INSIDERS RUNNING UPDATE FROM BEREA
BEREA - Dwight Clark didn't hesitate on assigning a grade to the Cleveland Browns 2002 draft.
"I think I've been fairly realistic about grading drafts," said Clark. "I think this one is an A. For targeting positions and taking guys who can actually player rather than just because he is at a particular position, I think this was a heck of a draft for our future."
"I don't feel like this year we gambled much at all. All of the picks were very solid. We felt very good about all of the players and we feel they can come in and contribute early, especially on special teams. I don't think we reached anywhere this year."
Clark said the Browns came into the draft targeting six primary areas: running back, offensive line, linebacker, tight end, kick-returner and special-teams performers.
"We hit every one of them with guys who can come in and even if they don't start right away they can help on special teams," said Clark.
What picks stood out the most in Clark's mind?
"The guy I'm happiest about getting is William Green," said Clark.
But in terms of value and position?
"I would think probably the guard, (third-round pick Melvin)Fowler," said Clark. "He was a second-round pick. We didn't expect to get him there. I'm not sure we expected to get (wide receiver) Andre (Davis) in the second round. We almost took Fowler with the second. In fact, we had his name written on the card, then we decided to talk more about it. It turned out he was available in the third."
How smart is Joaquin Gonzalez?
The new Browns tackle, who already graduated from Miami with an MBA and a 3.7 GPA, scored an impressive 40 on the Wonderlick. Former Bengals punter Pat MacInally is the only player in history to score a perfect score of 50.
Tim Couch and Brett Favre both scored 22.
Even with the addition of William Green, the Browns still consider Ben Gay part of the mix at running back.
"He'll be at (minicamp) on Monday," said Clark. "As you know, our coach likes competition and there will definitely be competition at running back. We think we have several good ones and three or for spots."
Clark thinks Andre Davis could develop has the ability to develop into a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
"He has all of the attributes and ability that a No. 1 needs," said Clark. "Tom Donahoe was talking with Pete Garcia, and he said that he thinks Andre was a definite No. 1 talent ... Can he be a No. 1 receiver. Sure, why not? He has big time speed, he's a hard worker and he's got great desire. I talked with him today and he's ready to get started."
Davis said he expects every Browns player to attend the minicamp that begins Friday and runs through Sunday.
When reminded that the camp is voluntary for veterans, Clark shrugged his shoulders and said "sure, it's voluntary to be here."
The implication he offered with his look was that any player who volunteers not to be here is a player who might not be long for the Cleveland Browns.
Like Clark, Davis couldn't have been happier with the value of the picks in this year's draft.
"We feel very fortunate the draft fell so good for us," said Davis. "After William Green, I think we could have taken just about every player one round earlier."
The Browns had a perceived need at fullback coming into the draft, but they did not address it. Does that mean the Browns will look for a rookie free agent fullback or for a veteran to come available after June 1?
"Not necessarily," said Davis. "I don't think it's totally out of the question that we may not have that guy on the roster. We may have that big-time, blow-out-your-nose fullback. It' snot out of the realm of possibility that we will try to acquire one on June 1 or in college free agency. But we may also be a multiple tight end team ... We could be a one-back offense. With the upgrade of the tight end position, it's not out of the realm of possibility."
Where did the Browns improve themselves the most over the weekend?
"I don't think there's any question that we came off (ahead) with the addition of (Green) and the offensive linemen," said Davis. "The next big jump is on special teams. The addition of the three linebackers to the special teams and a punt return kickoff guy dramatically made us a better football team."
Other than adding a few un-drafted free agents, the Browns will not be looking to make any new additions, probably until June 1.
"I think right now we have to step back and make sure the guys we have are in the right positions," said Davis. "It is vitally important in minicamp and quarterback school that we make sure we get the guys in our offensive line (in the right position). Do we leave Tre' Johnson at right tackle or move him to left guard, where he played with some success in Washington. Is Stokes a left guard or a right guard."
