Cleveland Browns Need A Rainmaker In 2011 NFL Draft

Greg MilanoContributor IFebruary 4, 2011

28 Oct 1990: Running back Eric Metcalf of the Cleveland Browns runs with the ball during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won the game, 20-17.
Mike Powell/Getty Images

While this week's storm of historic proportions has affected 30 U.S. states and has created widespread havoc, it is obvious that the Cleveland Browns need to generate some kind of disturbance themselves if they ever intend to be a factor in the AFC North race in the foreseeable future.

What the Cleveland Browns need is a rainmaker!

The definition of a rainmaker is "an achiever of outstanding results in a profession or field."

Rainmakers, in football terms, are players who can change a game dramatically every time they touch the ball. For the most part, these are guys on the offensive or special-team units who have become known as game-changers by their quick-strike capabilities.

The Browns have definitely had their share of rainmakers in the past few decades, but they have been too few and far between.

WR/KR Josh Cribbs is a player on the current roster who is definitely a rainmaker, although he fell far short of that label in 2010 due to slow-healing injuries and hyped-up opponents. An argument could be made that Peyton Hillis is a rainmaker, but he is a talented and powerful back who generally wins the war of attrition and usually doesn't come up with one game-changing play.

Adding another rainmaker on the roster, however, would prevent the opposition from focusing on Peyton the Great and his offensive numbers would probably soar even higher.

When you think of rainmakers, you have two think of two dynamos who arrived via the NFL draft from a pair of southern colleges: Greg Pruitt (Oklahoma) in the '70s and Eric Metcalf (Texas) in the '80s and '90s.

Pruitt was one of the most exciting players ever to come out of Oklahoma in 1973 when he was drafted by the Browns. He prowled the Sooner campus with a shirt labeled "Hello" on the front and "Goodbye" on the back. He was an absolute steal in the second round since most scouts at that time were somewhat put off by his lack-of-ideal size (5-10, 190).

One of his biggest skeptics was head coach Nick Skorich, who was never convinced that Pruitt's small frame could absorb the constant pounding of an NFL starter. Not-so-coincidentally, when Skorich left in 1975 in favor of Forrest Gregg, Pruitt's career began to blossom.

Pruitt broke the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in three consecutive seasons beginning in 1975, a year in which he averaged 4.9 yards-per-pop and rushed for 8 TDs. Pruitt's career 4.74 yard-per-carry average puts him in 11th-place on the all-time list in that category. He was also a receiving force coming out of the backfield, with his best season coming in 1981 when he hauled in 65 passes for 636 yards with 4 TDs.

Pruitt's blazing speed and elusiveness made him a special-teams return threat as well.

The Browns traded up in the 1989 to select Metcalf with the 13th overall pick of the draft. Metcalf came from a strong bloodline; his father, Terry Metcalf, was an standout NFL running back with the St. Louis Cardinals. Because of his smaller size (5'10", 188 lbs), Metcalf had to battle many of the same perceived inadequacies as Pruitt.

While Metcalf never even came close to breaking the 1000-yard rushing mark (his best season was 633 yards in '89), he was just as dangerous of a receiver as Pruitt and definitely a bigger kick-return threat. As a member of the Browns, his best receiving season was 1992, when he grabbed 47 passes for 614 yards and five TDs.

As a Falcon in 1995, Metcalf, used mainly as a receiver on offense, caught 104 passes for 1189 yards and eight TDs. Metcalf's 10 career punt-return TDs leave him tied for first on the all-time mark with Chicago's Devin Hester. He also took a pair of kickoff returns to the house during his 13-year career as well.

Browns fans will always cherish the memory of Metcalf's two dazzling punt-return TDs in 1993, which enabled the Browns to defeat the visiting Steelers, 28-23.

In the 2011 NFL draft, the Browns have plenty of needs to fill, especially at cornerback, wide receiver, defensive end and possibly right offensive tackle. But the Browns could also use another rainmaker capable of transforming a sobering loss into a thrilling victory with one or two big plays.

There are plenty of potential rainmakers in the 2011 NFL draft but, as always, the bust potential is high. Listed below are the top candidates to become the next Cleveland Brown rainmaker, along with their probabilities of (successful) participation in the NFL.

