The onrush of information, as the NFL draft nears, can be downright nauseating. An individual fan's capacity to sift through all the layers of a specific team's needs, then trying to discover a superhuman ability to process all of the available information, while simultaneously decoding acid-dropping-rave-level smokescreens is more than many can handle.
So, I attempted the impossible. I contacted the best and the brightest who cover the draft 365 days a year. I wanted to compile outside opinions regarding the Browns' needs and who may be the best possible first-round pick in 2011.
The result of such a Frankenstein-like amalgamation can be found below. Despite roaring differences in the approach of each to the business, somewhat of a consensus emerged regarding what the Browns should accomplish with the sixth overall selection.
First, Cleveland's needs among its roster must be ascertained, if not rehashed for some. Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar summed up those quite nicely.
"As I see it, the primary needs are:
"1.Defensive line – With the Browns switching to a 4-3 (base defense), the primary need along the line would seem to be a dominant edge rusher who can also peel off and stop the run. The two best in the class are North Carolina's Robert Quinn and Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers. Quinn is the more exact pass-rusher, while Bowers is the do-it-all guy who can switch inside the play more of a Justin Tuck role.
"2. Receiver – The Browns need someone to stretch the field, which would put them in the market for (Georgia's) A.J. Green if he's there with Cleveland's pick. However, it's generally been Mike Holmgren's practice to hold off and try to find receivers in the later rounds. Miami's Leonard Hankerson, the Miami possession receiver who's faster on the field than he looks, understands the ins and outs of precise route control in a way that would fit Holmgren's philosophy and Pat Shurmur's offense. (Hankerson has been considered a second round caliber prospect.)
"3. Cornerback – If the Browns were to accentuate their defensive backfield with a cornerback, they could go with LSU's Patrick Peterson, the best overall player in this draft class. Or, they could take a flyer on Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, who has tremendous athletic potential.
They also need guard help (Steinbach's not looking too great these days), but they'd have to trade down or go lower, obviously."
While looking at the roster, a few crucial additives must be included to accentuate Farrar's breakdown. The Browns finished 29th overall in total offense and 22nd overall in total defense.
Meanwhile, the team is moving in a new direction offensively. The previous run-first offense will now skew towards the west coast ideal. Colt McCoy has, basically, been named the team's starter while entering his second season. While the unit makes this transition, Cleveland clearly fielded the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL. As such, it may come as a surprise to see Farrar leading with the defensive line. Until, the second realization comes to light. The Browns currently have one legitimate starter under contract as they move from their previous 3-4 base defense into Dick Jauron's favored 4-man front.
"At No. 6, I believe the Browns could go in two directions, defensive line and wide receiver," CBSsports.com's Chad Reuter said. "Certainly Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley would be a solid pick for Cleveland's new 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron. His ability to penetrate into the backfield and hold up his bargain against the run make him an intriguing three-technique for a team lacking one.
"But if his work ethic issues and 'one-year wonder' status scare team president Mike Holmgren, he may look to Georgia's A.J. Green or Alabama's Julio Jones with the sixth overall pick. Both will be top ten picks, and while Green is the more polished and consistent receiver, Jones' excellent Combine (on a bad foot) could endear him enough to the Browns to select him even if Green is picked by in-state rival Cincinnati."
Fox Sports' Adam Caplan sees three defensive line prospects as the route the team should embark, although Georgia's A.J Green once again enters into the conversation.
"Green's name was the most consistently mentioned during this process, although he may not be the top wide receiver selected.
"The Browns have a huge void at wide out at with two potential blue chip prospects on the board I think that's the best way for them to go," National Football Post's Wes Bunting stated. "Julio Jones is the more physical wide out, better blocker, better after the catch. His game is tailored for the AFC North. The team could go defensive line as well, but with such a deep class seems like there is still good value there in round two."
SportsIllustrated.com's and DraftInsider.net's Tony Pauline was the most vehement in what the Browns should try and accomplish with the sixth overall selection.
"If the Browns have a chance to grab AJ Green of Georgia they should do it in an instant," he said. "Whether Green is sitting there at six or even trading up a slot or two if it doesn't cost them much. Green is a dynamic play maker that is a threat anytime the ball is in his hands. He's not a true down field threat, but he can be electrifying running after the reception. He would help with the development of quarterback Colt McCoy and quickly become the young signal caller's number one target."
Each prospect is deservedly mentioned and should be in contention for Cleveland's selection. Yet, there are issues each step of the way which cannot be overlooked.
- Wide receiver doesn't hold the highest positional value among talent evaluators, thus holding back Green and Jones.
- Fairley's work ethic and single season production is a concern as Reuter rightly mentioned.
- Bowers is coming off a knee injury and only produced for a single season.
- Quinn missed an entire season due to off-the-field issues, plus he also suffers from single season syndrome.
- Dareus likely won't be available with the sixth selection.
- Can the team spend another top 10 selection on a cornerback after Joe Haden was selected seventh overall less than year ago?
It simply muddies the process.
As the days tick away with the draft nearly on the horizon, despite all of these well-informed opinions, you may be more confused now than when you first started to read this attempt at unifying the draft forces of the universe.
A consensus was certainly reached regarding the team needs, but the perfect player to address the situation was not. If each evaluator were to acquiesce while being pushed for an answer, it appears A.J. Green may be the front-runner for the Browns first round selection among this conglomerate.
Then again, this was an attempt at the impossible.