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Published: Sunday, 4/24/2005

It's good to receive: Browns grab UM's Edwards

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BEREA, Ohio - The way Phil Savage saw it, the Cleveland Browns ended up with the No. 1 pick in yesterday's NFL Draft.

"We turned the pick in, and I looked at the other guys in the room and said, 'Hey, we just got the best player in the draft.' You don't always do that at No. 3," said Savage, the Browns' new general manager.

The first-round pick submitted by Cleveland was for Michigan playmaker Braylon Edwards, the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top collegiate wide receiver last season.

"He's such an aggressive, productive receiver," new coach Romeo Crennel said of the 6-foot-3, 211-pound Edwards. "He will go up to get the ball, pluck it out of the air, and make the play. He makes plays in big situations in big games when it's all on the line. He's an aggressive blocker, too, so he brings a lot to the table for us."

Savage said Edwards was No. 1 on the Browns' draft chart and his selection became a reality after San Francisco and Miami held onto the top two picks and, as expected, took quarterback Alex Smith and running back Ronnie Brown, respectively.

Cleveland made Oklahoma free safety Brodney Pool its second-round pick, and then selected quarterback Charlie Frye of Akron in the third round.

Only time will tell whether Edwards proves to be, in Savage's words, the best player in the draft, but he should be a key to reviving a Browns offense that ranked among the NFL's bottom seven teams last season in passing offense, total offense, and points scored.

"We feel pretty good about adding Braylon to the mix with [tight end] Kellen Winslow and our running game, Lee Suggs and Reuben Droughns," Savage said. "I think it has made for a little better offense than maybe we anticipated when we came in here. At least we have some pieces in place to do some things."

Winslow was Cleveland's first-round pick a year ago, but missed almost his entire rookie season because of injury. Droughns came to the Browns via an off-season trade with Denver for defensive linemen Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers.

Edwards was equally excited about teaming with Winslow, not to mention other Browns receivers like Dennis Northcutt, Antonio Bryant and Andre Davis.

"I think it's phenomenal," Edwards said. "Winslow is one of those guys who make noise. He makes noise and causes mismatches. And being with a guy like that who wants the ball and who wants to win, it keeps you wanting to strive to be hungry because he's one of those guys who won't settle for anything but greatness.

"When you have two guys trying to achieve greatness and they are on the same team, it's really going to be special. It could be dangerous for defenses."

Edwards said he was "proud" to be the first wide receiver off

the board.

"It's the ultimate of the ultimate when a team thinks you worked hard to be the best at what you do," said Edwards, who has already selected jersey No. 17 with the Browns. "It's going to be an honor to wear this uniform. There's a new regime here and I know coach Crennel is going to turn things around."

Edwards predicted that contract negotiations should go smoothly, saying he feels it's important to have it settled in time for training camp.

"The main thing for a rookie is to get your teammates around you as soon as possible, to let the veterans know I'm serious, and start picking their brains," Edwards said. "I'm like a sponge. People ask me about my speed. Well, speed doesn't make you a football player. Hard work and knowledge does."

Pool was something of a surprise pick in the second round since at least three highly-touted defensive end/linebacker types - Oklahoma's Dan Cody, USC's Shaun Cody and Iowa's Matt Roth - could have aided the Browns' conversion to a 3-4 defensive alignment were still available.

"Frankly, we had some concerns about a couple of those players, whether it was medical or character or whatever," Savage said. "We really wanted to come away from these first two picks really clean, making solid contact. You never go wrong taking a good player and Brodney Pool is an example of drafting the best available player.

"I think he's the most complete safety in the draft, and when you look at our division and see Pittsburgh take [Virginia tight end] Heath Miller and with the Ravens having a Todd Heap at tight end, this is a guy we're going to need on defense."

Pool had seven interceptions as a sophomore and had 171 tackles during his three seasons at Oklahoma.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

hack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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