2011 NFL Draft Results: Cleveland Browns Among the 10 Biggest Winners
The 2011 NFL Draft was full of surprises, but after a wild four days, which teams came out on top?
We saw the Atlanta Falcons make a huge trade with the Cleveland Browns for the No. 6 pick in Julio Jones. Cleveland definitely got the better end of that deal, as I'll discuss later. The Browns didn't make any flashy picks during the draft, but Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert filled in more holes.
The Detroit Lions might have been the most successful team after adding Nick Fairley, Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure.
Which other teams set themselves up nicely for 2011 and beyond? Let's take a look...
10. Dallas Cowboys
Before Tyron Smith, Jerry Jones hadn't drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since 1995. Smith will start immediately for Dallas, likely replacing Doug Free at left tackle.
The Cowboys had tons of offensive line injuries in 2010, which eventually led to Tony Romo's season-ending one.
Dallas' second-round pick, LB Bruce Carter, was one of several North Carolina players suspended in 2010. Many people acknowledge the fact that Carter would have been a first-round pick had he played last season. He will replace Keith Brooking and probably start on defense for a long time.
As for the rest of the draft, Dallas addressed needs with OG David Arkin and DB Joshua Thomas. The secondary was miserable for the Cowboys last season, and Thomas will add depth, especially when considering Terence Newman's inability to stay healthy.
I commend the Cowboys for avoiding a skill player in the first round.
9. Indianapolis Colts
Bill Polian couldn't have asked for a more successful draft. Indianapolis' main concern was revamping Peyton Manning's protection, and the Colts addressed it by drafting two offensive linemen in the first and second rounds.
The fact that OT Anthony Castonzo fell to the Colts at No. 22 is a dream come true, especially when considering LT Charlie Johnson's horrible 2010 campaign. Castonzo has great size (6'7", 310 lbs.) and four years of experience at the position.
In the second round, Indianapolis actually traded up four spots to grab another lineman, OT Benjamin Ijalana of Villanova. He could start at guard for Mike Pollak, but there's still a chance RT Ryan Diem is replaced.
In addition, RB Delone Carter will try to add a new dimension to the running game since Joseph Addai might not be coming back. Carter has great north and south running skills.
The Colts added some defensive help (DT Drake Nevis, CB Chris Rucker), but the key was to take some of the weight off Manning's shoulders. Indianapolis' offense will be scary with the return of Dallas Clark and a better offensive line.
8. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland padded its defense again, and added a potential No. 1 wideout in Greg Little.
Perhaps the Browns' trade with Atlanta (acquired Falcons 1st, 2nd, 4th, 2012 1st) was the most surprising move of the draft, and several draft critics say the Falcons overpaid for Julio Jones.
Adding Phil Taylor will give Dick Jauron some breathing room with the new 4-3 defense. Taylor is humongous, and will cause havoc along with second-round selection DE Jabaal Sheard. The Browns desperately need to add pressure on the defensive line to couple with a soon-to-be great secondary.
Cornerback Buster Skrine will play in nickel and dime packages, and FB/LB Owen Marecic has versatility on both sides of the ball.
The Browns didn't get tons of top talent, but they've set themselves up nicely for next year's draft. The team might be a year or two away from the playoffs anyway.
7. Buffalo Bills
The Bills didn't make any trades during the draft, but they waited patiently and got some great talent.
Alabama's Marcell Dareus was arguably the most talented player in the draft, and Buffalo did an excellent job to build around him. Clearly, the Bills wanted to bolster their defense this year, as RB Johnny White was the only offensive player drafted.
Cornerback Aaron Williams of Texas was a top-5 talent at his position, and there's a good chance he'll replace Terrence McGee immediately.
Buffalo also added ILB Kelvin Sheppard, who will aid a line-backing corps that's one of the NFL's worst.
6. Baltimore Ravens
Cornerback Jimmy Smith is a top talent, but he dropped all the way to the Ravens at No. 27. Smith was Baltimore's dream pick at their spot, considering the secondary is without a doubt the team's biggest cause for concern.
Smith will assist a Ravens pass defense that finished 21st in the NFL last season.
In addition, with thoughts of replacing Derrick Mason, the Ravens added wide receivers Torrey Smith of Maryland, and Tandon Doss of Indiana. These guys add more dimension to a Baltimore passing game that hasn't yet reached its full potential. Anquan Boldin didn't perform to the level of his expectations in 2010, and he won't be double-teamed as often with Smith on the other side.
Baltimore also moved up in the third round to draft OT Jah Reed, who should replace an inexperienced Marshal Yanda on the right side of the line.
