Draft Profile: Melvin Fowler

Mike McLain continues his series of profiles of new Cleveland Browns, this time focusing on third round draft choice Melvin Fowler. Mike had an opportunity to speak with Melvin recently and provides this report.

There are times when having confidence in oneself is more effective than a 40 time or vertical leap to get pro football scouts giddy with excitement.

You notice those things when around Melvin Fowler, the Browns' third-round draft choice. When Fowler participated in a recent mini-camp, he showed no signs of being overwhelmed by being in the locker room of a NFL team.

"It's not as bad as I thought it would be. I definitely expected the worst," Fowler said.

Fowler seemed at home from the moment he sat down in front of a microphone to conduct an interview the day after he was drafted. There were no signs of being awestruck by his new surroundings. He made himself at home, which had to be a good sign to coach Butch Davis.

The next step will be for Fowler to find a home on the offensive line. Fowler (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) was one of the top centers on the college level at Maryland last season. He'll be tested at guard in training camp, but center seems to be his ultimate destination.

Fowler lined up with the second team on the left side during the mini-camp. Barry Stokes, signed away from Green Bay in free agency, worked with the first team at left guard.

The mini-camp marked the first time since high school that Fowler practiced at guard, with the exception of his experience at the Senior Bowl last January. Fowler admitted that gaining a feel for guard didn't come back to him with the ease of riding a bike.

"I really didn't get to learn a lot of technique when I played guard in high school," Fowler said. "I paid attention to what the coaches told the guards in college, but I couldn't apply it because I didn't play that position. When I played guard at the all-star game, I picked it up fairly easily. I still have a lot to learn, as I do right now."

Most scouting boards had Ohio State's LeCharles Bentley as the top center prospect, with Fowler a close second. Fowler helped his draft cause by performing well at guard during the practices leading up to the Senior Bowl, along with his play in the game.

Other advantages for Fowler were his steady performances against quality opposition during four years as a Maryland starter. The Browns were so impressed by Fowler that they seriously considered drafting him in the second round before going with Virginia Tech receiver Andre Davis.

When the Browns neared their pick in the third round, they traded up with Jacksonville to make sure they wouldn't miss a chance to select Fowler. The Browns included middle linebacker Wali Rainer in the trade.

There's no question that strengthening the interior of the line is one of Butch Davis' offseason objectives. In addition to signing Stokes, the Browns re-signed oft-injured guard Tre Johnson, who missed most of last season with a leg injury.

Fowler will likely begin the season as a backup, although there is a line of thought that he might surprise everyone and start. Fowler plans to take each day as it comes, assuming that everything will work out for the best in the long run.

"The goals I've set for myself are to help the team and contribute any way I can," he said.

Does that mean earning a starting spot?

"I think that comes with my goals of contributing to the team and helping out," Fowler said.

Despite his confidence, Fowler knows that it won't be easy. Behind Stokes and Johnson at guard are Brad Bedell, Shaun O'Hara, Paul Zukauskas and Richard Mercier, among others, hopeful of earning a roster spot.

Four mini-camp practices in late April don't mean much in terms of evaluating talent. The action will be more demanding when the players are in full gear in July and August.

"It's definitely an adjustment (from college) in dealing with bigger, stronger guys," Fowler said. "It's definitely going to be challenge for me. Technique is important. One false step, and it could mean letting a defender blow by you."

That's something that rarely happened to Fowler at Maryland.

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