2011 NFL Draft: Phil Taylor Was the Smart, Not Sexy 1st Round Pick

Sam TothContributor IIIApril 29, 2011

NOT the dart player.
NOT the dart player.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

A lot of Browns fans may have found themselves asking, “Who?”

So take a minute and Google “Phil Taylor.” The first result is a decorated British professional darts player. (Seriously.)

Skip passed him and you’ll find the 6’3″ 335 pound defensive tackle from Baylor. With him, the Browns hope they nailed a different kind of bulls-eye.

It’s not the sexy pick. It won’t win any awards from Mel Kiper and Todd McShay or any other draft pundits out there. But then again, the sexiest and most award winning draft the Browns have had came with the selection of Brady Quinn in 2007.

Maybe boring is the better route to NFL success.

Fans might even call the pick ugly, to which I would argue, Tom Heckert channeled his inner Jimmy Soul: “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, get an ugly girl to be your wife.” Your friends—in this case, fans and pundits—might make fun of you… but if that’s who you want, it’s who you want.

Some might criticize, saying the Browns did not need to trade up from 27 to 21 to nab Taylor—my first reaction, admittedly. But if we learned anything from Tom Heckert in his press conference: it’s that you do not want to get too cute. If you have a guy you like, make sure you can get him.

Make no mistake about it: Heckert and the Cleveland Browns liked Phil Taylor.

There was no guarantee he would be there by the 27th pick. Reports before the draft were that the Chiefs, Saints and Ravens all had an interest in Taylor. Some team may have also traded up ahead of the Browns. There were certainly plenty of teams willing to trade down to accommodate a team looking to trade up.

The fact that Heckert did not want to risk losing Taylor demonstrates the team’s attraction to him. Heckert rarely misses on high draft picks, so if he has such a high opinion of a player, that should be a testament to his skill level.

At the very least, criticism should be withheld for a year.

Heckert has earned the benefit of the doubt. Everyone railed on his selection of T.J. Ward last year—fans and pundits complained he went too high, he could have gotten him later, he was injury prone, etc. But all it would have taken was one team to like Ward and select him before the Browns picked again. Then that team would have had the promising young safety as the Browns would have spent the season regretting sitting on their hands.

The fact remains that drafting the big, skilled defensive tackle was the smart pick.

Remember, the Browns were 29th versus the run last year. A team cannot succeed in the AFC North with that kind of performance.

Pairing Taylor up with up and coming Athyba Rubin will provide the Browns with a formidable tackle tandem for years to come.

The Browns may have ultimately given up a top 10 pick and a high third round selection, but they added a second and fourth rounder this year along with a first and fourth rounder next year.

That is building for the future.

I’m confident the Browns would have stayed at the sixth spot if a player such as Patrick Peterson, Von Miller or Marcell Dareus fell to them. But none of them did and the organization must not have felt confident selecting the likes of Julio Jones, Robert Quinn or Nick Fairley. So they dropped back, stockpiled picks for the future and took a guy they obviously believed it.

I applaud them for sticking to their guns.

It may not be the exciting splash Browns fans hoped on draft day.

But I’d rather win in the fall than in the spring.


For this, plus more, check out my blog Ten Cent Beers.