Cleveland Browns: Top 5 Selection Possibilities at No. 37 Overall
Round 1 of the 2011 NFL Draft is arguably one of Cleveland’s most productive drafts in history when evaluating it in terms of value. Heckert and Holmgren can now evaluate Round 2 and how to further improve this team.
Round 1 yielded Cleveland a run stuffing NT/DT in Phil Taylor, and a guy that while under the radar, provides Cleveland with some added stability in a position that was thin with the release of Shaun Rogers.
Taylor should provide Cleveland with a visually hideous, but effective DT duo while working in unison with Ahtyba Rubin. I’m officially starting the campaign to call them the “Gruesome Twosome!" All in favor?
If Taylor can get to Cleveland, get to work and really start trying to learn the position, there’s a chance that he could develop into Cleveland’s version of Haloti Ngata (Damn Phil Savage). And, if that happens, this will be heralded as one of the best defensive selections in years.
But, what does Cleveland do moving into Round 2?
The front seven is of critical importance, and I believe Cleveland will need to start looking for those who can pressure the QB. I think there are several options for Cleveland at this point. Let’s take a look at the three most likely candidates!
Candidate No. 1: Brooks Reed
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Ricky, you OK??? I'm sure he vaguely remembers that question being asked after this one....
Make no mistake about it, Brooks Reid, at this point, is certainly one of, if not the best player available. At 6’3” 263 lbs with borderline elite speed, he’s a prototypical Defensive End/OLB.
Reed is relentless in pursuit and is an elite tackler. He’s very strong, has some very solid pass rush moves and proved over his career that he can get to the QB. He earned eight sacks in 2008, two in 2009 and seven in 2010.
Also intriguing here, is his leadership abilities being a three-year starter and captain at Arizona. He’s a high character kid and has a work ethic that rivals one Timothy Tebow, and that’s something that Cleveland needs.
Comparisons have been drawn to Clay Matthews, if for no other reason than his appearance. However, I think he’s more of a Brian Orakpo type of a player. They’re virtually the same size, and had almost identical skill sets in College and Combine numbers. The biggest difference is that Orakpo played at the DE position more than Reed at the Collegiate level.
Reed was more of a read and react type of player.
The biggest knocks on Reed are his erratic performance while stopping the run and his lateral movement, which are keys as an OLB. However, those issues are correctable at the NFL level.
That said, I think Reed can and will come in and make implementing a 4-3 an easy transition for Jauron and company.
Candidate No. 2: Akeem Ayers
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At 6’3” 253 lbs, Ayers is a true Sam in a 4-3 defense. With Cleveland expected to move to that scheme in 2012, Ayers becomes a very solid selection.
Ayers is a very agile and athletic OLB, and has a knack for getting to the ball, nabbing four interceptions in 2009 (three of which were returned for TD’s) and two interceptions in 2010. He’s also got the ability to reach the QB, earning six sacks in 2009 and four in 2010.
Ayers is a well-rounded player and is very intelligent on the field, and while he lacks elite speed, he’s a gameday guy that plays faster than the numbers indicate. Think Barrett Ruud meets D.J. Williams meets Kirk Morrison.
I think at a true Sam position in a 4-3, one could see Ayers develop into one of the better OLBs in the AFC. Cleveland does have an obvious need at this position, and could address this with Ayers.
All in all, a solid possible selection for Cleveland.
Candidate No. 3: Da'Quan Bowers
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WOW…..when bad things are said, it really can adversely effect your stock. Bowers is a top 10 talent, however, with the bone on bone situation in his knee, he’s “Free Falling” in the words of Tom Petty.
This fall down the boards make Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn’s fall look like a cakewalk.
I believe however, that this could potentially be a win/win pick for Cleveland if he’s available. Consider this, Cleveland now has two second-round picks (No. 37 and No. 59), so, they have some room to reach a little.
Bowers could be that reach, and it could work, especially sitting at No. 37 with their first second-round selection.
Undoubtedly, Bowers is going to come in with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s going to have some things to prove to all of those that passed on him. I’d love to see him do that in Cleveland.
