Already looking forward to the 2009 NFL draft? Unfortunately for many Cleveland Browns' fans, the early season's circumstances have already created increased interest in April's event.
Now the question must be asked, where is General Manager Phil Savage in all of this mess? Like paparazzi skulking in the bushes, the Orange and Brown Report was able to ascertain the recent whereabouts of Savage, who landed in East Hartford last Friday to personally scout potential talent to fill the Browns' roster gaps.
Which players did Savage watch who could garner the most interest?
The most obvious talent is cornerback Darius Butler of UConn. Butler is a triple threat who is used in a handful of offensive sets as a wide receiver and is also the team's kick returner. Some sources currently have the 5 feet 10 inches tall and 187 pound playmaker as a potential first round candidate. Unfortunately, the cover man was relegated primarily to run support due to Baylor's zone read offense. The cornerback certainly was not adverse to doling out hits, however. At one point, Butler was playing the alley on an option run and blasted Baylor's talented quarterback low, flipping the signal caller 360 degrees through the air. The Husky's coverage skills were never really challenged throughout the game.
A lesser candidate would be one of Connecticut's starting defensive ends, Cody Brown. Undersized as an end, Brown stands 6 feet 2 inches tall and weights 248 pounds. Over the past two seasons, the defensive lineman has amassed 23.5 tackles for loss along with 12 sacks. This season, Brown has already registered three sacks. He does not hold the point of attack well and usually is easily walled off, but the end is tenacious and scrappy off the edge and could be a potential late round 3-4 outside linebacker candidate.
Offensively the Huskies rely almost predominantly on their workhorse running back, Donald Brown. The junior rededicated himself this year after two lackluster campaigns and the results are obvious, currently ranking as the nation's leading rusher with 716 yards in four games. Brown is a hardnosed between-the-tackles runner who can obviously carry the load. Depth at running back is a concern for the Browns as Jamal Lewis enters the twilight of his career.
With the lackluster play of the offensive line early this season, perhaps the potential target was the most talented player on the field, Baylor's Jason Smith. Smith is an outstanding athlete at left tackle, and arguably the most athletic lineman to leave the collegiate ranks since Virginia's D'Brickashawn Ferguson was drafted number four overall by the New York Jets. Smith mirrors beautifully in his pass set and has a nice deep kick step. He does struggle in the running attack, often failing to maintain blocks. While the Browns are not looking for a left tackle currently, other parts of the unit could be potentially upgraded.
Other players of note:
- William Beatty is also a talented offensive tackle in his own right. The UConn left tackle is athletic on the island, a tenacious blocker, but is slightly undersized and will likely have to move to guard at the next level.
- Tyler Lorenzen starts at quarterback for Connecticut. He is a good sized pocket passer with a strong arm but terrible mechanics and ball placement.
- Baylor senior safety Jordan Lake is a headhunter in the secondary. His coverage skills were not tested much against Connecticut's ground attack, but there is not contact Lake does not like.
- Manning the inside of Baylor's defense is junior middle linebacker, Joe Pawalek. The Bear defender is a tackling machine sideline to sideline but does struggle at the point of attack against much larger offensive linemen.
NOTE: Connecticut can once again be seen during primetime this upcoming Friday against Big East rival Louisville on ESPN2 at 8pm.