This year, they will have the chance to add more talented young players to build the team around for the future. With that concept in mind, I have created a potential Cleveland Browns mock draft that I think would benefit the team both immediately and in the long run.
The problem with many mock drafts is that people seem to ignore reality and have their teams picking players much too high, too low or only from their favorite college programs. Sometimes they also ignore the team's needs to project them drafting a player it is clear they do not need (for example the Bengals aren't likely to take a cornerback in round one if they know Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall will both be back next season).
I have tried to avoid these mistakes to create a mock that I feel is realistic, addresses the team's needs and adds players who I feel have a chance to truly provide an impact in the NFL.
Of course, with the NFL Draft it is always a possibility that any given player will be taken before expected, so I have given two possibilities for each of the Browns' seven picks, a "plan A" and a "plan B". Keep in mind that these are not two entirely separate scenarios, but can be mixed and matched depending on how the draft plays out.
So without further ado, here is my 2011 Cleveland Browns Mock Draft:
A.J. Green, WR
While the Browns feel that their biggest need is along the defensive line, if A.J. Green falls to them here it may be difficult to pass him up. There are a few reasons why the Browns could make Green the sixth overall pick.
1. Many of the top defensive linemen are likely off of the board.
2. DL talent is fairly deep this year, so the Browns could invest in those positions in later rounds.
3. The offensive is in desperate need of a #1 Wide Receiver to make plays and draw coverage away from Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie. With Green said to be the best Wide Receiver to come out in years, if he lasts this far he may be far too tempting to pass up.
Cameron Jordan, DE
Along with a switch to the 4-3 defense, the Browns have made a few roster moves that include the release of several overpaid or underachieving defensive linemen. While this may be a good thing in the long run, at the moment it leaves the Browns with just one quality young lineman on the roster, making it clear that the Browns need to bring Athyba Rubin some serious help this off-season.
While Cameron Jordan is not the most highly rated defensive end in this draft, a part of what makes him an attractive prospect is the lack of concerns that seem to be attached to the other top linemen, whether those concerns be character, work ethic or lack of consistency.
Jordan however, is one of the few who have been consistent throughout their careers, and his experience playing in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses could prove invaluable if the Browns decide to make another change down the road.
While scouts question his ability to get to the quarterback, he had four or more sacks in each of his three full seasons at Cal while being known more for his ability to plug running lanes. For the Browns, a run stuffer who can also occasionally harass the opposing QB is exactly what the team should be looking to add along their front four.
Stephen Paea, DT
With such an obvious need for defensive lineman, it would be shocking if the Browns did not take one in the first two rounds. In fact, don't be shocked if they try to solidify the group the way the did with the secondary last year taking a lineman in each of the first two rounds.
Stephen Paea is a big, intimidating prospect, who recently set the NFL combine record by bench pressing 225 pounds an incredible 49 times. By putting Paea next to Rubin, the Browns would have two big-bodied tackles who would be difficult for offensive linemen to move. While he may not give much in terms of a pass rush, drafting Paea will be a sign that the Browns have finally committed to stopping the run.
Derek Sherrod, RT
While the need for Defensive Linemen is in part due to a scheme change, it is clear that they also are badly in need of a right tackle on the offensive line, based on the poor play of a certain someone in 2010. To put it mildly, John St. Clair was awful, and the team wasted no time in cutting him after the season ended.
His limitations helped to show that missing even one piece can make a line full of Pro Bowl caliber players look bad. To address this issue, the Browns should heavily consider drafting two time All-SEC pick Derek Sherrod. Although he played left tackle at Mississippi, he will likely move to the right side in the NFL. Sherrod's strength as a pass-blocker would give Colt McCoy time in the pocket that he never had with St. Clair, making him a nice piece for the Browns new offense.
James Carpenter, RT
If the Browns do not land Sherrod in the second round, they will still need a Right Tackle who could come in and compete for a starting position on day one. Floyd Womack has shown he can hold his own when necessary, but the Browns would prefer to line him up at Guard, and at his age he is not considered a part of the team's long term future.
James Carpenter never missed a game at Alabama, and had an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl. He is projected as a right tackle in the NFL, but the fact that he played on the left side of the line in college also makes him a candidate in case Joe Thomas ever goes down. With Carpenter, the Browns would get a potential quality starter to round out their offensive line.
Titus Young, WR
If the Browns do not get A.J. Green in the first round, they will still need to find Colt McCoy another target at some point in this draft. While Titus Young's career at Boise State may be worth a higher spot, his comparative small size added to character concerns make him a possibility here.
