Adkins: Behind the Draft Smoke & Mirrors

While most of us are left to read draft's tea leaves, Lane has been talking to people much closer to the action. Here's his assessment about where the team stands with prime candidates - from Aaron Curry, to quarterbacks, to now oft-ignored CB Malcolm Jenkins...

Here's the latest that I've heard about some specific options available for the Browns at the #5 spot…

  • QB Mark Sanchez is an option that is gaining steam in the weeks leading up to the draft. Sanchez's rise on draft-boards is not due to some media sensation - the QB had been solid throughout the 2008 season while at USC and has since excelled in workouts and visits with NFL personnel evaluators. The QB is a realistic option at #5 that the Browns will consider if he's still on the board.

  • LB Rey Maualuga impresses many NFL evaluators on film, though he was not a strong presence in an off-season bowl week and at the combine. Maualuga has done well in individual visits and a structured workout at USC, where the linebacker was healthy, in control while working out and showing his personality and desire to succeed. He might not be the choice at #5, but the LB is on the Browns' radar nonetheless.

  • OLB Aaron Curry has been and remains the top LB prospect in the draft. A very solid and fluid player at Wake Forest, some evaluators note Curry could transition inside, if a team is looking in that direction. Considered a top-five pick by most, the Browns remain an interested party, but some indications provide a sense the Browns are not as head over heels about the LB as many would lead you to believe.

  • WR Michael Crabtree runs routes well, catches the ball well, gains yards after the reception and possesses good size and strength. Sounds like the tools necessary to become a quality WR at the professional level -- but the Browns like the explosiveness of WR Jeremy Maclin and believe the Missouri product has room to improve both physically and with his mental preparation. While they are not locked into a WR at #5 at this time, that could change quickly if they part company with WR Braylon Edwards -- which remains a strong option.

  • CB/S Malcolm Jenkins continues to be a player of interest, while quietly impressing on film. Coming off a 4.5 timing in the forty at the combine, the former Buckeye improved his stock at the Ohio State pro day. Jenkins runs well, uses his hands and recognizes as well as any CB in the draft and projects as a corner as well as a safety at the next level. He may not be the glory pick at #5, but the type of talent who would solidify a CB or S position for a team such as the Browns.

  • DE/OLB Brian Orakpo is simply an intriguing player. Possessing size, strength, speed and quickness, Orakpo has the measurables to translate into a high-level OLB at the professional level. The question dogging Orakpo among pro evaluators is whether he will show up play in and play out at the next level. Many league evaluators see Orakpo as a player that can become a force if unleashed in space to keep from being engulfed -- and yes, Orakpo has shown the inability to disengage from the more physical, get-your-hands-on-the-defender type of linemen at the collegiate level. The Browns like him and if they are one of the teams genuinely intrigued, he could be a realistic option at #5.

With a little over two weeks remaining until the college player draft, the Browns have not locked in on a particular player. Due to the quality and depth of this draft, a team like the Browns which is seeking talent at a few positions will ponder looking into the latter half of both the first and second rounds for value.

The expectation is that two of the top-rated offensive tackles (Jason Smith, Michael Oher and Eugene Monroe) will be off the board by the time the Browns' first pick comes around. Curry and/or the two-QB prospects could soon follow -- leaving the Browns with an opportunity to potentially lock-in on Curry or one of the QB's. An OT at #5 does not appear to be in the making at this time.

Indications are and have been that the Browns have numerous highly rated players on their board well into the second round of the draft. In some cases, they've rated those players as strongly as some of the names mentioned potentially being on the Browns radar with the fifth-pick in the draft. 

The Browns' wide-ranging evaluations include significant interest at the RT and C positions, where Andre Smith and Alex Mack have caught the eye of the staff. Neither are expected to be the player of interest with the fifth-overall pick, but uncertainty surrounding the Browns' direction could make either come into play -- and this would not be a surprise selection if the team does become involved in a draft-day trade-down scenario.

Check back as the draft approaches for the latest on this ever-evolving scenario being played out by the Cleveland Browns.

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