At 6’3” 280 lbs, he’s a menacing DE. Add to that the fact that he has very good speed, great pass rush moves, and is quick and decisive in his actions and one can see what Bowers could do for the stagnant Cleveland pass rush.
The knee remains a concern, however, he played with it through college, and my guess is that he’ll be able to do the same in the professional ranks.
At the end of the day, it’s not often that you get to look at a legit Top 10 talent at No. 37, and honestly, if he’s there, serious consideration will have to be given to selecting him. Comparisons to Mario Williams have been drawn, and while I cannot see that being entirely true, I can see some similarities.
Candidate No. 4: Ras-I Dowling
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Dowling is an intriguing possible selection for Cleveland.
Sheldon Brown is aging but still has some fuel left. Eric Wright is NOT a legitimate everyday starter and Cleveland does have a hole opposite of Joe Haden, who in my opinion should have been considered more heavily for Rookie of The Year.
Dowling is a 6'2", 200 lb CB. Size alone puts him in an elite category. Dowling also has very good speed and can can run stride for stride with receivers downfield. He has fluidity on his side, moves very well laterally and takes nice angles in pursuit.
He's a very instinctive player and has a knack for jumping routes and creating interceptions, totaling eight in his three years of starting play at Virginia.
Another attractive part of Dowlings game is his physicality. He jams WRs at the line, and is not afraid to take on and shed a block in an attempt to make a play downfield.
The biggest knocks on Dowling are his sometimes mindless plays, and the fact that his head is often caught somewhere other than the game. This isn't often, but, it does happen.
The comparisons drawn have been to Ike Taylor and, I think that's a very good one. Taylor is a very good, very serviceable playmaking CB, but, has yet to reach his full potential.
That said, I think with NFL coaching, he can and likely will develop into a starting NFL CB. The sentiment surrounding Dowling is that if he had played at an "elite" level school in College and gotten better coaching, he could have easily been a middle first-round talent.
Food for thought.....
Candidate No. 5: Leonard Hankerson
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It's no secret that Cleveland is in dire need of a WR to help Colt McCoy, and provide a serious threat outside of Peyton Hillis.
Carlton Mitchell hasn't received his opportunity yet. He may develop nicely but he's still very raw. Massaquoi is NOT a No. 1 NFL WR, and Chansi Stuckey is Cleveland's Davone Bess.
So, Cleveland needs a true No. 1 WR. This is where Leonard Hankerson comes in.
At 6' 2 1/2" 205 lbs, he's an imposing type of WR, and while he lacks elite-level NFL speed, he still possesses enough speed to be very effective at a high level.
At Miami, he totaled 134 receptions, 2,160 yards and 22 TDs in his four seasons, only one of which came as a true starter. Last season, he finished with 72 receptions, 1156 yards and 13 TDs....Colt McCoy is salivating as we speak.
Hankerson runs great routes, is extremely physical and can make the big catch over the middle or down the field, as his hands are possibly the best in this draft.
The physical side of Hankerson's game is really intriguing and would fit nicely in Cleveland.
The comparisons for him have been to many: Braylon Edwards with better hands, Andre Johnson with less playmaking ability and on and on. However, the comparison that I think is most accurate here, is the one drawn to Marvin Harrison.
Harrison also lacked elite speed, but his route running, field smarts and cohesiveness with his QB was what made him amazing. Hankerson reminds me a lot of Harrison, and I think he must be considered at No. 37, as he will likely be gone by No. 59.
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There are a lot of ways to go here, but to me, the selection is as clear cut as they come.
I think if Bowers is available at No. 37, Cleveland would do well to select him. He's an elite level talent, and even with the knee, could still perform at a very high level.
I like Da'Quan Bowers to come into Cleveland and make a big impact in short order. He's going to be playing mad and have a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. Motivated players tend to be good players.
That said however, I think the focus just has to remain on the front seven. Cleveland needs a LOT of help there, and selecting basically any of the players I listed would help Cleveland's progression to improving the defense.
Round 2 is upon us, and Browns Nation is watching intently. Here's hoping that Holmgren and Heckert continue to put X-Mas gifts under the tree!