The Browns gave serious consideration to taking University of Maryland center/guard Melvin Fowler Jr. with their second-round pick.
How close did they come?
"We had his name on the card," Browns Director of Football Operations Dwight Clark said.
They shifted gears at the last minute and selected Virginia Tech wide receiver Andre Davis in the second round (No. 47 overall). They were pleasantly surprised that Fowler was still on the board in the third round, but felt they had to get creative to obtain his services.
They sent middle linebacker Wali Rainer (who had become expendable with the free-agent acquisition of Earl Holmes) and their third-round pick (No. 79 overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the 76th selection. They used that pick to draft Fowler.
Fowler, a 6-foot-3, 300-pounder, was one of two offensive linemen picked by the Browns in the two-day draft. They selected Miami lineman Joaquin Gonzalez in the seventh round.
"We got guys we thought would impact our football team," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "I was scared to death when there was a huge run of offensive linemen in the second round.
"We're ecstatic we got Melvin Fowler. He was in a pool of guys we had targeted one round earlier. He might have been one of our choices in the second round. He's a big, strong, massive guy, who has played guard and center. It's a good selection for the offensive line and for the future."
Fowler said he feels more comfortable at the center position. He could eventually replace incumbent Dave Wohlabaugh at center. The Browns also want to take a look at Fowler at guard.
"The reason we took him was his versatility," Davis said. "He's a guy with great versatility. He could be one of our starting guards."
Fowler, who started all 44 games of his career with the Terrapins, would have liked to go higher in the draft. However, he realizes center isn't a glamorous position.
"Typically, centers don't get drafted real high," he said. "When I got the phone call and spoke to Coach Davis, I was thrilled to death."
Davis went out of his way to say Wohlabaugh remains on solid footing with the Browns.
"I'm very happy with Dave," Davis said. "I'm thrilled with way he's been working the last two months. He's worked harder in the weight room. He's in the top half of centers in the league."
Fowler, the youngest of nine children, said he has similar talents to a familiar face in Cleveland.
"I can compare myself to Dave Wohlabaugh of the Cleveland Browns," he said. "He does a very good job protecting the pass."
The Long Island, N.Y., native took some snaps at guard in a postseason all-star game. It might be his ticket to a long career in the NFL.
"It's definitely something I've done," Fowler said. "I didn't get a chance to play guard until the Senior Bowl in January. I'm looking forward to playing a little guard in Cleveland."
|Pick: No. 76 (third round)
Height/Weight: 6-3, 300
40-yard dash: 5.46
Birthdate: March 31, 1979
High School: Half Hollow Hills (Long Island, N.Y.)
Honors: First team All-ACC and All-America by National Sports Bureau, third team All-America by Football News.