The 2011 NFL draft is officially in the books. While the actual selections are all registered and accounted for hundreds of potential NFL players still wait in the wings regarding their respective futures.
"Preparing for free agency according to post draft needs analysis," one agent said. "Serve clients. And hope for football."
As those football players wait and watch with uncertainty surrounding the league without a team to claim as their own, they do so with an eye towards the best fit for their talents.
They have the opportunity to truly invest in the process which proves beneficial by targeting those squads which may or may not give those same players the best chance to succeed in the NFL.
The key for any undrafted free agent signing is finding the right team where they could immediately contribute or simply find a niche within a roster. It's about long term potential and security.
The positions within Cleveland's roster which still require a demand thus becoming highly enticing for undrafted free agents to potentially sign are wide receiver, linebacker, pass rusher and right tackle.
Street free agents have legitimate potential to step in and make the Browns' 53-man roster if they do sign and show potential at these particular slots.
Furthermore, a heavy emphasis should be placed on athleticism and upside regarding the Browns' potential undrafted free agent signings since the team's overall talent levels lack both including depth.
Thus it is time to create a completely arbitrary top ten list.
Who are the top ten undrafted free agents the Cleveland Browns should target?
(Scouting reports are provided by draftinsider.net)
1. Jeff Maehl, WR Oregon
The allure to a prospect such as Maehl is an understanding that the wide receiving corps in Cleveland is still a work in progress, particularly within the slot. As agents do their research they'll understand that during Pat Shurmur's time as St. Louis' offensive coordinator Danny Amendola, an undrafted free agent used in the slot, was the team's leading receiver with 89 receptions a season ago. They will also notice Chansi Stuckey was second on the Browns' roster in receptions last season as well and established a report with the team's quarterbacks. Yet, Stuckey can be upgraded from a physical standpoint. Maehl may not be blazing fast at a registered 4.63 40-yard dash at the combine, two other timings proved to be more intriguing. A slot receiver needs to show short area quickness and burst to get open in tight spaces. Maehl finished first with the top 3-cone drill timing of 6.42 seconds. He also finished second with a 3.94-second short shuttle. Each of these are better indicators of what players can do while moving through traffic than a pure 40-yard dash timing.
Bio: Three-year starter who led Oregon in receiving the past two seasons. All-Conference selection as a senior after career numbers of 77/1076/12. Junior totals included 53/696/6.
Positive: Tough, productive receiver with marginal size/speed numbers. Fluid releasing off the line, finds the open spot in the seam and displays quickness running after the catch. Comes back to the ball out of breaks, extends his hands and a reliable receiver who catches the ball away from his frame. Lays out for the difficult grab, goes up in a crowd, and makes a lot of athletic receptions down the field. Nicely adjusts to the errant throw and keeps the play inbounds after the catch. Gives effort blocking downfield. Possesses strong and soft hands with the ability to pluck the ball from the air.
Negative: Shows a marginal burst and is a one-speed receiver who cannot stretch the field vertically. Loses out in battles.
Analysis: Maehl is a marginally athletic receiver who gets the most from his ability. He's not as big or fast as many of the receivers in this draft, but he plays smart football and gets every ounce from his skills. He'll be a definite candidate to be a fifth receiver on the NFL level.
2. Dane Sanzenbacher, WR Ohio State
Why does Sanzenbacher receive second billing compared to Maehl when it may be easier to sign a semi-local product to play for Cleveland? It's simple. Maehl is taller by two inches, eight pounds heavier, possesses a longer reach with bigger hands, and Sanzenbacher finished second and third among the 3-cone (6.46) and short shuttle (3.97), respectively, directly behind the Oregon product. Otherwise, all previous reasons as to why it's a good situation for the number one ranked prospect in this scenario are applicable to the former Buckeye. When free agency opens, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have scouts calling both simultaneously so Cleveland can land a slot receiver with the potential to play in the NFL for the next decade and produce despite going undrafted.