Ryan Williams TB, Virginia Tech (5-10, 210, 4.49) - 20%

All-ACC as a redshirt freshman, Williams decided to enter the draft after his sophomore season despite a freefall in his production, partly due to a nagging hamstring injury. As a freshman, he rushed for 1,665 yards and scored 21 TDs.

Look for him to be pulled off the board in either Round 2 or 3.

Jerrel Jerrigan, WR/KR, Troy (5-9, 190, 4.30) - 30%

He projects to be a slot receiver and kick returner in the NFL and shows all of the physical attributes of a rainmaker.

Jerrigan hauled in 84 passes for 822 yards last season, with six scores. He also returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns. The biggest drawback is that he posted most of his numbers against subpar competition.

He's an intriguing prospect who should also slide off the board in either the second or third round.

Kendall Hunter, RB Oklahoma State (5-9, 200, 4.45) - 40%

A tough, sturdy running back with a nose for the endzone, Hunter earned All-America status by rushing for 1,548 yards last year and scoring 16 touchdowns.

He is an elusive runner with a great burst up the field. He had amazing games against Washington State (257 yards) and Nebraska (201) last season.

Hunter's lack-of-productivity in the receiving area is the one factor that may prevent him from becoming a rainmaker. It's just hard to ignore such a physical specimen who averaged 5.7 yards per carry against some excellent competition.

He looks like a Round 2 selection.

Julio Jones, WR Alabama (6-4, 220, 4.50) - 50%

Jones will almost surely be there for the Browns with their first pick, but he might be a little bit of a reach at that spot. This doesn't mean that Jones will not be a productive NFL player; he certainly will be.

Last season, Jones snatched 78 passes for 1,133 yards and 7 TDs and was the spark that propelled the Crimson Tide. Some experts feel that Jones has shown a little hesitancy going through the middle and that's a little surprising because he is such a great physical specimen.

Jones made some circus catches last year, but also dropped a few bunnies. It will be surprising if he is still on the board after the 15th overall pick.

Titus Young, WR/KR Boise State (5-11, 175, 4.35) - 60%

He reminds you of Eric Metcalf at times and has a penchant for making defenders look bad. Young snared 71 passes for 1,215 yards last season with nine TDs.

If the cornerback bites on the first move and allows Young to get behind him, it's lights out.

Young has taken three kick/punt returns to the house in his college career, but surprisingly did not break a big one in 2010. He looks like a second round selection, although it is very possible a team will bite in the mid-to-late first round.

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (5-10, 215, 4.44) - 60%

This former Heisman trophy winner watched his stats plummet in comparison to his 2009 season, but he still will get plenty of attention in this year's draft.

He reminds one of Earnest Byner with his durability and grinding style, but he has the ability to break away and go the distance at any time.

He still posted good numbers in his final season, rushing for 875 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He also scored 13 touchdowns. Ingram also caught 21 passes with a score last year, but he needs to improve his receiving skills if he truly wants to become a rainmaker at the professional level.

Someone should grab him in the latter part of the first round.

Torrey Smith, WR/KR, Maryland (6-1, 205, 4.30) - 70%

Smith is one of the best size/speed prospects to come out of the draft in recent years. He is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.

In his final regular season game in college, Smith was absolutely spectacular, amassing 224 yards on 14 receptions and four TDs in a 38-31 win over N.C. State. Smith looks like a late first-rounder, but there's an outside chance he will be there when the Browns are on the clock in the second round.

If the Browns decide to trade down with their first round pick, they could have their rainmaker right there waiting for them! 

A.J. Green, WR, Georgia (6-4, 210, 4.48) - 70%

A rainmaker if there ever was one, Green will more than likely not be available when the Browns draft with the number six pick in the first round. Green is arguably the best receiver in the draft and has had the advantage of playing in a pro-style offense in his career as a Bulldog.

He was suspended for the first four games last season, but it appears his stock has not fallen much, if at all. In eight games, Green grabbed 57 passes for 848 yards with nine TDs.

Although he has a fine 40 time, Green looks even faster on the field. If he happens to slip, the Browns had better grab him in the first round.


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