Did you hear the groans last Thursday? It was the sound heard around the city of Cleveland when the Browns traded their sixth overall pick to Atlanta.
“Another trade down? We did that once already when Mangini gave the Jets Mark Sanchez while we got David Veikune and a bunch of Jets castoffs in return.”
But hopefully things will be different this time around. It all depends on how well the four extra picks acquired from Atlanta pan out. Here’s a round-by-round breakdown.
Trading the sixth pick to the Falcons netted the Browns extra picks in the second and fourth rounds in 2011 and extra picks in the first and fourth rounds in 2012. More about what the Browns did with those extra 2011 picks later. The trade dropped the Browns down to 27th in the first round. But it was a huge bounty for a pick the Browns didn’t even need after top-tier players they had targeted were gone.
Then GM Tom Heckert seemed to develop an itchy trigger finger. He traded a third round pick to the Chiefs to move up to 21 and select DT Phil Taylor from Baylor. Reports later surfaced that at least one team, the Philadelphia Eagles, were interested in Taylor as well, so maybe it was a move that Heckert had to make.
Either way, the Browns acquired a force on the defensive line that will be stopping the run and drawing double-teams. Taylor’s size (6’3”, 334 lbs) will help him bowl over any undersized offensive lineman although the Browns are hoping he’s done gaining weight. The double-teams he’ll draw should free up the defensive ends to rush the quarterback. It’s not a glamorous pick but it’s one the Browns had to make.
Speaking of pass rushing, the Browns addressed this need at the top of round two when they selected DE Jabaal Sheard from Pitt. Fans were screaming for the big name, Da’Quan Bowers, who dropped out of the first round. But a DE who just underwent offseason knee surgery and might need more definitely raised some red flags. The Browns wisely passed.
In Sheard, the Browns selected the Big East Defensive Player of the Year with a bit of a mean streak. He seems to have a nose for the football, recording 14.5 tackles-for-loss, nine sacks and four forced fumbles in 2010. There isn’t quite as much upside or pure athleticism as there is with a Bowers, but there’s also nowhere near the same amount of risk. Dick Jauron’s defensive line is dramatically improved with Taylor and Sheard up front.
Then with Atlanta’s second round pick, the Browns took WR Greg Little from North Carolina. Remember, the Falcons picked WR Julio Jones with the Browns first round selection, so it will be interesting to see how their careers play out. The more-polished Jones will certainly have a more immediate impact.
Little’s size (6’3”, 230 lbs) might prevent him from blowing past defensive backs. But that same size will help him fight for the ball and shed any DB’s attempting to bring him down. He blocks well and has good hands. Unfortunately, Little is a converted running back and has only one full season at wide receiver. He missed the 2010 season while serving a suspension, so there’s some development that needs to take place.
With no picks in the third round, The Browns had plenty of time to focus on their two picks in the fourth. They got creative and selected a converted basketball player, TE Jordan Cameron from USC. Hopefully this “basketball player to tight end” transition works for the Browns like it did for the Chargers (Antonio Gates), Chiefs (Tony Gonzalez), and Saints (Jimmy Graham).
Then with Atlanta’s fourth round pick, the Browns took FB Owen Marecic from Stanford. Marecic was a two-way player on the Cardinals, adding full-time linebacker duties to an already heavy workload on offense. He’s expected to play fullback, which calls Lawrence Vickers’ future with the Browns in to question. Marecic’s defensive prowess could also make him an asset on special teams.
Did the Browns find any diamonds in the rough in rounds five through seven? Only time will tell. They took a cornerback, Buster Skrine from Tennessee-Chattanooga, an offensive lineman, Jason Pinkston from Pitt and a defensive back/safety, Eric Hagg from Nebraska. Srkine has blazing speed; he claims to have run a 4.22 40-yard dash (but 4.37 is his confirmed time). Pinkston is a (former) Pittsburgh Steelers fan who could find time on the O-line rotation. And Hagg might have to earn a spot on the team as a special teams player.
Overall, the Browns opted for more established players on defense while taking some risks on the offensive players they selected. It’s a strategy that could play out well for the Browns if the NFL solves its labor troubles and allows these players in to camp. Without practice time, they’ll struggle to adapt to a revamped Browns offense AND defense.
But the word that jumps out with most if not all of these picks toughness. These are the kinds of players the Browns need to compete in the AFC North. With proper coaching, the Browns could have three or four more starters from this draft