What do these names have in common?
Each were participants during Senior Bowl week before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns and General Manager Phil Savage. A total of seven of Phil Savage's twenty five selections participated in this important off-season measuring stick for draft prospects.Three more of the team's first-round selections during Savage's tenure (Braylon Edwards, Brady Quinn, and Joe Thomas) were selected to play in the game as well and were present in Mobile at some point even if they did not fully participate in the practices or games.
Obviously, the Cleveland Browns staff takes advantage of the opportunity to watch these prospects practice all week, see how they interact under NFL coaching staffs, and get the time to know them through the interview process available to all teams.
So, which prospects in particular will receive attention from the Browns scouting staff and the team's General Manager in this year's Senior Bowl? As always, the off season's premier showcase for incoming prospects is loaded with talent, but I believe that there are ten prospects in particular who would appear to be the most intriguing for Cleveland Browns, given their specific needs:
This mega-talented defensive line prospect can be found currently rated anywhere from top fifteen to mid-second round depending on which draft guru's rating system one finds most trustworthy. What is certain is that Balmer's size and athleticism ratio are perfect for a 3-4 defensive end prospect. At 6-foot 5-inches tall and 295 pounds, he has the ability to be a truly disruptive force up-front and dominate at times. Until this year, the knock on Balmer was consistency, but big Tarheel stepped up his game for most of this season and will enter Senior Bowl week with his own fate in his hands depending on how he performs down in Mobile.
If not for injury, Sweed would not even be mentioned in this article. The Longhorn receiver has legit top-ten overall talent, but a nagging wrist injury kept him from playing most of the season. Even so, some scouts still consider him, at worst, a late first rounder. This becomes an issue for the Browns, who do not have a pick until the middle of round two and would love to upgrade their receiving corps with a top talent like Sweed. If the rust is not knocked off and Sweed struggles slightly, he could certainly slip a little and some team in round two will get great value. He performs to his talent, the discussion becomes moot.
3. Marchondray Moore DT Maryland
"Dre" is an intriguing combination of size, athleticism, production, and experience. At 6' 4" and 311 pounds, Moore has the optimal size for a 3-4 defensive end and is arguably the best pure run stuffer in this draft class. Coming out of a hybrid 3-4 defensive front, Moore already has some experience with the techniques and concepts used by the Cleveland Browns defense. Considering his overall size and strength, he even has the ability to receive some reps as a nose tackle as well. Moore led the Terrapins this year in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (6), and he's athletic enough to be asked to drop back in coverage at times. The lineman even snagged an interception this year off of top quarterback prospect Matt Ryan. With a good week during the Senior Bowl he could easily be a much sought-after prospect early in round two.
Much like the aforementioned Limas Sweed, Bowman would be a guaranteed first-round selection if he had a healthy senior season. Unfortunately for him, this was not the case for this 6' 4", 220 wide receiver prospect. Even struggling through a knee sprain late in the season, Bowman still managed to snag 67 receptions for 1006 yards and 8 touchdowns. The big physical receiver was set for a breakout senior season with a predicted top-ranked offense returning most of its starters and after getting lasik surgery to improve his horrible vision. Unfortunately, inconsistency plagued both Bowman and the entire Cowboy offense. Dropping a few easy balls, quarterbacks being replaced on offense, and a coach screaming something about being "…FORTY!!" hampered Bowman's chances to develop into an elite prospect. Bowman definitely does possess the talent to become a top receiving threat at the next level, but what he does during this upcoming week will go a long way into whether he can claw back into first round level in scouts' eyes.
A tight end?! Forget about the position and just think….another weapon. The Browns are thin in their receiving corps and the offense could reach elite levels with one more reliable target. Does it mean that the extra threat has to be a wide receiver? Not in my view. Rucker himself was only a tight end in name in Missouri's offense. Rarely could he be found lining up as a traditional tight end. He was more often found in the slot and was a mismatch for every team the Tigers faced. As such, most scouts will question his inline blocking and ability to release off the line of scrimmage. General Manager Phil Savage did go out of his way to mention Rucker in a post season press conference as a potential first round talent, and his ability to be a mismatch to defenses and become another reliable target make him a very interesting prospect for the Cleveland Browns.