The Browns' trade of a fifth (147) and sixth-round (189) draft choices to Oakland was a surprise move. The trade allowed the Browns to move back up into the fourth round to select Ohio State tight end Darnell Sanders with the round's 24th pick (120).
Sanders entered the draft after his junior season. It was a questionable move for a tight end who most scouts considered very raw and was not very productive in college.
After watching him work out twice in Columbus and once at the team's facility in Berea, the Browns decided Sanders has tremendous up-side.
"When we went to Ohio State (the first time), Sanders was not 100-percent," said Butch Davis. "He ran the 40 that day and ran a very poor time, something like 4.82. He tweaked his hamstring, and the thing that was impressive in the workout was that he gutted it out. Probably 85-percent of the guys around the country would say 'coach I have to done for the day."
Sanders struggled during the workout, but showed he had better hands than most scouts originally believed. When Browns tight end coach Steve Hagen returned to Columbus Sanders two weeks ago, Sanders again caught the ball well, showing consistency the Browns liked. He also ran a more impressive 4.72.
The Browns considered taking Sanders with the 111th overall pick, the team's second of the fourth round, but decided the need for additional linebackers and special teams players was too important.
After selecting linebacker Ben Taylor at 111, the Browns were worried they would not have another shot at Sanders. Enter the Oakland Raiders.
"Bruce Allen from the Raiders called," said Davis. "We were already toying with the idea of how to get back into the fourth round if one of the guys (we wanted) was there ... Allen called and asked if we had any desire to get back into the round and we said absolutely. We were able to pull off the deal."
There was some speculation the Browns might address their need for a fullback in the fourth or fifth round. Miami's Najeh Davenport and Ohio State's Jamar Martin were both still on the board when the draft resumed Sunday morning.
According to Davis, the Browns never really seriously considered selecting a fullback. In the end, they found more value taking two linebackers and a tight end in round four. The team's top priority on Sunday was adding depth at linebacker and helping the special teams.
Sanders' upside and the importance of the tight end in the Browns offense made that pick more valuable than a tight end.
"We talked about (a fullback), but then (was there) a guy who would bring a dimension we needed for this football team," said Davis. "We are predominantly more of a multiple tight end team than fullback football team. We'll play as many as three or four tight ends ... the up-side of Sanders made the opportunity too good to pass on him."
What the Browns are looking for in round 7:
"Last year we got a player in Paul Zukauskus who we think has a very positive up side," said Davis. "He's been in this system (for a year), he's worked hard and he's had to opportunity to practice. Possibly we will be able to find another player like that."
Fifth-round selection Andra Davis is a nice value. The Florida middle linebacker was picked by some experts as high as the second round.
The pick also gives the Browns two players in this year's draft class who's names are pronounced the same way.
"I'm the one with the 'e' at the end, he's the one with the 'a'," said Andre Davis, a wide receiver from Virginia Tech who the Browns selected in round two.
According to Butch Davis, Andra Davis projects primarily as a middle linebacker.
Andra Davis played with Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren. The two are very close friends. In fact Gerard Warren is the Godfather of Davis' 16-month-old daughter, Alisha Mone Davis.
"Gerard and I are the best of friends," said Davis. "It's going to be a pleasure to be with him again."
Davis hopes to make an immediate impact at linebacker and on special teams.
"I know I can play, and I'll give my best effort on every play," he said.
Butch Davis is excited about the value the Browns managed to find on day two.
"There isn't a person in our draft room who would have been surprised to see (Kevin Bentley, Ben Taylor, Darnell Sanders or Andra Davis) taken in the first round," said Davis.
On taking three linebackers on day two: "These are guys who give a lot of options, allow us to replace Wali Rainer and who we think have huge up-sides as special teams and nickel players," said Davis. "They will provide real good competition at the linebacker position, whether they push the starters or are special team guys."
"I love competition. I want people to earn the job. The 53 players who make the final roster are going to be 53 real good football players."
BEREA - Butch Davis decided his team's need for help on special teams was more important to address in the fourth round than their holes on the offensive line.
