves to the west coast offense. Plus, one of his biggest attributes is his leadership ability. If the Browns draft a first round QB, a mute auditioning for American Idol would have more confidence than McCoy next season. It would be counter-productive.

(But for the record, while I think Cam Newton is the most intriguing player in this draft with the highest potential ceiling, I have a feeling Ryan Malletassuming he doesn’t get too into cokewill be the best QB of this class. And I think he will go in the first 15 picks. The man has a trebuchet attached to his right shoulder. Just saying.)

Alright, enough. Without further ado, my big board:


1) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

“But we drafted Joe Haden last year!” I don’t care. Really. I could care less.

As Tom Heckert pointed out in his press conference, you need three good cornerbacks in this league to succeed. The Browns only had three cornerbacks total on their roster last year. In the 2010 season, they had a future star in Joe Haden, a serviceable veteran in Sheldon Brown and an abomination in Eric Wright. (Mike Adams filled in at the nickel from time to time, but he is a safety).

With Brown getting up there in age, pairing Haden with Peterson would immediately create one of the more dynamic cornerback tandems in the league.

Every time I watched an LSU game, Peterson jumped off the screen. He looked like a five-star high school recruit playing against a bunch of guys whose only connection to football in the last ten years would be wearing their letterman's jacket to the bar. But he was playing against other Division 1 SEC athletes. It was ridiculous.

This isn’t a position of need as high as defensive line or receiver, I know. But again, I don’t care. He has All-Pro written all over him and is rated as the top prospect by most scouting services, yet seems to go No. 7 to San Francisco in just about every mock draft.

If he is there, I would not be surprised AT ALL if the following happens: Browns pick Peterson, Heckert goes to the press conference and simply states, “Guys, he was the highest rated player on just about every board out there. Our second cornerback is 32 and our third CB was lit up more than my hippie cousin on 4/20. Really? None of you saw this coming?”


2) Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Speaking of positions of need, I will argue that the Browns highest position of need has to be defensive line. Athyba Rubin is our only surefire starter next season. I like him a lot, but Rubin is a sixth round pick that only really set himself apart last season. Not exactly someone you can pencil in for the Pro Bowl.

The defensive line is riddled with players who were brought in to play the 3-4, and our GM even admitted that the best pass-rusher on the team last year was Jayme Mitchell. Yeah. The same guy who did not play a snap last year.

Marcell Dareus would be a huge bolster to the line next to Rubin. He’s a big boy at 6’3″ 320 lbs. What I like about him is that he is a run-stuffer but can also penetrate into the pocket and get to the passer.

He wouldn’t be the sexy pick, but he would be as smart a pick as they come.


3) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

This is another guy who transcends positional need due to his sheer talent. Our linebacking crew is actually pretty serviceable with Scott Fujita, Jason Trusnik, D’Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong, but none of those guys are on the same level as Miller.

Besides having one of the coolest names in the draft, Von Miller can get to the quarterback better than anyone else in this drafta skill the Browns so desperately need.


4) A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

This is where my board gets murky. I could waver between A.J. Green and Nick Fairley daily. Today, I’m going with Green.

He may not have wowed anyone at the NFL combine and there may be a number of receivers in the draft who could beat him in a footrace. But there are not that many players who could get open as naturally as Green. Nor do they have his hands. The guy could catch a cold near the equator.

And, boy, could the Browns use help at receiver. If defensive line is the number one need for the Browns, receiver is No. 1a. I believe both Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi can develop into very effective NFL playersas number three receivers. Josh Cribbs is the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon but I think he is best utilized as an extension of the offensive coordinator’s creative geniussomeone who could go all over the field. Not as a true receiver.

Green is as talented as they come and plays a position of need. The only reason I do not have him higher is because I think there are different avenues that could be used to improve the position.

In free agency, whenever it happens, you could potentially find the following players: Malcolm Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Sydney Rice, Steve Smith (NYG), Steve Breaston, Santonio Holmes, Mark Clayton or Braylon Edwards! (Too soon?)

They could also draft a receiver in the later rounds. Two players I really like and want to keep an eye on are Titus Young and Leonard Hankerson. Young reminds me of a slightly poor man’s Desean Jackson and Hankerson broke Michael Irving’s touchdown record at the University of Miami, which has to speak for something.


5) Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Nick Fairly epitomizes the mayhem that is the draft process. It will never cease to amaze me how much players will rise and fall without ever playing in a football game. While he still had confetti in his hair after winning the national championship, Fairley seemed to be written in pen as a top two selection. Then he went to the combine and killed the drills. But now he is penciled in on most drafts as the Tennessee Titans selection at No. 8. What happened? It inexplicably happens to someone every year and I will never have any idea why.

The only reason I have him rated behind as the second DT is because Dareus decided to eat a few more cheeseburgers at Alabama and I like my defensive tackles to stuff the run and eat up blockers.


6) Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

I know I just sang A.J. Green’s praises, but I honestly do not have Julio Jones that far behind. Maybe it is just that I happened to watch more Alabama games the past few years, but I remember being in awe of Jones when he was just a freshman, thinking “this guy is going to be a stud in the NFL.” Then he had to go run a 4.34 40-yard dash on a broken foot and leave me with this weird man-crush thing I’ve got going on.

A lot of fans might be disappointed getting the “second best” at receiver, but I really do believe they are 1a and 1b. His biggest knock is apparently drops, and maybe this is because I watched too few Alabama games, but I never noticed that. He just seemed like a playmaker to me. Simple as that.

Welp, those are my top six guys. But guess what? I’m going to keep going!


Trading Down

I originally wanted to put the option somewhere in my big board, but it is impossible to rate the deal until you know what spot you are trading down to and what the other team gives up. For example, if we were to pull a Lions-Browns trade and move down one spot, pick up an additional second rounder and draft the player we originally wanted? That would be VERY appealing.

On the other hand, what if we were to pull a 2009 Browns and trade down four times, only netting a Jets pu pu platter, David Veikune and some fourth rounders here and there? That would be very UNappealing.

But I think it is reasonable to trade down a few notches, pick up an additional second rounder or future pick and still nab a player who wouldn’t rate far behind the players above. Here are some players who would fit that bill (in order of my preference):

Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

This is a player who I cannot make up my mind about. He led the nation in sacks, has all the physical tools you could ask for, but that knee. It scares the bejeezus out of me.

What is hard for me to understand, though, is how differing the reports are about its severity. World renowned arthroscopic surgeon Dr. James Andrews was quoted as saying he would “be able to resume his professional football career without any problems” and that he has a “good prognosis for his career.” Tom Heckert claimed that the team doctors gave his knee the OK. Yet Brian Billick wrote that he had sources proclaiming that Bowers’ knee may only have a shelf life of as short as three years.

If he was 100 percent healthy, he would probably be the second player on my board. If his knee really only has a shelf life of three years, I am simply not picking him and begrudging the fact that a better team will have the luxury of getting a great pass-rusher for the next few seasons.

Robert Quinn, DE, UNC

The story of his comeback from a brain tumor in high school is truly inspirational. But it is a little scary, too. The fact that he lied to NCAA investigators and has not played a contact sport in over a year also has me very wary to pick him.

Yet the three-time state wrestling champ was still an elite pass-rusher when he played. Part of me is worried that a majority of his sacks came against cupcake teams, but part of me also realizes that every other team also plays the same level of cupcakes and hardly anyone matched his production.

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

I actually really like Prince Amukamara. Here is another guy whose fantastic name matches his level of play.

Some think that he is not a playmaker because he only recorded five interceptions in his career at Nebraska, but that is because no one threw the ball to his side! If a corner can shut down a receiver, or bat a ball away, he has done his job as far as I’m concerned. An interception and return ability is not even the icing; it’s just the cherry on top.

J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Corn fed white boy can get the quarterback and play the run. Is it racist to compare his ceiling to Jared Allen? What if he grew a mullet?

Cameron Jordan, DE, California

By all accounts, this guy utterly dominated the Senior Bowl when he went up against other premier college talents under the scouts’ microscope. That says something to me.

Bottom line: There are at least six impact players in this draft and, after Thursday night, you can be sure the Cleveland Browns will end the day a better football team.

For this, plus more, check out Ten Cent Beers


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