6. Joseph Bryant DT Texas A&M
Bryant is a name that a lot of Browns fans should have already become familiar with while looking around the internet and reading many mock drafts. "Red" looks to be the favorite in these early prognostications and it is very easy to see why. Cleveland's number one priority is upgrading the defensive line, especially defensive end. Bryant has the size, talent, and athleticism to be a legit starting 3-4 end. The 6' 5", 322 pound defensive tackle was once considered a first round talent until a knee injury sidelined him most of his junior year. After coming off injury this season, some scouts have openly wondered about Bryant's conditioning and consistency. Despite the up-and-down season, Red finished with 46 tackles (6 for a loss). He still shows an explosive first step and can be very disruptive. Browns fans should remember how rookie OT standout, Joe Thomas, struggled some as a senior after blowing out a knee as a junior.
This Massillon, Ohio product stepped up his game to another level this season. Finally settling in as an outside linebacker, Crable's numbers in his senior season were eye popping: 90 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks. Crable was an enigma at Ann Arbor until this past season. The talent was obviously there but the production was not, as he often seemed a player without a position. Crable bounced back and forth from 3-4 outside linebacker his sophomore year, 4-3 defensive end as a junior, and finally back to outside linebacker this past season. Crable finally stepped up not only statistically but as a captain of a resurgent Wolverine team late in the year. Once considered a late round prospect with considerable talent, Crable is now one of the legit 3=4 outside linebacking prospects in this draft class. He can continue his rise on NFL draft boards with high level of play against elite competition this week.
The re-signing of Jamal Lewis this offense is a top priority for the Cleveland Browns. Even so, the position of running back will not be fully addressed. The Browns roster at the position still lacks some explosiveness and at times the backs leave some yards on the field. This could be resolved with the drafting of a back like Chris Johnson, who is rumored to run in the 4.29 forty range. That speed is one of the reasons that Johnson led the nation in all purpose yards this season for the Pirates. He possesses elite returning abilities, soft hands out of the backfield, and again the speed very few running backs at any level possess. His downfalls are few but can be a concern. Rarely does this speed demon run behind his pads. Right now it is hard to envision him being an every down back in the NFL because of this flaw. Also his speed can be neutralized because he is a top end runner and cannot always reach his top gear. These are things which will need to be answered as the off season All Star games and workouts progress. One universal belief among all coaching staffs and scouts, however: speed kills.
A powder keg of an interior lineman who just happens to make play after play after play. It will be interesting to see if Laws plays more defensive tackle or defensive end during this year's Senior Bowl. At 6' 1" and 298 pounds, Laws does not exactly possess prototype size for any system. As a defensive end in the Fighting Irish's new 34 defensive front, Laws was nothing short of a force. Imagine a defensive end, in any system, leading his team in tackles with 112 in total! Throw in 8 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks, and this impressive prospect got loss in the commotion of a very depressing and disappointing Notre Dame season. Likely not a first day pick because of his overall measureables, just watch as Laws impresses both his coaching staff and scouts fall in love with his motor and sheer ability to play football.
10. DJ Hall WR Alabama
The man who broke Ozzie Newsome's all time receiving mark for the Crimson Tide has to be of some interest to Browns fans. Hall has performed at a high level on a formerly great program which is currently struggling in obscurity. Even being dinged during parts of this season, Hall managed 67 receptions for 1005 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns. His performances against Arkansas and Tennessee in particular were two of the more impressive showings of any prospect throughout the college season. Hall has good size at 6 foot 2 inches tall and 200 pounds, and possesses reliable hands, good route running, and speed which can sneak up on a defender. One question is whether his couple run-ins with his coaching staff were aberrations or indications of his attitude. The interview process alone during this off season will go a long way to dictate where Hall eventually lands to start his professional career.
As always there are second tier guys who are very intriguing as well to keep an eye on: Keenan Burton WR Kentucky, Ben Moffitt LB South Florida Tavares Gooden LB Miami, Tashard Choice RB Georgia Tech, Marcus Harrison DT Arkansas, Titus Brown DE Mississippi St., Wallace Gilberry DT Alabama, Cliff Avril DE Purdue, Harry Douglas WR Louisville, Chauncey Washington RB USC, and Matt Forte RB Tulane