On The Inside: McLain and the Browns at 16

Trying to figure out what the Browns will do in the draft on Saturday has left many late night cramming sessions in its wake.

By now my eyes are tired from countless hours of reading every piece of available information on the NFL draft.

I've performed my charitable contribution to increase Mel Kiper's bank account.

I can recall the 40 times of prospects quicker than I can remember my neighbor's phone number. Heights and weights? Not a problem.

Unfortunately, the result of all the late-night cramming hasn't been to figure out what the Browns plan to do with their first pick in the draft. The moment that I'm sold on running back T.J. Duckett, I read a report that states some scouts think Duckett isn't quite big enough to handle the physical demands of the NFL.

Sometimes, I wonder if team scouts are fully informed when stating an opinion. A scout from a team other than the Browns told me this week that he and other scouts sit in what's called the "bullpen" on draft days. Just a select few people take up residence in the "war room."

If a player the team is considering happens to be one the scout has analyzed, he's then asked to enter the war room and give his critique. Then it's back to the bullpen.

As I write this Thursday afternoon, I've become more convinced that the Browns won't take a running back. If they do go that route, I have a hunch that it will be William Green, who seems to have more upside potential than does Duckett.

Most fans undoubtedly would like to see Miami offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie in a Browns' uniform, but don't count on that happening. Butch Davis would love to land McKinnie, but he would have to give up too many of his cherished draft choices to move up into perhaps the top five.

Another roadblock in pursuing McKinnie is the financial end of it. The Browns have negotiated megabuck contracts with Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren in the last three years. Digging deeper into Al Lerner's wallet might not make a dent into it, but it could have nasty salary-cap repercussions in the not-too-distant future.

The most-likely scenario to play out Saturday will see the Browns trade down in the first round and pick up at least another mid-level choice. That would give them a nice, round figure of 10 picks for Davis and Pete Garcia, his chief assistant, with which to work.

Since this is a critical draft (when is a draft not critical?), the more picks the Browns can garner, the better. Talk of building for the future has long since gone out the window. It's time for the Browns to become a winning team, which make the events of next weekend vitally important.

Although it wouldn't be a surprise if Davis selects a defensive tackle in the first round (especially if John Henderson is available), loading up on offense has to be the overriding strategy. The impressive defense Davis is constructing will help keep the Browns in most games, but they won't win more than half of them without a vastly-improved offense.

Securing at least two offensive linemen is a priority. And I don't mean sixth- and seventh-round types. An offensive lineman must be among the top three picks, preferably in the first round.

If the Browns are thinking that way, Andre Gurode or Toniu Fonoti could be the pick. The interior of the line was noticeably weak last season, and there's no assurance that Barry Stokes and Tre Johnson (assuming the latter makes it through training camp) will make a drastic change for the better.

Gurode is generally considered the best guard in the draft, but he doesn't carry nearly as high a grade as did last year's top guard, Michigan's Steve Hutchinson. If Davis could trade down a few spots and get Gurode while picking up another choice, it would be a good start.

Of course, the Browns very well could remain at number 16 and wait to see if there's a surprise on the list of available players. There's always one talented prospect that falls for various reasons, which could give the Browns an opportunity to land one of the top players in the draft.

Two prospects that could fall farther than originally thought are Henderson and Green. Henderson played on a bad ankle that lowered his performance level last season. He was considered a possible first overall choice for the Houston Texans prior to the 2001 season.

A few red flags went up on Green's career when he was suspended twice during his college career at Boston College. The violations he committed apparently involved team rules and had nothing to do with breaking a law. If Davis is convinced that Green won't be a problem, he might be tempted to take the talented back.

I keep telling myself that Davis is sincere when he says that the Browns have a good running back (James Jackson). Davis wouldn't turn away from a third-round pick last year that happens to be a Miami guy … would he?

If tight end Jeremy Shockey isn't available (which will probably be the case), my guess is that Green will become a Brown at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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