A Tough Haul: Grading the Cleveland Browns 2011 NFL Draft
Some hair was added to the collective chest of the Cleveland Browns over the weekend. Tom Heckert selected eight men that will help make the Browns a tougher football team.
Here is a quick recap of what I love about the draftees that are essentially lumberjacks in shoulder pads:
Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor—Kicked out of Penn State for multiple off-field fights on campus. The "Charlie Sheen" pick: he's bigger than at least two and a half men, and it is all about WINNING in the AFC North, because the big boy loves to stop the run.
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh—The Big East defensive player of the year once threw a man through a plate glass door during an altercation. Wait...on a conference call with the Cleveland media, he cleared this rumor up by saying they "both" went through the glass. Oh. Okay. So he just tackled another man through a plate glass door. Ahh. Never mind.
Jordan Cameron, TE, USC—Okay, I'll admit this guy might not be as "tough" as the others considering that he is a white guy who once had a hair-do that would make Sunshine jealous. But on the other hand, he might be able to dunk better than any one in the league and hangs out with Blake Griffin. So, obviously, he is really cool.
Owen Marecic, FB/ILB, Stanford—He is the only player in major college football that started on both offense and defense. He once scored an offensive touchdown and a defensive touchdown in span of 13 seconds. And this was for a team that won the 2011 Orange Bowl, not some cupcake program. The man doesn't wear Under Armour. He wears flannel.
What grade do you give the Browns' 2011 NFL Draft?
Jason Pinkston, OL, Pittsburgh—Apparently not afraid to go out, have a few drinks with Killa the night of the draft and tweet this gem:
No idea what it means. Zero clue.
Buster Skrine, CB, Chattanooga—Well, his name is Buster from Chattanooga. I don't think we need to say anything else, but if you do: he's probably faster than anyone you have ever met, reportedly running a 4.22 40-yard-dash at his school's Pro Day.
Eric Hagg, S, Nebraska—Mel Kiper calls him a true "ball hawk." Hagg led his team in interceptions. On his team: top prospect, corner back Prince Amukamara.
The Cleveland Browns 2011 NFL Draft was not a flashy one. You could probably argue that the biggest "name" they selected was a fourth round fullback in Owen Marecic.
But it was an effective draft.
Tom Heckert and his team did an excellent job of targeting team needs—most notably along the defensive line and wide receiver. The Browns probably picked up at least four starters in Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Greg Little and Marecic.
It would also not surprise me if Jason Pinkston (four year starter and 2-time All Big East) sees some playing time along the right side of the line or if Eric Hagg finds his way on the field as a free safety opposite of T.J. Ward (depending on what happens in free agency).
Jordan Cameron and Buster Skrine are in all likelihood longer term projects.
The new players will also help push the attitude of the team in the right direction. I half-jokingly mentioned that I "loved" the fact that Taylor and Sheard came with some character concerns. I say "half" jokingly because on one side, obviously I realize that such baggage could be a detriment to a team.
On the field, though? I want guys on my team to have a "if you mess with my friend, I will tackle you through a plate glass door" attitude. I want to bring back this kind of attitude. That half is no joke.
Also no joke: the aggregate manliness of a Peyton Hillis and Owen Marecic backfield. Their off-season workouts will consist of tying tractors to their chest and going for jogs. They might be the grittiest, scrappiest, gym rattiest, most blue collar tandem the league has ever seen. (Seriously, they will have announcers breaking records left and right this season for white football player cliches.)
What also has to be considered in determining the grade of this year's draft is the 2012 draft picks acquired in the Atlanta Falcons trade—including a first round pick. That will be huge going forward.
Speaking of the trade: I will take Phil Taylor + Greg Little + Owen Marecic + 2012 1st rounder + 2012 4th rounder over Julio Jones any day of the week. At the same time, I think the trade will work out well for the Falcons (hopefully not too well—since we have their pick), and it will be one of those rare trades that made both teams better in the end.
Overall, the Browns were more than solid. They filled some crucial needs without any major reaches and stockpiled future picks in a very Belichickian way. It was obvious they did their homework. Virtually no time came off the clock before they seemingly sprinted to the podium with each pick.
Only hold up I would have was giving up a few picks in two trade ups that may or may not have been necessary. I am glad Heckert made sure they got the rated highest guy on their board, but to get an A+ you need to let the draft fall to you.
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