Even with offensive linemen like Davis' former players Martin Bibla and Joaquin Gonzalez still on the board, the Browns selected a pair of linebackers with the 3rd and 13th picks of round four.
The selection of Virginia Tech linebacker Ben Taylor with the 13th pick (111 overall) is reminiscent of Jimmy Johnson's selection of Zach Taylor in 1996. Thomas was an undersized linebacker who was brought to the Dolphins to help the special teams. Taylor is considered an
undersized linebacker who excels on special teams. Eventually, he could develop into a starter at inside linebacker. Taylor said he can also play outside linebacker and safety.
Taylor is a local boy from Bellaire, Oh., who was heavily recruited by Kent State. He eventually landed at Virginia Tech after he and his father put together a highlight film of his play at Bellaire, where he was one of six finalists for "Mr. Football" honors in Ohio.
Taylor joins second-round pick Andre Davis as the second Virginia Tech selection by the Browns.
"Coming from Ohio, being from this area and then to go to the pro team there from that area is something you can only dream about," said Taylor. "I saw the Browns picked Andre Davis earlier, so that's another connection and it's just awesome."
Taylor is convinced he can make an immediate impact on special teams. He was coached at Virginia Tech by Frank Beamer, who's special teams are always among the best in the nation.
"Coming up to the next level (special teams) is where I expect to make my mark early," said Taylor. "I want to come in and make something happen."
One of the highlights ESPN showed of Taylor when he was selected by the Browns was an impressive leap over Pittsburgh's long snapper, leading to a blocked field goal. It showed impressive athleticism, but it didn't count.
"I was offsides," said Taylor. "That was not one of coach Beamer's. It was one of my own. It was a little improvisation."
Taylor calls fellow Bellaire alum and current Cowboys star wide receiver Joey Galloway a mentor.
After verbally committing to Virginia Tech, Taylor was offered a scholarship at Michigan three days before signing day. He turned it down. "I was not going to back out on coach Beamer," he said.
Taylor grew up a Steelers fan at Bellaire.
"My dad pushed me in that direction," said Taylor. "But I'm a Browns fan now.
BEREA - We had heard early in the day that the Browns might go for a linebacker with the first pick of the fourth round, but nobody expected Kevin Bentley of Northwestern.
Bentley is an undersized linebacker who has always been underestimated. When you think about the pick, it makes sense for Butch Davis to take a player like Bentley. One of his mentors, Jimmy Johnson, had success with undersized linebackers. Undersized linebackers are still part of the trend in Dallas, where the Cowboys have Dexter Coakley, a player Bentley compares himself to.
"I think I model myself after linebackers like Dexter Coakley and Zach Thomas," said Bentley. "I move pretty well laterally. I'm only about 6-feet, but I play hard for 60 minutes. That's my thing. I play hard every game."
Bentley is considered a weakside linebacker by most pro scouts, but he said he can play any of the three linebacker spots.
"I played outside in college, but I also played quite a bit on the inside," said Bentley. "I think I have the flexibility to play on the end or in the middle. I love the inside, but I'll do whatever the team needs me to do."
The obvious comparison for Bentley is fellow Northwestern product Napolean Harris, the top rated outside linebacker in this year's draft.
"I think we are very similar in the way we play," said Bentley. "We both get after it. We both run pretty well. The difference is that I depend on my instincts a little more than he does. That's where I have an edge, my instincts in where to find the ball."
Most experts saw Bentley as having the potential to be drafted anywhere from late in the second round to early in the fourth. Not hearing his name called on day one made for a rough night for Bentley, who had no idea the Browns would take him early on Sunday.
"I knew they liked me, but I didn't know they liked me that much," said Bentley. "I didn't get much sleep last night."
Last year, the Browns found a defensive playmaker with the same No. 3 pick in the fourth round in Anthony Henry. Bentley hopes he can be another playmaker in his rookie year.
"I know I'll be able to help out on special teams to start off," said Bentley. "I did that a lot at Northwestern. I know a lot of young linebackers help out on special teams. Hopefully I'll also have a chance to help out at linebacker. I know the Browns already have a great corps with Dwayne Rudd. They just signed Holmes and they have a Pro Bowl linebacker in Jamir Miller. I hope I can solidify the group a little more."
