'A' Promising Draft

Frank Derry talked to then-GM Dwight Clark and Team President Carmen Poligy about the Browns draft and the players chosen in this draft recap originally published in the May 13, 2002 issue of Bernies Insiders.

Dwight Clark, who in past years has been pretty accurate in giving an early grade to his draft class, looked at the crowd of reporters who had gathered at the team's headquarters in Berea following the conclusion of the 67th annual NFL player selection and said, "I think this one is an 'A' now."

But he then quickly added, "That obviously remains to be seen depending upon how they play. But when it came to targeting positions and taking guys who can actually play instead of taking a guy who is at that position, I think it is a heck of a draft for the Browns and their fans and our future."

The Browns went into the 2002 draft knowing they had several key positions to fill in terms of either starters or backup strength. Those spots included running back, kickoff/punt return specialist, depth at linebacker, tight end and generally improving the overall quality of the special teams.

The team spent a great deal of effort in the pre-draft hours down-playing the fact they definitely earmarked Boston College running back William Green in the first round.

They dropped hints they were much more interested in Michigan State's T.J. Duckett.

Thus, when it came time for the Browns to make the 16th overall choice and both Green and Duckett were on the board, many thought the speedier Duckett would be named.

Instead, it was Green, who fills a big void at the running back spot.

"I believe that selecting William Green has heightened our sense of optimism," said Browns President Carmen Policy. "I've heard Butch Davis speak on several occasions behind closed doors of how great this player is in game-day situations."

Davis said, "He (Green) runs a 4.6 (40 yard dash), but you see guys running 4.3 and 4.4 not catching him." In other words, he's faster when in uniform and toting the pigskin.

There are other question marks in regard to Green aside from his time in the 40.

For one thing, he was twice suspended by Boston College, reportedly for using marijuana. Both times it happened before the Eagles' most important game of the season -- the 2000 Aloha Bowl and the regular-season game against Miami last season.

The Browns, following extensive research, came away convinced Green learned from his mistakes.

"We were very comfortable with the fact that he was mature enough and smart enough that he learned from it," Davis said. "Our interactions with him were all very, very positive. He looks you right in the eye. He also had a tough upbringing."

Both of his parents died as a result of AIDS by the time he was 14.

In addition, Green is also being treated for ulcerative colitis, a disease that causes inflammation and soreness in the intestines. He was first diagnosed in 1998 and has never missed a game or a practice because of that health problem.

"Our understanding is that it is under control with appropriate and standard medication," Policy said.

Green and University of Miami tight end Jeremy Shockey were thought to be two players the Browns considered likely to be available when it came time for them to draft in Round One. Had that been the case, they would have had a tough decision since both filled areas of need.

But as it turned out, Shockey went to the New York Giants with the 14th overall selection, which made the Browns' decision much easier.

The fact the team had constantly down-played its interest in Green, to the point where even Green was truly surprised by his selection, it likely prevented any team from trying to move up to get him.

Tennessee had the 15th overall choice and went for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth out of The University of Tennessee.

The only other player the Browns reportedly considered getting, and who they thought might be available at No. 16, was offensive tackle Levi Jones out of Arizona State. But that decision was eliminated when Cincinnati, to the surprise of many, used the 10th overall choice to grab Jones.

When it came time for the Browns' second-round choice, No. 47 overall, they very seriously considered taking center Melvin Fowler out of Maryland. In fact, they already had his name written down on the piece of paper ready to turn in.

But then they decided to gamble.

Andre Davis, a wide receiver out of Virginia Tech who at the bare minimum figures to upgrade the Browns' kickoff and punt return games with his outstanding speed this coming season, was available and too talented to pass on in Round Two.

And so, for the fourth straight year, they took a wide receiver in the second round.

Previously, they had selected Kevin Johnson (1999), Dennis Northcutt (2000) and Quincy Morgan (2001).

The Browns figured some-one close talent-wise to Fowler would be available in Round Three.

"The value was too overwhelming and too tempting to pass on a guy with such big-play potential," Butch Davis said of Andre Davis. "He can truly change the dimension of (a team's) field position with his return ability."

Then much to their surprise, Fowler was still on the board when the No. 76 overall pick was about to be made.

That choice belonged to Jacksonville. The Browns, who had the No. 79 overall choice, figured Tennessee, scheduled to pick No. 77, would grab Fowler as a potential replacement for future Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews.

So the Browns called the Jaguars and offered their own third pick, along with middle linebacker Wali Rainer, to move up to No. 76.

Rainer, a starter the past three years, was pretty much out of a job after the Browns signed free agent Earl Holmes a few weeks before the draft.

"I felt it was a win-win situation," Davis said. "It gives him (Rainer) an opportunity to win a starting position. I'm sure he's happy about that. He's a good guy. He's been good for the city and good for the team."

The Browns undoubtedly would have liked to have gotten more for Rainer, but in the long run they think they might very well have landed a key component for the offensive line for years to come.

"We're ecstatic we could get him," Davis said of the 6-2, 300-pounder who will be tested at guard initially but could eventually replace veteran Dave Wohlabaugh at center.

The Browns then concentrated on linebacker for three of their next four picks, getting guys who will not only eventually compete for starting jobs, but will play key roles on the special teams in the immediate future.

First to arrive was Northwestern's Kevin Bentley, who was the third pick overall in the fourth round. That choice was acquired last summer from the Lions for quarterback Ty Detmer.

Initially, Clark figured Bentley, a 6-0, 240-pounder would be brought in to compete for the "mike" spot. "He runs a 4.6 (40) and has the girth to hang in and play tough," Clark said.

"You watch him on tape and he has a knack for getting to the ball. He can weave through traffic if he needs to and get to the ball. He's highly productive."

Then, with their own pick in the fourth round (111th overall), the Browns selected linebacker Ben Taylor out of Virginia Tech.

Clark projects him as a "sam" linebacker. "He'll knock your head off," Clark said. "He's a tough, physical player with good instincts. He's 6-2, 235 with 4.7 speed, so he has good size and good speed and he will get bigger. He's going to be a terror on special teams ... a tough, tough kid."

The Browns then interrupted their run on linebacker because they saw an end coming quickly to what really was an unusually strong class of tight ends. There were 24 selected this year. The old record for tight ends drafted was 16.

Darnell Sanders out of Ohio State was one of the few premier ones remaining on the board midway through the fourth round so the Browns packaged their fifth and sixth round choic

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