Bio: Two-year starter awarded all-Conference honors as a senior after leading Ohio State in receiving with 55/948/11. Junior totals included 36/570/6.
Positive: Dependable, intelligent receiver with a great feel for the position. Quickly gets off the line, sells routes, and comes back to the ball out of breaks, making himself an available target for the quarterback. Solid route runner and gets separation from defenders. Consistently finds a way to get open, displays solid focus, and uses his frame to shield away defenders. Makes the reception with his hands, easily adjusts to the deep ball, and remains focused throughout the action. Goes up for the pass in a crowd and consistently gives effort.
Negative: More of a one-speed receiver and does not stretch the field. Has average size.
Analysis: Sanzenbacher has been a consistent player at Ohio State and possesses the tools necessary to be a productive fifth receiver in the NFL.
3. Marc Schiechl, DE Colorado Mines
One only has to look at Cleveland's current roster to see a very similar type of talent already on the roster, Chris Gocong. Gocong was a highly productive defensive end in college. He set records at the Div.IAA level in sacks and tackles for loss. His size eventually relegated the Cal-Poly star to linebacker. Schiechl will leave the Colorado School of Mines as Div.II all-time sackmaster with 46 career quarterback tackles. At 6-2 252 pounds, Schiechl posted impressive numbers to generate a buzz among scouting circles. The end ran a 4.65 40-yard dash which included a 1.66-second 10-yard split. He repped out 225-pounds 38 times on the bench press. Also a 4.50 short shuttle can be included. Schiechl has the ability to get to the passer, and similar size requirements the team has mentioned they liked in its ends to generate interest. Browns' general manager, Tom Heckert, drafted Gocong in 2006 and may take a chance on a similar talent in 2011.
Bio: Three-year starter awarded all-Conference honors since his sophomore season and named an All-American the past two years. Senior totals included 66/19/12 after putting up totals of 58/13/7 as a junior. Posted 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Ended his college career as the NCAA Division II career leader in sacks with 46.
Positive: Relatively athletic college defensive end who makes a tremendous amount of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Plays with good lean, gets off the snap with a nice first step and displays an array of moves with his hands to protect himself. Quickly changes direction, fluid moving in every area of the field, and easily gets out to the sidelines in pursuit of the action. Can bend off the edge and keeps his feet moving up the field. Smart, intense football player who does more than just pin his ears back and drive up the field. Occasionally lined up as a two-gap end. Adequate skills moving in reverse on zone blitzes.
Negative: Out-positioned or controlled at the point by blockers once engaged by linemen. Takes a lot of wide angles around opponents. Lacks an explosive closing burst.
Analysis: Schiechl was a tremendous small school defender and has enough athleticism to play at the next level as a one-gap defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker.
4. Nick Bellore, LB Central Michigan
If instincts, production, and career-long consistency don't stir initial interest; then let's throw even more workout numbers. Bellore can barely break a 4.9 timing regarding his 40-yard dash. So he doesn't automatically fit the established parameters set forth with the onset of this piece. With that said, much like those described earlier, linebacker times are more important in the 3-cone drill and short shuttle. Bellore posted 6.98 and 4.0 in each of those drills. His short shuttle was the best among his contemporaries. Texas A&M's Von Miller became the second overall selection and was considered the top athlete at his position by far. For comparison's sake, Miller's times in those same events were 6.7 and 4.06. Only one player (UConn's Scott Lutrus who we'll take more about later) timed better than Bellore in either drill and still went undrafted.
Bio: Four-year starter awarded all-Conference honors since his sophomore season. Had 90/7/1 as a senior and 132/13/3 with 2 interceptions as a junior. Posted a career-best 148 tackles as a sophomore.
Positive: Tough, run-defending two-down linebacker with minimal upside. Fierce competitor who remains disciplined with assignments, quickly diagnoses the action, and flies around the football. Collapses outside to defend the run, shows a good head for the ball, and wraps up as a tackler. Fires up the field and plays with explosiveness.
