To say that the Browns’ defense has been atrocious over the past decade may be an understatement.
Since the reincarnation of the Cleveland Browns in 1999, the team has experienced only two winning seasons in that time period. The reasons for the lack of winning seasons can be attributed to any of the following: poor drafting, coaching turnover, lack of quality players, front-office mistakes, no running game, etc. But I think that the biggest reason has been the inability to build a solid defense.
If you think back and analyze the majority of Browns games since 1999, very few come to mind that produce a dominant defensive performance. Something that is this glaring in the minds of fans and analysts everywhere is finally being realized by our new, competent management team.
Granted nobody expected college standouts Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren to flame out and become busts like they did, but the Browns have lacked defensive play-makers since 1999.
In fact, in 12 drafts (they drafted in the first round in 11 of them), the Cleveland Browns only selected three defensive players in the first round. Only one of them remains active on an NFL team (after Gerard Warren was cut by the Raiders), which is Outside Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
If you look at the teams who constantly make the playoffs year in and year out, their defenses are filled with standout defensive first-round picks. So this leads me to wonder why the Browns have taken so long to realize that defense wins football games.
The fact remains that even though the Browns have had offensive woes since the 2007 breakout season, their defense gives up too many big plays, which keeps them on the field too long. A defense that stays on the field too long will very rarely end up helping its team contend for a championship. Many people say that poor offenses keep defenses on the field too long, but I say that poor defenses are their own worst enemy.
With that said, here are my five defensive players that the Browns should consider taking in the 2010 NFL Draft:
1. Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Haden is still my pick at No. 7 in the first round, and I’m sticking to it. He has a rare blend of athleticism and drive to be the best. After being told that he couldn’t be a quarterback at Florida, the position he played his entire life, he accepted the challenge as a starting caliber cornerback at one of the elite football programs in the country.
A slow 40 yard dash time does not take away from his abilities as a shut down corner, it just means he can’t run track. I’ll take Joe Haden and Eric Wright against guys like Anquan Boldin, OchoCinco, Santonio Holmes, and Hines Ward all day.
2. Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina
I watch a lot of college football, and there are not many outside linebackers available in this draft with his ability. Scouts are going to say he’s too small to play outside linebacker in the NFL, but his natural ball-hawking abilities are rare at his position. Oh yeah, and he can make open-field tackles and get to the quarterback. What more would you want out of a second round linebacker?
3. Chad Jones, S, LSU
Big, hard-hitting, played in the SEC, and is just the physicality that the Browns lack in the secondary. Combining a guy like Jones with corners like Haden and Wright could provide for a lot of troubles for the AFC North. Jones should be available at the top of round three, a round where the Browns hold three picks.
4. Kurt Coleman, S, Ohio State
This is not a homer pick, Kurt Coleman is going to be the real deal. He reminds me of Troy Polamalu, without the hair. He has a nose for the ball, makes big plays, knows where he needs to be on the field, and can be the leader of a defense. He is actually an inch bigger than Polamalu, but size is a concern. Since he lacks the “prototypical” size, you can find Coleman in the middle of round three to the beginning of round four.
5. Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern
6’7” 270 pounds on your defensive line, try throwing over that Joe Flacco and Carson Palmer. Wootton is a guy that was a knee injury away from being a guaranteed first round pick. An okay 2009 comeback season from the injury, and now he finds himself being mentioned in the third round area.
The Browns could use depth on their defensive line, and Wootton could be one of those third round picks. He is labeled a finesse pass rusher, and it seems that combining him with the large and in charge Shaun Rogers and Robaire Smith could provide just the right attack the Browns need.