- David Carducci
BEREA - The Browns can feel good about a few things about the first day of round one. If nothing else, they threw a monkey wrench into the plans of several other NFL teams.
"Over the last couple hours (leading up to the Browns' third round pick) so many people have called us about a trade, and three or four of them said that had we not taken (William Green in round one and Andre Davis in round two) they would have taken them with the very next pick."
Several teams were in the process of trying to move up to get Green and Davis when the Browns selected those players.
The Browns may have thrown another wrench into the plans of another team when they traded linebacker Wali Rainer and the 79th overall pick in round three to Jacksonville for the 76th pick - a selection they used to draft Maryland center Melvin Fowler Jr.
Davis said the Browns considered drafting Fowler in round two. When he was available with in round three, Davis said the Browns felt the need to trade up, leapfrogging Tennessee, a team they feared might take Fowler with the 77th pick. With the retirement of Bruce Matthews, the Titans are in need of help on the interior of their offensive line.
"One of the reasons we liked (Fowler) is his versatility," said Davis. "He has the ability to play both center and guard. He is one of 20 players we were able to bring in (under league rule) for an interview, and he did a phenomenal job ... His football expertise is outstanding. He is very well coached. He is a very smart offensive lineman."
The 6-2, 300-pound Fowler was a four-year starter at Maryland, appearing in all of the Terrapins' 44 games. According to Davis, Fowler will have a chance to compete for a starting job at both guard and center.
"I feel most comfortable at center because I've been able to get my game to a decent level at that position," said Fowler. "I had the opportunity to play guard in a college all-star game in January and had a great time with it. I'll do whatever I can to help the team, whether it is at center or guard. That's what I'm all about."
Ironically, Fowler said the NFL player he often compares himself to is current Browns center Dave Wohlabaugh.
Wali Rainer became expendable when the Browns signed former Steelers linebacker Earl Holmes to a free agent contract. Davis said the trade is a "win-win situation for bout us and for Wali. He will be given a chance to win a starting position in Jacksonville."
William Green had a chance to play for Butch Davis at the Univeristy of Miami. He passed up on that opportunity after his first visit to Boston College.
"When I visited (Boston College) I knew it was the place for me," said Green. "I actually cancelled my visit to Miami the next week."
Now Green has another opportunity to play for Davis.
"We meet up again, so it's a good thing," Green said
Green already knows quite a bit about his chief competitor for the Browns' starting running back spot.
"I know James Jackson from the Big East," he said. "I watched him all through high school. He's a good running back, and I'm looking forward to working with him."
BEREA - Butch Davis admitted the Browns were very interested in selecting LeCharles Bentley of Ohio State with the 47th pick in the draft.
"Bentley is a guy we really liked," said Davis. "We kind of had our fingers crossed hoping to have an opportunity for someone like him."
When Bentley was selected by New Orleans, the Browns started considering other options. They went with the man Davis considered "by far" the best player on the board. That man was Virginia Tech wide receiver Andre' Davis.
"We didn't think Davis would be available anywhere near our pick," said Davis. "We thought, conceivably he would go at the end of the first round."
The pick was Davis put it "true to oil" for an organization that has now selected a wide receiver in the second round four consecutive years.
What the Browns like - Davis has great speed in the high 4.3's, nice size at 6-1, and a great work ethic. He was an unknown coming out of Niskayuna High School in New York, where he played soccer until joining the football team in his senior year. He put together a highlight film and became his own marketing director to get a chance at Virginia Tech.
Davis admitted "we had never heard of him," when he was the coaching at Miami.
Why is this a questionable pick? The Browns continue to ignore building the offensive line through the draft.
The Browns did not come into the day thinking they would draft a wide receiver in the second round.
"It was possible we would take a wide receiver or an offensive lineman," said Davis. "You look at the board and the value and quality of guys there, clearly without question (Davis) was head and shoulders a better choice."
