As they schedule visits for college athletes they're seriously considering in this year's draft, the Browns have focused both on positions of obvious need (safety) as well as one more likely to create controversy (next week's visit of QB Mark Sanchez).
Another position that seems to be an obvious need area for the Browns is inside linebacker. While D'Qwell Jackson's starting spot is secure, the Browns have been looking for an upgrade next to him for the last two years. This off-season, veteran LB Andra Davis was allowed to leave through free agency, and the team signed veteran Eric Barton who would seem set to claim the other starting job.
The Browns are clearly interested in using the NFL draft to upgrade the position, as Scout.com's Ed Thompson has informed the OBR evening that the team has invited inside linebackers Rey Maualuga and Jasper Brinkley to visit the facility.
Maualuga's visit comes as little surprise, although conventional wisdom has him being taken slightly lower in the draft. Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber likes Maualuga a lot, rating him as the top inside linebacker available in the draft. The USC product brings to bear every physical skill one could hope for in a middle linebacker: He's athletic, a solid tackler, moves well sideline-to-sideline, and is good in pass coverage. Ohio State Buckeye fans undoubtedly remember his interception return for a touchdown against the Buckeyes last season.
Brinkley is lower-rated and lesser-known, but also an intriguing player. Like Maualuga, Brinkley is athletic, plays the run well, and moves well sideline-to-sideline.
In some ways, Brinkley's situation is similar to Davis' when he was drafted out of Florida in 2002, in that Brinkley is a year removed from major knee problems (ACL). As we've seen with ACL injuries in the past, players often don't return to pre-injury form for two years, which suggests that Brinkley may slip somewhat and be available in the fourth round.
Very few players sneak past scouts anymore, and Brinkley is no exception. He did quite well at the combine and during his Pro Day, and the notion of being able to grab him with a late-round draft pick seems increasingly remote.
Brinkley is also a menacing presence to opposing quarterbacks, which he Browns have lacked since their return as an expansion team. Below are two YouTube clips of Brinkley blasting opposing quarterbacks.