A year ago before the 2010 NFL I draft I wrote an article about 5 players the Cleveland Browns needed to avoid, for various reasons. Some I just didn't expect to be good, some had character issues, and some were simply overrated on many draft boards I saw.
As it turns out, the 5 players I listed all had significant problems.The Panthers are already looking to replace QB Jimmy Clausen, likely with the #1 overall pick, and at one point in 2010 they signed Brian St. Pierre off the street instead of giving Tony Pike a chance. LeGarrette Blount had a nice season, after being cut from his Original team, the Titans, for punching a teammate during practice. This justified the many who had questions about his character after being suspended for punching a Boise State player while at Oregon.Ryan Mathews also disappointed, though in large part due to injuries. And Myron Rolle, despite many Browns fans saying he could come in and start immediately, never saw the field.
(You can read the 2010 article here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/378393-5-players-the-browns-should-avoid-in-the-2010-nfl-draft#/articles/378393-5-players-the-browns-should-avoid-in-the-2010-nfl-draft/page/5)
After what I would consider a strong success, I have decided to write a similar article this year. Here are 5 players that the Browns should AVOID in the 2011 NFL draft.
Despite wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines, in addition to playing a position where the Browns have a huge need, they should avoid any temptation to draft Nick Fairley 6th overall. While his superb talent was on display in the BCS title game, so was his dirty play. In certain cases this would be slightly acceptable, like if it's out of frustration for example. Fairley however was certainly not frustrated, as he was getting into the Oregon backfield all night.
Here's what separates him from being one of the most desirable players in the draft, to being a guy to avoid. With Auburn on top for most of the game, Oregon had one final drive to put something together. Their offense was struggling heavily, failing to move the ball much if at all on their previous possessions. After a handoff near midfield to LaMichael James the play had long been blown dead, but Fairley grabs James by the facemask and twists. Personal Foul, 15 yards. Oregon goes on to score.
Not only did this cost Auburn 15 yards, it nearly cost them a National Championship.If a player wants to play dirty, they at least need to be smart about it. Fairley isn't.
Although Colt McCoy has been endorsed by both Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren, if a quarterback fell to the Browns who they though was better, they would not hesitate to take him.
A couple months ago the possibility of taking Mallett was much more of an issues, as McCoy had not officially been endorsed yet. The problem is that Mallett has some bad habits that aren't coachable. Time after time it seemed he was placed under the pressure of a big moment, and time after time he would respond by folded, often throwing an interception.
Ryan Mallett may be the most gifted passer in this draft, but the spotlight of being a franchise quarterback is one of the biggest pressures in all of sports, and I'm not so sure I trust Mallett to respond.
He may have been one of the best pass rushers in the nation in 2009 when he recorded 11 sacks in 2009, but when you look at the season more in depth the number that jumps out most often is zero. He failed to record any of those sacks against top competition, including the Mineke Car Care Bowl against Pittsburgh, or against Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, or Boston College. Instead he made his name terrorizing inferior opponents, with 7 of his 11 sacks coming against Duke, Citadel, East Carolina, and Georgia Southern.
His level of competition certainly should not diminish his work entirely, but it is enough to question whether some draft boards have him rated too high. When added to character concerns (suspended by the NCAA for the 2010 season for receiving improper benefits), he becomes too big of a risk for the Browns to take.
Despite leading Nevada to the best season and some of the biggest wins in school history, Colin Kaepernick comes with a handful of questions about his game and is not a fit in the Browns new West Coast Offense. There are many reason why the Browns should avoid calling his name on draft day.
1. Aside from Michael Vick not many rushing QBs have had long, successful NFL careers. Kaepernick is a rushing QB, despite attempts to rid himself of that label.
2. His performance declines in big games. Sure he was able to lead an enormous comeback to complete a shocking upset of WAC rival Boise State, but looking at the game more closely shows he did most of the work with his feet. His passing accuracy seems to decline, as he has struggled in just about every big game he has played in whether it be a non-conference game against Notre Dame in 2009, or the 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Boston College.
3. He may have the strongest arm in this draft, but his accuracy is below average. For a West Coast Offense accuracy is the #1 quality a QB needs to have, and Kaepernick wouldn't be able to hit receivers consistently or be able to put the ball in the optimal spot for yards after the catch. I have seen more than one Browns fan bring him up when talking about possible draft pick, and can't help but shake my head. His accuracy should not be confused for Derek Anderson's, but in a West Coast Offense he would look just as bad.
Consider this one mix of character concerns and a bad fit. Although the Browns are certainly in need of an elite WR, Baldwin is not a guy they should target. With the switch the Browns are making to the West Coast Offense the Browns need a guy who can gain yards after the catch, and his lack of ability in this area is one of Balwin's biggest weaknesses. He is not the type of guy you would expect to thrive with a quarterback such as Colt McCoy, and though people are adamant about getting him a new target, Baldwin is not the guy.
There is also a level of concern about Baldwin's character, as he was punished by Pittsburgh for an incident on campus. He was also outspoken about his role in Pittsburgh's offense.
Although there is a chance he falls to them in round 2, the Browns would be best suited to overlook Baldwin and look for a receiver somewhere else.
While it is yet to be seen how these players will fare in the NFL, they all have significant questions that make them risky draft picks. Picks that, in my opinion, the Browns just can't afford to make.
After last year's article on this topic I am fairly confident in my opinions, but there is of course every chance I am wrong.
Thanks for reading and I appreciate any feedback, whether positive or negative.
Special thanks to Brendan Leister for his input on this topic (http://bleacherreport.com/users/440793-brendan-leister).
You can follow me on Twitter @deg4