It's important to remember that the Ravens and Steelers both have solid rushing attacks, so the way to beat each other is through the air. The Steelers also have a weak secondary, and didn't address it with any top talent in the draft. As of right now, Baltimore has set things up nicely for when they meet Pittsburgh in 2011.
5. Houston Texans
Houston added tons of defense with J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed in the first two rounds. Reed will play linebacker, and he adds to a front seven already piled with names like Mario Williams, Brian Cushing and DeMecko Ryans.
The Texans would have been higher on this list had they chosen Prince Amukamara, though. Houston's passing defense was among the worst in 2010, especially after Kareem Jackson's atrocious rookie season. Luckily, Houston added CB Brandon Harris from Miami. He plays solid man defense, and has potential to be great in the NFL.
As for the rest of Houston's draft, they didn't add any offensive talent aside from quarterback T.J. Yates, who will back up Matt Schaub.
This might be the year Houston breaks through and makes the playoffs, though. The defense is stacked with potential, especially up front. If the secondary can climb to the middle of the pack in 2011, Houston is set.
4. New York Giants
In my opinion, every team who passed on Prince Amukamara after pick No. 10 made a big mistake. Luckily, he fell into New York's lap at No. 22, and their secondary issue is now solved. Corey Webster will likely move to nickel and dime formations in order to make room for Amukamara.
As for the rest of New York's draft, they got stud DT Marvin Austin in the second round. Austin was part of the suspended North Carolina players in 2010, and he would have been a first-round pick, too.
It will be interesting to see what the Giants do with third-round pick WR Jerrel Jernigan. He can return kicks and punts, but he'll also add an element of speed that will put the receiving corps on another level. Jernigan is a dangerous weapon, especially when used in the slot.
New York also added hard-hitters like LB Greg Jones, who was among the nation's best tacklers, and S Tyler Sash.
3. Cincinnati Benglas
The turmoil in Cincinnati this past offseason left Bengals fans worried, but the team's draft went exceptionally well.
Cincinnati expects to lose Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer, but they'll be replaced immediately. Wide receiver A.J. Green was the top talent in the draft, and he'll lead a Bengals receiving corps while Andy Dalton throws to him.
Dalton was taken after not even two seconds expired from Cincinnati's allotted time in the second round. The Bengals traded up to grab Dalton, and they figure he'll be the perfect fit in a brand new West Coast offense.
The Bengals won't see immediate success in a division like the AFC North, but at least there's an offensive foundation with two great players in place.
The last key piece added by the Bengals was LB Dontay Moch. He'll be more of a run stopper for this defense, which struggled mightily to do so in 2010.
Marvin Lewis has burned some bridges recently, but after signing a new contract, he's off to a great start with the draft in mind.
2. Detroit Lions
Don't look now, but the Detroit Lions now have arguably the best defensive line in the NFL with the addition of Nick Fairley. He'll team up with Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch to cause big problems in the NFC North.
Then, you have to consider how much WR Titus Young and RB Mikel Leshoure will mean to this offense. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is returning from a season-ending injury, and he'll have even more weapons at his disposal. Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best are already going to be stars, and adding these two rookies gives the Lions a top-notch offense. Don't be surprised if they put up more points than both the Saints and Falcons.
The only problem with Detroit's draft is the fact that they didn't address the secondary at all. Cornerback Alphonso Smith was embarrassingly bad in 2010, yet the Lions didn't even draft a defensive back.
Still, Detroit will be headed to the playoffs much sooner than one might think with this ridiculous offense. On the other side of the ball, the secondary won't have to worry as much, considering opposing quarterbacks will be under pressure all day, too.
Jim Schwartz will take this team very far, very soon.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We watched the Buccaneers stun the nation after going 10-6 last year. Now it appears they can win the division by resorting to their old way: defense.
Tampa Bay was fortunate enough to get Adrian Clayborn at No. 20 in the first round. If he stays healthy, they'll have an unbelievable pass rusher. That same statement goes for Tampa's second-round pick as well, Da'Quan Bowers.
How could it be that Bowers, who was once considered the draft's top talent, fell all the way to the end of the second round? Team executives consider him damaged goods, but the Buccaneers created a feel-good story when drafting him to walk in the footsteps of his former mentor at Clemson, Gaines Adams.
The Buccaneers addressed the pass rush in a huge way, and then got tackling machine LB Mason Foster in Round 3. He's the ultimate ball hawk, and will lock down the front seven while Tampa's talented secondary does the rest.
Josh Freeman now has TE Luke Stocker at his disposal, too. The Buccaneers' offense is already packed with potential, and Stocker will open up the middle of the field.
You'd have to think this team is headed for the playoffs now. Freeman has the offense winning big games in the fourth quarter, and there isn't a position of need on defense. Tampa Bay is headed for a brilliant future after its success in this draft.