His ability to stretch the field, make difficult catches and produce in big moments (all evident on his catch against Nevada with one second remaining in regulation) make him the type of player the Browns would love to add to their receiving corps.
Kendric Burney, CB
If Eric Wright can return to his 08 and 09 form, the Browns could be set by only adding a nickleback to the secondary this off-season. Burney is seen by scouts as just that, and his knack for interceptions is exactly what the team is lacking in the defensive backfield.
While he only played five games in his senior season at North Carolina, injuries shouldn't be too big of a concern as he had never missed a prior start. An impressive Senior Bowl and reliable play throughout his college career should make him a strong consideration for the Browns in round 4.
Casey Matthews, LB
Much has been made of the fact that he comes from an elite NFL bloodline, but Casey Matthews has proven to be a good player in his own right. In Oregon's National Championship loss to Auburn, Casey was constantly around the ball showing outstanding effort throughout, and may have been named the game's MVP had Oregon won. Matthews has a nose for the ball similar to D'Quell Jackson, and with Jackson's injury concerns Matthews would be the perfect candidate to replace him.
Jordan Cameron, TE
With the recent release of Robert Royal, the Browns will be looking to add another tight end to pair with Benjamin Watson, particularly one who can catch a football. While they have Evan Moore on the roster, the team doesn't seem to view him as a true tight end, but more as a receiver.
Jordan Cameron has only begun to learn the tight end position, but has impressed scouts with his effort at the combine. If he can put that effort into learning the position, he could be a nice find and a good value pick in the fifth round.
Greg McElroy, QB
When a quarterback is referred to as a career-backup it is usually seen as a negative, but in Greg McElroy's case is different. For McElroy it means he could truly make a career out of being a team's second option, as he has the tools to step in and win a few games in a pinch.
His superior intelligence (an amazing 48 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test) will make it easy for him to pick up playbooks, which should give him the ability to both run scout team offenses and command the second team in practice. All of this makes him the perfect backup for just about any team in the league, and the Browns would be very happy to grab the former Alabama quarterback here.
Round 6 (1st of 2)
Tyrod Taylor, QB
Team President Mike Holmgren has almost guaranteed that the Browns will take a QB at some point in this draft, and there is no reason to doubt that as he has drafted quarterbacks often over his career as a coach and general manager.
Drafting Tyrod Taylor may have made more sense before Seneca Wallace signed a new three-year deal, but he is still an option here. Taylor's athleticism is similar to that of Wallace, but he has the advantage of being younger. Now that Wallace is Colt McCoy's primary backup, it may be too dangerous to use him on trick plays like Holmgren did when he was coaching Wallace in Seattle. If he sees the same possibilities in Taylor, he could be tempted to pick him here.
Noel Devine, RB
With Peyton Hillis powering his way through defenders all season long in 2010, the Browns don't need to focus on finding a starting running back, and with 2010 second round pick Montario Hardesty hopefully back from injury the team should have a nice one-two punch.
However Hillis and Hardesty have similar physical styles, and what the Browns need in the backfield is someone who can come in after they have worn out defenses and potentially break a long run. Noel Devine could be the ideal player for this, considering his blazing 4.34 40 yard dash. After posting a 6.5 yards per carry throughout his West Virginia career, there is no reason for the Browns to pass if he falls this far.
Round 6 (2nd of 2).
Dane Sanzenbacher, WR
The knock on Sanzenbacher has been his speed, but running a 4.58 40 at the combine is sure to put some of those questions aside. His reputation as a leader and sure-handed receiver at Ohio State are exactly the type of characteristics that the Browns receiving corps needs.
While many consider him undersized, he has the reputation of getting open even against the toughest competition, which could make him the perfect safety valve for Colt McCoy. While he doesn't get much hype outside of Ohio, he offers decent potential with very little risk.
Eric Hagg, FS
With T.J. Ward and Abe Elam both being safeties who's strength is against the run, the Browns need to find a safety who excels at pass defense. While the sixth round may not be the best place to find a starter, Hagg was named Nebraska's 2010 team MVP after recording team highs in interceptions (5) and tackles (49). His scouting report also emphasizes his physicality, which paired up with the hard hitting TJ Ward would give the Browns a formidable tandem at safety.
As I said, these scenarios can be mixed and matched, and that may in fact be the best option for the Browns. It is important to consider that even if they don't address every need in the draft, they can still fill holes, either temporarily or long-term, in free agency.
The draft, however, is where great teams are built, so it is important to get it right. Above is my attempt to do just that.
I know it probably isn't perfect, so I would appreciate any and all feedback.