BEREA, Ohio - Since his arrival in Cleveland, Butch Davis has made a practice of purging players from the roster he inherited in an attempt to stockpile draft picks.
When Davis was an assistant in Dallas, Jimmy Johnson pulled the trigger on a trade that sent star running back Herschel Walker to Minnesota for a truckload of draft picks. Johnson used those picks to rebuild the Cowboys into a perennial championship contender.
Cleveland does not have an already successful big-name player like Walker to dangle as bait. Instead, Davis has dealt marginal former starters like Everett Lindsay, Travis Prentice and Darrin Chiaverini, and once-valuable backup quarterbacks like Ty Detmer and Spergon Wynn. The Browns may have added several mid-to-late round draft choices, but that has come at the expense of the team's depth.
Now - if you believe the persistent rumors making their way around the NFL- Davis could move starting wide receiver Kevin Johnson if he can get a third-round pick in return.
Clearly, the draft will play a key role in Davis'plans to build the Browns into a winner.
With that in mind, I am working on a weekly series to look at some of the current players from the college ranks who could eventually fit into Davis' plans.
It is no secret that Davis would love to have a chance at his former University of Miami star tackle Bryant "Mount" McKinnie in the 2002 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-7, 325 pounds, McKinnie will be the next great offensive linemen to come into this league.
Unfortunately, if the Browns win more than four games this season, they might not have a chance at McKinnie, who already seems a lock to go in the first three or four picks.
After virtually ignoring the offensive line in the first three drafts, this should be the year the Browns use an early pick to add a top tackle or guard.
If McKinnie is gone, the next best tackle in the draft could be Boston College prospect Marc Colombo. Most early publications list Texas tackle Mike Williams ahead of Colombo. Williams is a man-mountain similar to former teammate Leonard Davis. His eating habits, however, could make him a big risk.
Colombo is no risk. He may be a little light at 295, but he has the frame (over 6-foot-7) to bulk up. He also has a mean streak - just ask former Boston College teammate, Paul Zukauskas.
"He's just nasty," said Zukauskas - a rookie 7th-round pick who is currently on the Browns' practice squad. "Nasty is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Marc. He was my roommate for four years at B.C. He's a real good dude, but he has a mean streak. He's a good guy off the field, but he has that ability to get mean that's good on the football field."
After his attitude, Colombo's size and his improved athleticism are his biggest strengths.
"He's a monster," said Zukauskas. "He's almost 6-8, and I've seen him run a 5-flat in the 40. He can alsoput up a lot in the weight room."
Colombo played right tackle his first three years before moving to left tackle this season. He probably projects at right tackle in the pros.
Another current Browns' lineman would like to see the Browns consider one of his former college teammates. Colorado grad Brad Bedell raved about current Colorado center Andre Gurode. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound pre-season All-American will probably end up at guard in the NFL. We'll take a look at him next week.
WRITER'S NOTE ... OK, you may think September is a little early to be thinking about the NFL Draft, but I was in Wal-Mart yesterday and noticed the plastic Santa Claus statues already on display.