Negative: Not a rangy linebacker and doesn't cover a lot of area on the field. Comes off a disappointing senior season after struggling with injury.
Analysis: Expectations were high for Bellore, a productive and durable player since his freshman season, but the senior didn't live up to the hype. He projects as a solid inside linebacker and is best as a two-down defender who can play special teams in the NFL.
Late film viewings of Hall really perked interest in the Cardinal's right tackle. Despite being a combine snub and only a 1-year starter, Hall does present some long-term starting potential as a strongside blocker. Hall stands 6-4 and 308 pounds. What proved interesting was the technique he displayed even with limited starting experience. His initial pass set was quite sound with a solid opening kick step, hand placement, and body positioning. Also, Hall's 1.83 10-yard split (which can correlate to explosiveness off the snap) was comparable or slightly better than six offensive tackles taken in rounds 1-3. His timing was better than Browns' fifth round draft choice, Jason Pinkston. Hall's overall athleticism can be questioned once engaged and asked to readjust, but he can continue to develop as a late bloomer and maybe give a team some potential to man its right tackle position down the road.
Bio: Former reserve lineman who broke into the starting lineup as a senior.
Positive: Adequately sized offensive line prospect with limited upside. Strong at the point, displays good hand punch, and gets initial movement run blocking. Keeps his feet moving, works to stays square, and controls defenders once engaged at the point.
Negative: Bends at the waist, which adversely affects his balance and his ability to slide laterally. Marginal skills blocking in motion. Struggles to adjust.
Analysis: Hall is a late developing player who needs to improve his fundamentals but has the underlying ability to warrant a spot on a practice squad.
6. Adrian Moten, LB Maryland
Moten entered Maryland's campus as the Browns' D'Qwell Jackson was departing Terrapin-land. Moten now leaves the same friendly confines with similar questions which plagued Jackson. Both were undersized linebackers with solid production, but scouts questioned their overall athleticism and playing strength. Moten dispelled some of those questions by posting tremendous numbers at the combine. He proved to be one of the top participants during the 40-yard dash (4.62) and long shuttle (11.28). The linebacker prospect did so at 6-2 and 228 pounds which still feeds into the earlier negatives. Cleveland possesses a crying need to address the weakside linebacker position, and Moten has the experience and improved athleticism to give him a shot to make the roster.
Bio: Two-year starter who posted 77/6/2.5, four interceptions and pass break-ups as a senior. Junior totals included 68/9/6.
Positive: Athletic weak side linebacker prospect that is effective making plays in space. Fast in all areas of the field, makes plays in every direction, and covers a good amount of space. Breaks down well, rarely gets knocked off his feet, and is relatively strong at the point of attack. Effective in pursuit, explosive, and flashes ability in coverage.
Negative: Has just average instincts and is late to react. A bit stiff flipping his hips in transition.
Analysis: Moten has flashed ability the past two years and is effective as a pursuit linebacker that can also cover. He must polish his game but he has some upside.
7. Devon Torrence, CB Ohio State
Another late bloomer, Torrence has had his successes and failures at cornerback after transitioning from the wide receiver position. Cleveland clearly had interest in the 6-0 and 199-pound coverman from Canton. Of the 10 cornerbacks the Browns had personal workouts with prior to the draft, only Torrence went undrafted. Buster Skrine, the team's first fifth round selection, was among said list. Torrence's biggest issues arise with average straight line speed and some stiffness in his hips as he transitions through his backpedal.
Torrence may not have tested particularly well, but his overall natural athleticism is readily apparent. It may prove enough to pique Cleveland's interest as they front office continues to fill out the final roster.
Bio: Two-year starter who finished with 82/2/8 as a senior after junior totals of 35/2/2. Began his college career at receiver.
Positive: Developing cornerback with terrific size and upside potential. Displays solid footwork in reverse and shows a terrific burst of closing speed. Has an aggressive nature to his game, collapses from the outside to defend the run, and is a solid open field tackler. Has solid hands.
