If most draft prognosticators are correct, the Browns' first-round pick will be a mere formality.
Virtually everyone with an opinion on the subject thinks the choice will be Michigan State running back T. J. Duckett. As I scratched together my first-round projections, Duckett seemed like a perfect fit for the Browns with the 16th pick.
The closer draft day gets, however, the more convinced I've become that Butch Davis has something else up his sleeve. Maybe it's because Duckett seems like too much of a sure pick, and Davis rarely does anything that is expected.
A small, informal poll of some media members Wednesday turned up names other than Duckett, including two whom surprisingly went with Hawaii receiver Ashley Lelie. Miami tight end Jeremy Shockey was another name tossed into the conjecture, as was Nebraska lineman Toniu Fonoti.
The curveball Davis throws fans might come in the form of another running back. It all depends upon what Dallas does with the sixth overall pick. If cornerback Quentin Jammer slips that far, he would make sense for the Cowboys. Dallas might opt to go offensive and pick Tennessee receiver Donte Stallworth.
Then again, the Cowboys, realizing that Emmitt Smith is nearing the end of the line, might select Boston College running back William Green. If Green gets by Dallas, it's conceivable that he could fall into the Browns' lap.
Given the choice of Green or Duckett, don't be surprised if Davis would take Green. Forget about his slower-than-expected 40 times and off-the-field issues with the BC coaching staff. Davis has enough confidence in himself to think that he can handle any problems that Green might bring with him.
Green appears to be the better prospect, and, remember, Davis tried to recruit him to Miami. It seems that Davis is determined to draft as many Miami players and players he tried to get to Miami as possible.
The bottom line might reveal a player other than a running back. If a running back were the choice, it would be telling fans that the third-round pick used on James Jackson last year was wasted. I can't see Davis giving up not only on a third-round choice but also one of his Miami guys.
A logical choice instead of a running back would be Shockey. He's the consensus best tight end in the draft and, I hate to mention it again, he's a Miami product. All that's at tight end to speak of at this time are Rickey Dudley and Mark Campbell. Dudley has bad hands and is coming off serious foot surgery. Campbell is viewed as a backup.
I'm still sticking with Duckett as the pick. In the AFC North Division, teams need a power running back. Duckett has plenty of that at 6-foot-0 and 250 pounds, and he has speed to go with it.
My second-round projection calls for offensive line help. If Kendall Simmons of Auburn is still on the board, look for the Browns to select him.
CAUTIOUS APPROACH: Recently-signed offensive lineman Barry Stokes isn't about to claim a starting job, although reports have stated that he'll likely get the nod at left guard.
"I've been told that jobs are mine before," Stokes said. "So, I don't believe much in talking before we get out on the field. Once you're out there, it doesn't matter if someone tells you that you have a job. If you don't go out there and perform to the best of your abilities, you're not going to have a job."
Stokes started three games for Green Bay last season in place of injured left tackle Chad Clifton, the only starts of his six-year NFL career. Whether he lines up at guard or tackle doesn't matter to him.
"I have no preference. You can ask what team you like to play for best or what country you like to play for best," said Stokes, who played in NFL Europe. "In all honesty, I just want to be on the field and just get after it."
SUDS POWER: This might come as interesting news to fans that participated in "Bottlegate" in the waning moments of a game against Jacksonville last December. Stokes, in a roundabout way, admitted to downing a few beers during his college days.
Asked about the weight gain that allowed him to move from tight end to the offensive line, Stokes said, "It was gradually year after year gaining 15 to 20 pounds, and, of course, beer had nothing to do with that."