Underwhelming, but Solid Nonetheless: Evaluating the Cleveland Browns' Draft

Casey DrottarCorrespondent IApril 28, 2009

As draft day rumors peaked heading into the weekend, Cleveland Browns fans were fearing the worst.

Would we really draft another quarterback?  Would we not only keep our "diva" receiver, but add another one as well?  Just exactly how "in love" was the new regime with players we really didn't need or want?

Finally, three months of rumors and smokescreens lead to the number five overall pick. 

And then, they traded it. 

Pick No. 17? Traded that, too. 

The 19th selection? Well, you know the theme by now.

At long last, pick No. 21 came and the selection was made.  And after what seemed like hours upon hours of trading down, the Browns made the unsexiest of all the unsexy picks—a center.

I must admit, I was probably one of the many Browns fans who was more than a little upset that I had to wait all day to see us draft Cal center Alex Mack.  But, after looking at this selection, along with the rest of the moves made by Cleveland, I must say I'm a little impressed.

The Browns came into this weekend with only five selections and left with eleven new players.  DE Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam, and quarterback Brett Ratliff were the latest Jets added to Cleveland from trading down. 

With their picks, Cleveland selected Mack, receivers Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi, OLBs David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava, cornerbacks Don Carey and Coye Franceis, and running back James Davis.

Neither of these new players really jump out as you as much as an Aaron Curry or Michael Crabtree would.  However, one has to realize that each pick and acquisition the Browns made fills necessary and even immediate needs for the team.

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First, there's Mack.  Let's face it, while Hank Fraley was good at helping Cleveland recover from the LeCharles Bentley incident, he was on borrowed time.

The offensive line also took a beating last year when facing tougher opposition than that of the 2007 season.  While a center wasn't the most pressing need, it was certainly one which couldn't be ignored.

Alex Mack will add an immediate impact to the line, giving it a shot of youth along with impressive bulk.  While the Browns previous draft pick at center, Jeff Faine, was more of a sleek lineman, Mack is a 300 pounder who is an expert at shoving people to the ground. 

Also, this addition could vastly improve the running game, goal line offense, and the overall protection of the quarterback (whomever that may be).

Next, you have Cleveland's depleated receiving core.  Joe Jurevicius was released, Kellen Winslow was traded, and Donte Stallworth will most likely be playing for some sort of penal league.  Thus, it was obvious the Browns needed to fill some holes here.

Although former Ohio State Buckeye Brian Robiskie was not the most heralded receiver in this year's draft class, he is regarded by many scouts as the most "polished" wideout.  Experts don't fawn over his speed, but he is quoted as having the most reliable hands of this year's receivers and many believe he could be an instant starter.

Georgia's Mohamed Mossaquoi had a few problems with dropped balls early in his career (something we're full-up on here).  These issues seemed to clear up last season, as Mossaquoi was a big reason why Matthew Stafford's stock was so high. 

He is also known as a solid blocking receiver, which should be a welcome change from Kellen Winslow's "I'll block when I feel like it" approach.

After shoring up the offensive side of the ball, Eric Mangini and Co. picked up two relatively unheralded, but definitely talented linebackers in David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava.

Veikune didn't get a lot of recognition due to playing out in Hawaii.  However, even though he was picked a little early, many experts believe he might be a find.  He's a defensive end the Browns are most likely going to transition into an outside linebacker, and with his speed, agility, and strength, Veikune could become a pretty talented pass rusher.

Kaluka Maiava was surrounded by the much more hyped USC linebackers Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews III, and Rey Maualuga.  It should be noted, though, that Mel Kiper Jr. was pretty outspoken about Maiava, claiming he was underrated and would be a solid pick for teams seeking linebacker help. 

He may not start, but he will definitely add more depth to the shallow pool that was Cleveland's front seven.

While cornerbacks Don Carey and Coye Francies will bring some serviceable bodies to the Browns cornerback crew, someone to keep an eye on will be Clemson running back James Davis.

Davis had three outstanding years at Clemson, and would've been a 2008 first round pick had he not returned for his senior year.  A slightly off year ensued, but you shouldn't discount him for it.

Davis is a big bruiser of a back, and would make the perfect student for Jamal Lewis.  In fact, Davis already knows Lewis since the two went to the same high school, and Lewis has spent some time training him.

So, is this a draft class soaked with eye-popping talent from top to bottom? No, but does it bring some solid talent to positions that needed it badly? Yes.

Another point worth noting is the intelligence level of this new squad. 

Almost every pick the Browns made was noted for their academic excellence.  To be fair, scouts don't see exam scores on the same level as impressive 40 times.  What it does say, though, is that these players are smart enough to know a good decision from a bad one.

High intelligence means these players have a better chance of avoiding stupid off-the-field mistakes and hanging out with the wrong crew.  It means they knew the importance of keeping grades up and they didn't screw around through college knowing they'd be in the pros before long.

It also means the extensive playbooks and schemes seen in the NFL won't be as difficult to grasp.

Again, drafting a bunch of smart athletes may just make the team a little less dumb than it was before, but there are some notable benefits which may go unnoticed for a bit.

In the end, no expert can really predict how successful players will be until they take the field.  The Browns have a long offseason left to get these newbies ready for their first year in the NFL. 

Until then, we should take solace in the fact that we were expecting a season-crushing draft, and were given one that has quite a lot of potential.