Negative: Very quick to leave his backpedal. Shows hesitation in his game. Gets turned around, which hurts his ability to make plays on the ball.
Analysis: Since moving from wide receiver, Torrence has shown terrific progress the past two years. He has the size and the ability to develop into a second cornerback in the NFL and should see immediate action in dime packages as a rookie.
8. Scott Lutrus, LB Connecticut
Earlier linebacker discussion centered on some of the lesser workout numbers that aren't always in the conversation when draft time nears. Lutrus posted wonderful all around numbers during his visit to Indianapolis. He proved a top performer in every running event except the 40-yard dash. His timing in the Combine's most recognizable event wasn't shabby either at 4.68 by a 6-2 and 241-pound linebacker. Lutrus' issues have never revolved on his play on the field or his natural abilities, but rather a long injury history. Lutrus has battled "stingers". Lutrus, much like the more heralded Mark Herzlich of Boston College, both deserve long looks from teams if they are passed medically. In this instance, Lutrus could potentially fill a major void among Cleveland's roster is he can prove healthy.
Bio: Four-year starter who was awarded all-Conference honors as a sophomore. Senior totals included 59 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and one interception. Played in eight games as a junior, posting 69 tackles. Missed time with shoulder stingers in the last two seasons. Sophomore totals included 106 tackles after a career-best 107 as a redshirt freshman.
Positive: Athletic linebacker with physical and mental skills to play at the next level. Effectively diagnoses the action, very instinctive, and quickly locates the ball. Collapses from the outside to defend the run, remains disciplined with assignments, and is effective making plays in space. Gets depth on pass drops, breaks down well, and uses his hands to protect himself. Chases the action hard, keeps the play in front of him, and offers good open-field tackling skills. Plays with a warrior mentality and is very competitive. Sells out on the blitz and sacrifices his body to make the play.
Negative: Does not display great speed in pursuit. Inefficient and occasionally takes improper angles to the action. Has struggled with similar injuries the past two seasons, which will raise red flags.
Analysis: Lutrus possesses the measurables and the mental capacity to be a starter at outside linebacker in the NFL. Proficient defending the run or covering the pass, he has the skills to get consideration at either the weak side or strong side positions. His injuries the past two seasons will adversely affect Lutrus at the next level unless he is completely healthy.
9. Andrew Soucy, DT Eastern Kentucky
An old NBA adage states, "You can't teach size." Soucy is already 6-2 and 311 pounds entering the next phase of his football career. He also completed 32 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Phil Taylor, the Browns' top overall selection, completed 31 reps during his pro day at Baylor. The key is looking at the body types of both, and Soucy fits in the new mold of the bigger and stronger defensive tackle which fills the middle of a Dick Jauron defense. Soucy isn't simply a wide body. As a senior, the former Colonel was named the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the year. He registered 9.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback sacks during his final year on campus. Furthermore, Cleveland has shown quite an interest in Soucy as one of the few teams to personally work out the interior defender, and the only team to attend his pro day.
10. Keith Darbut, DE Baldwin-Wallace
As Browns' fans make the half-mile trek down Beech Street in Berea to pass through the awaiting open gates of Cleveland Browns' outdoor fields all in hopes of watching training camp, they inevitably pass Baldwin-Wallace College. Fans may become even more familiar with the facilities as the Browns' latest pseudo-minicamp has been attended on the campus' grounds. Last fall, Darbut roamed the same field for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-4 and 229-pound defensive end tallied 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss as a senior. Subsequently, he posted fantastic workout numbers at Akron's pro day March 10 to really open eyes. Darbut supposedly broke the 4.4 barrier during his 40-yard dash timings with a 1.42 10-yard split. The rest of his workout was nearly as eye-popping. It would be a shame for Cleveland to let one of their own walk without offering a contract to see if they could develop Darbut's outstanding small-school potential.