As the clock ticks toward the 2011 NFL Draft, Browns' general manager Tom Heckert is the man in the spotlight. Not simply having to deal with holding the sixth overall selection in the draft, Heckert ultimately must find the talent to again revamp the Browns depth chart.
Now, everyone has an opinion about what the Browns should ultimately do.
Today, three of the OBR crew step into the shoes of Heckert and detail the draft strategy.
Don Delco, OBR Reporter
If I were Tom Heckert...
In 2008, the Browns did not possess a first round pick. That worked out well.
In 2009, new coach Eric Mangini passed on linebacker Rey Maulauga for a center and a wide receiver.
This season, despite the labor unrest receiving more than half of my attention, my pre-draft man crush is back in full force. Sorry, Eric, but photos LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson are now posted on my bedroom wall.
Another cornerback? The Browns need defensive line help. They need wide receiver help. Selecting another cornerback would be a waste of a pick, right?
Peterson is not a wasted pick and if -- by some miracle -- he is not selected by the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals, if I were Tom Heckert I would not hesitate to select him.
Why take another cornerback instead of a wide receiver? Heckert has shown an ability to find wide receiver talent later in the draft (see: Jackson, DeSean). Also, it is rare a big-named receiver drafted this high is a home run. Do NFL teams really win with big-name wide receivers? Look at Green Bay, the Packers have a stable of slightly above-average wide outs.
I subscribe to Bobby Beathard's philosophy that the way to build a NFL team is by drafting a talented cornerback and left tackle. The Browns have their left tackle thanks to the 2007 draft.
In today's pass-happy NFL, pairing Peters with Joe Haden would finally provide the Browns defense the ability to compete with the talented passing games of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Last season proved that with Haden alone, the Browns could not stop their AFC North opponents through the air. First step of winning a Super Bowl is winning the AFC North. Peterson goes a long way toward accomplishing those goals.
Dave Kolonich, OBR Reporter
At least Tom Heckert has some options.
The Browns' general manager can target any number of needs with the team's first-round draft pick and unlike in previous years, it doesn't appear that quarterback is a vital need in Cleveland. While popular opinion suggests that the Browns' two biggest weaknesses are found along the defensive line and at wide receiver, Heckert can literally check off from a lengthy list of needs.
Realistically, Heckert could diverge from the consensus opinion, select the proverbial "best player available" and still truly target a specific team need. In this scenario, pairing LSU's Patrick Peterson with 2010 first-round pick Joe Haden could give the Browns the most dynamic set of young cornerbacks in the league.
Heckert's history with the Eagles suggests this could happen; however investing close to 60 million dollars on a pair of cornerbacks would set an interesting precedent. Anyway, the logic here is that Heckert does not need to lock into one specific position.
In this sense, an A.J. Green selection may not be in the Browns' best interests – at least with the sixth overall pick.
The same could be said for the variety of top-ranked defensive ends available, including North Carolina's Robert Quinn and Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers. While these players are certainly talented, drafting a wide receiver or pass rushing defensive end with such a high pick is a risky proposition.
Perhaps the more conservative approach would suggest that Alabama's Marcell Dareus is the safest, yet most effective first-round pick for the Browns. Adding Dareus alongside Ahtyba Rubin is intriguing – particularly given the Browns' long-suffering run defense. While Dareus will not be as flashy as a pass rusher or speedy wide receiver, he could become a core member of a revitalized Browns' defense
Brent Sobleski, OBR Draft Analyst
The crux of Cleveland's situation at number six overall is the fundamental choice whether to choose a pass catcher or a pass rusher.
I was steadfast in the team's need to do the latter instead of the former, particularly with what looked like an amazingly deep defensive line class which began with names like Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, North Carolina's Robert Quinn, and Auburn's Nick Fairley then ended with intriguing talents like Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, California's Cameron Jordan, Missouri's Aldon Smith and Wisconsin's J.J. Watt.
It was/is a smorgasbord of talent along the defensive line that the Browns simply couldn't resist. Right? Yet here we all are with two weeks remaining, and none of these names truly feel like a slamdunk selection that they could have been within the top ten overall. Bowers' knee and disappearing acts on film are alarming.
Quinn has done everything to reclaim his image yet still has to atone for sitting out a full year plus dealing with the issue of a benign tumor and lack of production against top competition. Fairley dominated for the National Champions this season but tried to hide a shoulder injury at the Combine, and ruminations regarding his work ethic began to emanate months ago.
A trade down would be ideal if a signal caller happened to slide slightly and a quarterback starved team directly behind Cleveland were willing to make a deal, but that's too much of an unlikely scenario. Thus research had to be done. Research which showed me recently that within the top ten overall, as seen over a 10 year period, wide receivers are actually chosen at a higher degree while generally being safer picks over the long term compared to pass rushers.
It was an alarming find. One that pointed myself in the oppose direction of what so many NFL general managers have claimed, "every team is looking for a pass rush".
Yes they are, but apparently there haven't been enough top talents to warrant top selections. So with this all encompassing thought process, the vision became clear. If Georgia's A.J. Green is available, the wide receiver becomes the choice (particularly if the top five overall contains both top quarterback prospects, LSU's Patrick Peterson, Texas A&M's Von Miller, and the draft's top prospect Alabama's Marcell Dareus).
Green steps in and becomes the team's top receiver, although I wouldn't necessarily expect top production out of the gate. He is still my second rated overall prospect and his ability to make the spectacular catch aided by smooth route running make him the most obvious choice. Plus, let's not not undermine the ease of transition he can make in Cleveland with his "mentor" Mohamed Massaquoi already on the roster.
Then the Browns must make a concerted effort in the following rounds to address their gaping void at defensive line.