Passan: Stay Put, Draft the Best

Rich sounds off on the Browns draft strategy and offers his thoughts on the Browns interest in Elam.

Spoke with Frank Coyle the other day. He's the editor, publisher and chief scout for Draft Insiders' Digest, one of the many college draft publications proliferating the NFL landscape these days.

Coyle said something that resonated in light of the clamor surrounding the upcoming college draft.

Lobbying for the Browns to trade down from their perch at #3 in the first round has spun somewhat out of control on this Web site the last few weeks. With that in mind, I asked Coyle for his thoughts.

While trading down and stockpiling extra picks satiates the draft appetite for many, Coyle said quality over quantity should be taken into consideration.

In other words, this is a draft that has just a few potentially great game-changing players at the top and trading down would deny the Browns a crack at one of them and minimize securing impact players in the later rounds.

Now lest you think Coyle is just another amateur with his own Web site, consider this. He is a full-time scout who does more than read and then write about college players. He also has been a personnel consultant for some NFL teams.

Quoting from Coyle's comprehensive compendium, Brown General Manager Phil Savage, when he was with the Baltimore Ravens, endorsed Coyle:

"I have found Frank Coyle's information to be very thorough and insightful. . . . I know how many hours and months the Ravens put in preparing for the NFL draft and I think Coyle and his staff do the same thing. It's obvious by their volume of quality information on the college prospects."

This is not meant as a plug for Coyle's draft book. Subscribe to whichever guru you like and respect. I just wanted some insight on this year's lottery and he has hit the mark many more times than miss.

The Browns, by some people's definition, are in a quick-fix mode. And it would be difficult to argue their point since Savage has turned over the roster by 35-40% the last month or so.

On the other side of that argument, there are those who argue it will take at least two years for him to tear down and reassemble the Browns and get them back to at least the competitive stage.

There is no hurry. No one, except maybe those zealots who believe Savage walks on water, expects a miracle from him. At least not for the next two years.

That's why what he does the weekend of April 23-24 is so important to that end. Because so many good juniors chose to stay in school this year, this draft lacks a sizable number of impact players.

It's not a weak draft. It's just not as strong as the last two years. Had he come out this year, there is little doubt offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia would have been the Browns' top choice.

There would have been far fewer suggestions that the Browns trade down. When you have a chance to get a top-flight offensive left tackle, you stay put.

This year, no one sticks out. There are those who believe that neither of the two top-rated quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith, is worth a top 10 selection. Coyle disagrees with that.

But I do agree with him that the Browns might be better off at #3 than trading down. When there are only a few difference-makers, you don't fuss around. You take the best player available.

If it's Derrick Johnson or Shawne Merriman at outside linebacker, so be it. If it's Mike Williams or Braylon Edwards at wide receiver, do it. If it's Rodgers or Smith at quarterback or Cedric Benson at running back, pull the trigger.

Don't pass up a potential Pro Bowler in order to get numbers later on. Numbers mean nothing if the talent doesn't back them up.

This is not a dart board. Savage & Co. should not sit in the War Room draft weekend and play let's see how many draft picks we can get. This is the life blood of the organization.

In order to establish some solid building blocks, high picks must be made. The Browns pick either second or third in all seven rounds. The best players available in each round will be there when it's their turn.

If Savage turns out to be the draft genius most people expected when he came here from Baltimore, he should trust his instincts and go for those best players. He should resist trading down if it means taking a player in the second tier.

Earlier this week, a story on this site revealed the Browns' interest in Kent State safety Abram Elam. Who was this guy? Very few people outside of Kent knew had heard of him.

It seemed like a good sleeper-pick kind of a story because it involved someone who played his college ball at a nearby school.

But Elam has a checkered past. The story touched on that past.

Before he landed at Kent State, Elam was a highly regarded safety at Notre Dame. Played some as a freshman. But he played off the field as well.

Three years ago, he was with three teammates were charged with conspiracy to commit rape, criminal deviate conduct and sexual battery. Elam was not charged with the two more serious accusations, but found guilty of sexual battery.

A separate jury found one of the other three charged not guilty and charges against the other two were dropped later.

The judge in the Elam case spared him jail time, but sentenced him to two years probation and 200 hours of community service, according to newspaper reports.

Now, Elam wants to play in the National Football League. Why the Browns are interested is a puzzle. Maybe they didn't do their homework on him.

Elam is a convicted felon.

Savage and coach Romeo Crennel have strongly indicated they want players of character wearing the orange and brown. They made that perfectly clear when they took over.

Somehow, the words character and felon do not belong in the same sentence.

At the risk of sounding high and mighty, Elam doesn't belong here. Let someone else take him. There's got to be someone as good who is a lot cleaner.

I believe in second chances to a certain degree. I draw a large line at sexual assault.

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