The Cleveland Browns sent waves throughout the NFL early on in the NFL Draft. Once thought to be a shot in the dark rumor, the Atlanta Falcons moved up within the top-10 picks to select wide receiver Julio Jones and mortgaged their future to win right now.
The Browns just happened to be the lucky team in position to take advantage of Atlanta's win-now philosophy. The Browns are rebuilding, and they know that they are still a year or two away from being serious contenders to win the AFC North.
They have a solid base now with Colt McCoy emerging as a viable starting quarterback and had a very strong running attack last season behind Peyton Hillis.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are some definite bright spots in T.J. Ward and Joe Haden, but the defensive line and linebacking corps both need added depth and upgrades across the board.
The Browns ended up trading up from their new spot at No. 27 in order to take defensive tackle Phil Taylor from Baylor. Taylor was a bit of a surprise pick here, considering many thought he could slip even lower in the draft, likely to the Browns initial spot at 27.
Phil Taylor is a massive defensive tackle who is best used to shut down the running game. The Browns know they will have to compete with the running styles of Rashard Mendenhall and Ray Rice for some time to come, so picking up Taylor to anchor the line makes sense in that regard.
Taylor may not bring a steady amount of pass rushing ability to the Browns, but they will work on that. Right now they can rely on the pressure brought on by Ahtya Rubin and let the pass rushing come to Taylor.
I do question the decision by the Browns to move up and select Taylor despite his injury concerns. Had Taylor been taken at the 27th pick, I wouldn't question the decision quite as much.
Spending the 21st pick and giving away your third-round selection to take Taylor isn't great value, however. Taylor has a disorder in his foot causing his bones to grow together, it is unclear now what that will mean for the longevity of his career but it isn't a great sign.
Also, Taylor missed time with an MCL sprain in 2008 and had arthroscopic knee surgery in June last year.
Shaun Rogers was run out of Cleveland because of his off-field issues, and Taylor is his new replacement. Taylor doesn't exactly bring a clean slate to Cleveland, however.
Taylor has been in trouble in school before and has been called lazy on occasion. Based on overall skill, Taylor is a promising prospect. With all of the intangibles included in his rap sheet However, I can't give him a better grade than B.
The Browns decision to trade with the Falcons was fantastic. They have much more to worry about than who to throw to in Cleveland and can wait on finding a playmaker.
In making that trade, they have assured solid draft choices in the middle rounds of this year, and the early rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. That move was great, and for that, they start with an A+.
Then there is the questionable decision to move up and take Phil Taylor with their pick. You can figure that Taylor was always high on the Browns board and was a contributing factor to their agreement to the Falcons trade.
So maybe they thought they would lose their main guy and had enough extra picks to make the move. I can see that reasoning, but I don't agree.
Taylor was a reach where he was taken and too much of a liability health wise to invest a first- and third-round pick on. The Browns could have still selected Taylor or a player of great need and skill with the 27th overall pick.
They also would still have a third-round pick. Instead the Browns will now likely have to trade up into the third round using one of their new fourth-round selections. i just don't think this was a smart way to use their new found draft picks.
Overall I give the Browns an A- for their decisions in the first round.
If they had stuck only with their first trade, they could certainly have kept the A+ grade I was planning on but instead will settle for an A-.