Passan: Only 350 Scouting Days Left!

Sad about missing Day One of this year's NFL Draft? Is that what's troubling you, Pookie? Rich Passan has the answer - the 2009 NFL Draft! It's never too early to start pondering what the needs the Cleveland Browns will be able to fill this time next year. There's only 350 or so shopping days left... get scouting!

Now that the 2008 National Football League college draft is history, it's time to dust off the crystal ball and peer into the Browns' future.

Be honest. This year was tough on the draftniks. No first-round pick. No second-round pick. Cripes, no third-round pick.

Sure, Phil Savage helped strengthen the team, but at the same time, he took a lot of the fun out of draft weekend. This is one of the great weekends of the season and all Browns fans did was stare blankly at their television screens the first day while everyone else had fun guessing who their favorite team was going to tab. Getting back into the first round can't come soon enough.

With apologies to Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends Network, we now take a look at what Savage and his buddies will look at when draft time rolls around again next April.

In a most unscientific manner, we will soothsay our way into 2009 and try to sort out just who will be available for the Browns and attempt to determine the areas of need.

Using tea leaves, darts, tarot cards, Ouija boards and just about everything short of palm reading and witchcraft, here is what the field from which the Browns can conceivably choose will look like when they return to the first day of the lottery. No divine intervention. Just good old fashioned myopic guessing.

So where do we begin? Hard to tell considering the 2008 season hasn't been played out. Strengths and weaknesses haven't been determined. This is where the guessing part comes in. From here on out, everything will be determined by what is seen on paper, starting with the offense.

Moving the ball does not figure to be a problem. But a significant part of the offense will become problematic if developments unfold as they are rumored. One way or the other, the Browns' quarterback controversy will disappear. Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn will have a new address in 2009.

That leaves the cupboard semi-bare with only Ken Dorsey backing up the winner of the Anderson-Quinn duel. The guess here is Savage will go the free-agent route and bring in a veteran since the Anderson-Quinn winner will still be young enough to negate the drafting and development of a rookie.

Running the ball will be an entirely different matter. Jamal Lewis' career nears its conclusion and drafting running back moves into the major-need category. There will be some interesting names on the board, especially if certain underclassmen declare.

Names such as Ohio State's Chris Wells, C.J. Spiller of Auburn, Wisconsin's P.J. Hill, LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh and Knowshon Moreno of Georgia. If these underclassmen come out, an ordinary running back field becomes extremely attractive.

Draft King has the Browns selecting Hill in its first 2009 mock draft. He's a 5-11, 230-pounder who was the workhorse in the Badgers' backfield last season. He ran for 1,212 yards in 11 games, breaking the 100-yard barrier on six occasions while scoring 14 touchdowns.

The need isn't as great along the offensive line since Savage has assembled a terrific group. But if he's looking for depth, a second-round choice like Ohio State tackle Alex Boone or Louisiana State guard Herman Johnson might please a few draftniks.

Rivals.com picked Johnson, a 6-7, 350-pound behemoth from LSU, for the Browns in the first round of its initial mock draft. But offensive linemen sometimes have a tendency to fall and Johnson could be there in round two. Boone would make a nice story since he's a Lakewood St. Edward product.

Another second-round possibility for the Browns at a position of need, if he declares, is Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie, who played his high school ball at Chagrin Falls.

On defense, Savage will have a rich field to ponder as he seeks to improve a unit that ostensibly will be better this season.

If he's looking for an outside linebacker who specializes in edge rushing, George Selvie of South Florida would be a solid choice if he declares. Light for a defensive end at 6-4, 240, Selvie would be a perfect complement opposite Kamerion Wimbley on the strong side.

If he wants production from an outside backer, Savage could tap someone like Indiana's Greg Middleton, who led the nation in sacks with 16 last year. He's Wimbley size at 6-3, 265. So is Penn State's Maurice Evans, who recorded 12 sacks last year. Brian Cushing, 6-5, 250 from USC is another intriguing name.

If Savage is looking inside, Rey Maualaga of USC and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis most likely will be off the board when the Browns select. But Brandon Spikes of Florida and LSU's Derry Beckwith probably will be there.

Todd McShay of ESPN.com has the Browns taking Clemson hybrid Ricky Sapp, a 6-4, 240-pounder, in the opening round of his first 2009 mock draft.


As for the defensive line, stickout names include Al Woods (tackle) and Tyson Jackson (end) of LSU, Auburn tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and tackle Demonte' Bolden of Tennessee.

And since he didn't address the secondary via the recent draft, and assuming the problem won't be totally solved in the coming season, Savage very well could target that area with his first pick or two next April.

Top cornerback candidates include Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, who most likely won't be there for the Browns unless they trade up since he'll be the first corner off the board. That leaves the likes of Vontae Davis of Illinois, if he declares, Reggie Smith of Oklahoma, Victor Harris of Virginia Tech and Nicholls State's Ladarius Webb.

Should either Sean Jones or Brodney Pool stumble at safety, possible candidates are Nic Harris of Oklahoma, William Moore of Missouri and USC junior Taylor Mays, one of the fiercest hitters in the country.

Somewhere among these names will be the Browns' top two draft picks in a year, proving the notion that if you throw enough [stuff] against a wall, some of it will adhere.

No [kidding].

 


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