Davis joins Kevin Johnson (1999), Dennis Northcutt (2000) and Quincy Morgan (2001) on the list of wide receivers taken by the Browns in the second round of a draft. Of that group, Davis said he is most comparable to Morgan because of his size and his potential of having an impact in the return game.
How does the selection of Davis affect the standing of receivers like Northcutt and 2000 third-round pick JaJuan Dawson?
"Like anyone else on the team, they'll be competing hard to make the football team," said Davis.
Davis said he hopes the selection of William Green in round one also spurs James Jackson to compete in training camp.
"I'd be enormously disappointed if James Jackson doesn't dial it up because of the selection of Green," said Davis.
BEREA - Dwight Clark and Carmen Policy both hinted the Browns will go after an offensive lineman in the second round, but with Chicago selecting Boston College's Marc Colombo and Pittsburgh grabbing Auburn guard Kendall Simmons back-to-back late round one, the pickings could be scarce.
Andre Gurode was high on the Browns list, but he was selected by Dallas early in round two. The Browns assumed Gurode would not be around when they picked 47th.
The best case scenerio would have Florida's Mike Pearson still available when the Browns pick. Pearson entered the draft as a junior, and he's a player Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren said can be a "poor-man's Tony Boselli."
"He's not a Boselli yet, but he could be," Warren said earlier this year. "I know he has what it takes to be a really good NFL player. He's a big guy, he's pretty quick, and he can be mean. He just hasn't had enough of a chance to play against really good defensive ends in college ... I think once he does, he could be a lot like Boselli. He reminds me a lot of Boselli."
Other linemen the Browns might consider are Ohio State's LaCharles Bentley, Mississippi's Terrence Metcalf, Tennessee's Fred Weary. They could also take a flyer on San Diego State's Chester Pitts, a player some scouts think could develop into one of the best linemen in this class.
With the addition of veterans like Ryan Tucker and Barry Stokes and the re-signing of Tre' Johnson, the Browns have enough experience to be patient while a talent like Pitts develops.
- David Carducci
BEREA - According to Butch Davis and Carmen Policy, the Browns got exactly the player they targeted in the first round of the draft - Boston College running back William Green.
While there were rumors that the Browns would try to move up to get Bryant McKinnie should he fall out of the top five, Davis said the club never talked to a team about acquiring a pick earlier than ninth.
"We called to talk to a few teams about moving up, but the highest position we talked to was in the nine, ten, eleven range," said Davis.
The Browns also considered moving down. Butch Davis spoke with Raiders owner Al Davis, but decided against a deal to move into one of the Oakland's picks because the Browns had heard a rumor that the Raiders had an interest in Green. They were worried the Raiders or another team might sweep in and take the running back they coveted.
Dwight Clark said the Browns considered talking to the Vikings at No. 7 "because McKinnie is such a great talent," but in the end "we decided to go four our running back."
The Browns had also been rumored to have an interest in Arizona State offensive tackle Levi Jones, but according to Policy, the club had him rated below William Green. If Jones had been available at No. 16, the Browns still would have selected Green.
Are the Browns worried about William Green's 4.5-to-4.6 speed?
Davis said he was concerned at first, but then he watched film of Green and he thought back to the 1990 draft when he was an assistant coach in Dallas and the Cowboys selected a"slow" running back in Emmitt Smith.
"Everyone said he runs 4.6, then you turn on the film and you see guys who run 4.3 and 4.4 and they are not catching him," said Davis. "We did the same type of analysis (with Green) as we did with Emmitt Smith. I'm not trying to predict that William Green is going to be the next Emmitt Smith, but when we were in Dallas Smith was probably the third or fourth value on our board that day, and as his stock started to fall (former Dallas coach) Jimmy (Johnson) could hardly contain himself and he tried to move up to get him.
"The knock on Emmitt at the time was that he was a high-4.5, low 4.6 guy. All he did in college was pile up a lot of 10, 12, 15 and 20-yard runs and then he comes into the National Football League and all he does is get a lot of 10, 12, 15 and 20-yard runs to the point where he is almost going to be the leading rusher in the history of the game. I don't think that you have to run 4.3 or 4.4."
