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Published: Friday, 4/29/2011

COMMENTARY

Browns create buzz in 1st round

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

The Cleveland Browns went for quantity over quality, pulling off a blockbuster deal and firing the first surprise salvo during last night's opening round of the 2011 NFL draft.

Given an opportunity to select the wide receiver they desperately need, the Browns instead traded the No. 6 overall pick to Atlanta, adding two picks in this year's draft and two more, including the Falcons' first-round slot, in the 2012 draft.

The Falcons added maybe the last piece of a Super Bowl puzzle by taking Alabama receiver Julio Jones.

Cleveland could have taken him to give quarterback Colt McCoy a much-needed weapon to stretch the field. Some will think it was a mistake not to keep the pick and select such an elite talent.

But trading down made some sense for the Browns.

Unlike the Falcons, the NFC's No. 1 seed in last season's playoffs who have a potent running game but needed a deep threat opposite Roddy White to balance the field for quarterback Matt Ryan, the Browns are not simply one player away. They are many players away from competing regularly against the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC Central.

When the Browns got around to taking a player to fill one of those holes, he surely was a big one if not a big name. Cleveland made another trade, this time with Kansas City, to move back up to No. 21 and then snagged 6-3, 338-pound defensive tackle Phil Taylor of Baylor.

That trade up seemed a tad urgent considering Taylor was not projected by many experts to be a first-round pick and most envisioned him as a nose tackle, a position that doesn't exist in Cleveland's 4-3 system. Regardless, he should plug up the running lanes.

It didn't solve the need for a big-play offensive guy, however, but the Browns must be confident they can answer that in the later rounds. They'll head into today's second and third rounds of the draft with three picks. If nothing else, they'll surely add depth. Like we said, their puzzle has many missing pieces.

Unlike the Browns' moves, Cincinnati's pick wasn't all that surprising, although the Bengals currently are well stocked at receiver and would figure to have a bigger need if quarterback Carson Palmer sticks to his guns. He has demanded a trade and claims he will retire if a deal is not granted.

Maybe the selection of Green was a peace offering to entice Palmer back into the fold. Or, perhaps, his trade request will be accommodated as soon as the NFL returns to business as usual. If so, however, the Bengals will need to pluck a gem in later rounds or have a free agent QB signing in mind.

The Lions' first-round pick at No. 13 was a surprise only because the best defensive player from the best team in college football, Auburn, was still available. Detroit was reportedly looking to trade down, but tackle Nick Fairley's availability changed everything. The Lions got one of the two best defensive tackles in the draft -- Marcell Dareus of Alabama went No. 3 to Buffalo -- one year after getting the best tackle in many drafts when they selected Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh.

This may be overkill for the Lions, who snagged another run-stuffer and dominant inside rusher when they most needed a rush end on the outside, not to mention a quality cornerback. The best at both of those slots, DE Alden Smith of Missouri and CB Patrick Peterson of LSU, were already long gone, and there's no question Detroit has elevated itself to among the best front fours in the NFL.

For a long-downtrodden team clawing towards respectability there was little risk in this pick.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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