Here they go again, those hard-luck, hard-to-love, hard-to-believe, hard-to-watch yet always mildly amusing Cleveland Browns. The NFL draft is just around the corner, just a flip of the calendar away, the on-the-clock reduced to barely more than 24 hours, and Browns fans should by now be holding their collective breath.
The 11th draft since the Browns' return to the NFL will be conducted by the team's fifth head coach and fourth general manager since that day of infamy when ex-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue walked to the podium and said, "With the first pick in the first round of the 1999 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Tim Couch, quarterback from the University of Kentucky."
It's been a struggle from there with names like Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren and William Green coming from the podium in subsequent years. Only four of 10 first-round picks remain on Cleveland's roster and there has been much speculation that one of those four, Braylon Edwards, will be gone by tomorrow.
(Here's the theory. Edwards, who is a very good receiver coming off a surprisingly bad year, will be traded for lower-round draft picks, which the team lacks, and the Browns will pluck Michael Crabtree of Texas with the No. 5 overall pick. So, you have a couple more draft picks, sure, but you expend the most valuable of them on a receiver to replace a receiver. It might be suggested that makes little sense. Longtime Browns observers might counter that it makes as much sense as anything else they've witnessed.)
For the seventh time in 11 years, Cleveland will have one of the first six selections in the draft, not exactly a sign of significant progress. The good news for new GM George Kokinis and new coach Eric Mangini is that it is highly unlikely they can do any worse than their many predecessors.
And they could do worse than keeping Edwards and drafting Crabtree, too. What once seemed like a rich, deep vein of receivers is skimpy now by comparison.
The Browns weren't a great defensive team in 2008 by any stretch, but they were a truly dismal offensive team. They ranked 32nd in a league of 33 teams - the Cincinnati Bengals were 33nd, which makes you wonder how Ohio's pro football fans managed to stay awake last season - while averaging 14.5 points per game.
So it makes sense that offense would be targeted early on. Or maybe not. There are some mock drafts out there that have Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry still on the board after four picks. If that were to happen, which I believe unlikely, Curry would be a no-brainer for Cleveland. And, heaven knows, the Browns could use a no-brainer.
But if brains are to be taxed, remember this -- among the top five picks in the last three drafts, eight of the 15 players selected were linemen. And that trend could continue with four very good ones figuring to go early - tackles Jason Smith of Baylor and Eugene Monroe of Virginia on offense, and end Brian Orakpo of Texas and tackle B.J. Raji of Boston College on defense.
Cleveland had all of 17 sacks in 16 games last year and
Orakpo, who had 11 by himself at Texas, could help solve that.
So, we've given you six names - Crabtree, Curry and the four linemen. Raji may be a reach at No. 5, so let's make it five names. The Browns draft fifth. They can't screw this up.
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Dave Hackenberg at:
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