The 2011 NFL Draft showed just how serious the Cleveland Browns are about making the transition to a 4-3 defense. After engineering a stunning trade with the Atlanta Falcons, the Browns nabbed huge Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor with the 21st overall pick. In the second round, Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert added a speedy edge rusher in Jabaal Sheard from the University of Pittsburgh.
These were two positive moves from the Browns hierarchy. Transitioning to any new defense begins up front. Taylor and Sheard are likely to both emerge as day one starters for new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. Joined by last season's surprise package Ahtyba Rubin, the two rookies could help form the basis of an exciting young defensive line in Cleveland.
There is still the important position at left end to fill, however. In most 4-3 defenses, the weakside, right defensive end spot is occupied by a rush specialist. The strongside end is required to be more of a complete player, capable of applying pressure and strong enough to shut down the run. Think of legendary former New York Giant Michael Strahan when vizualising the classic left defensive end.
If the Browns are to have a firm foundation for their new 4-3, they will need to find a strongside starter who fits the above criteria. Here are five potential candidates who would make the Browns schematic change a success.