Why Green over T.J. Duckett?
"Both are excellent players," said Clark. "We felt Green fit us the best of the five top guys we had at running back ... At this level the holes are not open for very long. We felt William had explosion getting through the line fast, then he has the vision and the power to break tackles. T.J. has that too. There isn't a huge difference in the two, but in this division and in this offense, we just felt William was the best fit.
Duckett went to Atlanta right after the Browns pick at 17. According to Clark, had the Browns lost the coin flip to Atlanta, drafted 17th and watched Atlanta take Green, the Browns would not have drafted Duckett.
"We had other players rated higher," said Clark.
Davis and Clark said he plans to use Green and James Jackson as a one-two punch in the backfield
"We still feel James is a very good back," said Clark. "As you know, you need to have two good backs."
Clark said Ben Gay and Jamel White will compete for the third spot.
The Browns might have considered taking Jeremy Shockey had he still been available at No. 16. Clark said Shockey and Green were two players the Browns had rated very high on their board.
Look for another offensive player, most likely an offensive lineman, to be selected by the Browns in round two. Policy said Davis would make one more offensive "concession" before turning to his bread-and-butter - adding more talent on the defensive side of the football.
"I think everyone is aware we need some offensive line help, so we'll see what is there," said Clark.
The Browns could find themselves with an even more difficult decision than they thought they'd have at No. 16.
With back-to-back reaches by the Bengals (Levi Jones, OT, Arizona St.) and Colts (Dwight Freeney, DE-LB, Syracuse), the Browns could have some top-10 type talents available when they select.
What if Albert Haynesworth is available at 16? Can Butch Davis pass up on the draft's best defensive tackle and the opportunity to put him next to Gerard Warren in the middle of the line?
What if Wendell Bryant is available at 16? He's another perfect compliment to Warren.
What if Donte Stallworth is available at 16? He's a top-10 talent who would give the Browns a true No. 1 receiver to compliment Kevin Johnson.
While William Green and T.J. Duckett once seemed like the decision, the potential to pick up a talent like Haynesworth, Bryant or Stallworth might be too hard to pass up. If the Browns are going for the best available player, Duckett and Green might not be part of the equation.
BEREA - Bryant McKinnie in purple and gold. It's not what many Browns fans wanted to see today.
The Browns hopes of landing the mammoth Miami tackle ended at just after 1 p.m. when Dallas managed to beat the clock and pull off a trade with Kansas City. Had that deal not gone through, allowing the Chiefs to take Ryan Sims, the Vikings would not have taken McKinnie. They would have nabbed Sims. Minnesota already had a card with Sims name on it ready to turn in.
Had the Vikings managed to take Sims, the Browns could still have tried to work a trade with the Chiefs to jump ahead of Jacksonville and get McKinnie.
Now the Browns decision seems to be between Arizona State tackle Levi Jones, Michigan State running back T.J. Duckett and Boston College running back William Green at No. 16. We have some new information that Green might now be ahead of Duckett on the Browns draft board.
- David Carducci
BEREA - The selection of Joey Harrington by Detroit with the third overall pick demonstrates just how difficult it is to forecast what teams will do in the NFL Draft.
The Lions convinced just about everyone that they believed in Mike McMahon as their quarterback of the future. They convinced the media and they convinced other teams, like the Chiefs, who were interested in trading up with teams like the Bills and Cowboys in an attempt to get the Oregon quarterback.
The selection of Harrington opens up even more questions. Where will Quentin Jammer go, and how will that affect the Browns? While the Browns are not interested in Jammer, teams who could also consider Miami tackle Bryant McKinnie (San Diego, Minnesota) could want to address the cornerback position.
If Jammer goes to San Diego, the Browns will do everything in their power to make a deal with Dallas or Minnesota. Remember, Dallas and Minnesota have strong ties with Cleveland, making a deal possible. Butch Davis was an assistant at Dallas and the Browns and Vikings have worked together on several other deals in the last three years.
- David Carducci