Round Three is the Key

Mark Leonard looks beyond round one of the upcoming draft, and offers some names to ponder...

What if Haloti Ngata is there at twelve?

Well, the simple answer is: "Take him."

And I expect Browns' GM Phil Savage would do just that, which seems increasingly likely. The Buffalo Bills see the Oregon DL as a two-down performer, meaning he'd have to be removed on passing downs, offering too little as a pass-rusher. Though he'd be a reach at 8, FSU's Broderick Bunkley would be the call, were the Bills to address their needy DL with a top-ten selection.

The Bills play a 4-3, for which Bunkley is thought to be best suited. He's a three-technique disruptor in the Warren Sapp mold.

The Detroit Lions will probably opt for either of two defensive backs, safety Michael Huff or cornerback Jimmy Williams. The Lions secondary needs a leader and a playmaker, so the guess here is Huff.

At ten, the Arizona Cardinals could go for Ngata, but would be more likely to choose Kurt Warner's eventual successor in Vanderbilt passer Jay Cutler, leaving Williams for the St. Louis Rams. Ngata could, however, intrigue Jim Haslett, the Rams' new defensive coordinator, since run-defense is seldom mentioned flatteringly in the same sentence with that ballclub.

Let's assume, for conversation's sake, it is Williams that the Rams prefer, which would not astound inasmuch as they've been without a shutdown corner since the retirement of ancient Aeneas Williams.

The Browns and GM Savage get their wish and Ngata falls to them.

What then? A recent entry argues that Pitt OG Charles Spencer seems wisest at choice 43 of Round Two. If not the former defensive lineman, then one of the other premier guards, perhaps Oklahoma's Davin Joseph.

This brings us to projecting the choice in round three, which is really the purpose of this article. An edge-rusher to complement Willie McGinest and challenge Chaun Thompson would seem the preeminent need at that point. Hence it is worth knowing the names of Auburn's Stanley McClover and Tennessee's Parys Haralson. One of these SEC defensive ends figures to convert to an NFL 3-4 OLB with the Browns.

In Round Four, the absence of depth at ILB must be addressed. This position is deep with talent, so the disparity between what is available now compared to what was bypassed in round two did not warrant forsaking one of the superior OGs in favor of inside linebacker. This is as soon as the position, therefore, should be attended to.

The hunch here is OSU's Mike Kudla deserves selection, though he has not played ILB since his prep days at Medina Highlands. Jamar Williams, who would move inside after playing outside at Arizona State, is another suitable option, as is NC State's Oliver Hoyte. Each has the stout build, upper-body strength, thick-legged ballast, shedding skills and intensity to succeed as NFL run-stuffers.

With the second choice in Round Four, using the pick acquired from the Atlanta Falcons for Chris Crocker, the focus would return to the interior of the offensive line. Ideally, a guard-center prospect is secured here, with Cornell's Kevin Boothe, OSU's Rob Sims or Minnesota's Mark Setterstrom among the likely candidates. The Browns cannot move forward as thin as they are inside, particularly given the age and injury histories of starting guards Andruzzi and Coleman.

From here through the draft's end, one is essentially selecting developmental prospects, players with only remote chances of sticking on a varsity roster beyond training camp. Therefore, I'd hope to land two of the more elusive college quarterbacks who would be converting to wide receiver in the NFL. What is more, my preferences share having played in the Big 12 and possessing promise as return specialists.

Texas A&M's Reggie McNeal and Missouri's Brad Smith are precisely the type of athletes I'd be looking to lock up at this point in the process. McNeal's 4.3 40 time is among the best in the entire class. Smith, who prepped at Youngstown Rayen, is also quite fast and both are difficult to bring down in the open field. One of these two seems certain to become a pro playmaker and Cleveland can use more of those.

The Browns have two selections in Round Five thanks to the deal which sent WR Andre Davis to NE last preseason.

In Rounds Six and Seven, further reinforcements for the troubled front seven seem logical. Projecting names, at this point, seems pointless, though Cleveland-area natives Pierre Woods (Glenville) and Patrick Massey (St. Ignatius), both of whom attended that school up north, are worth considering. As 3-4 candidates, both would appear to have what it takes and would arrive highly motivated to make an impact.

However, another ILB, such as the Buckeye's Anthony Schlegal, would not disappoint, either. Iowa center Brian Ferentz, son of Hawkeye head coach (and former Browns' OL mentor) Kirk, would similarly not surprise, with the expectation Woods and Massey might come aboard later as priority free agents.

That outside linebacker choice in round three, however, is the one which could make this projected draft class. Were Ngata to fall to 12, FSU's Kamerion Wimbley would be bypassed, removing the opportunity to satisfy the edge-rushing need promptly. Therefore, distinguishing between those still players available at choice 75 would be critical.

McClover has the better height (6-3 to 6-1), speed (4.55 to 4.7) and wingspan and is the more solid citizen, given Haralson's tendency to lose his composure from time to time. But Parys is the more likely to remain on the board when Cleveland is selecting. He brings a tenacious relentlessness which recommends him, as well as a flair for the big play. Either way, were the Browns to be lucky enough to land one of these two, the club would be adding a spirited leader who brings it.

And, were Savage able to fill serious needs at NT, OG and pass-rushing OLB in Day One, he'd have to be quite happy.


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