Rebuilding, Minus Draft Picks

The Browns are in a tough situation as they look to reboot a roster without traded draft picks...

The Browns have the fifth pick in the first round and have two in the second but none in the third, fifth or seventh because of trades made last year by former general manager Phil Savage.

Heading into the draft minus picks is not ideal for a team trying to rebuild. The Browns did sign 10 free agents, but none would be considered an impact player.

It would be a surprise if the Browns do nothing to add more picks, but as usually happens in these cases, a trade before draft day would be unlikely. They have two starting quarterbacks -- Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson -- and could trade either of them for more picks, despite denials from the front office. Plus, rumbling about trading Braylon Edwards has grown louder as the draft approaches.

Trading down for more picks is a possibility, but of course for that to happen they need a team wanting to jump up to the fifth slot. Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, labeled the "safest" pick in the draft, could slip to five if the Lions take a quarterback with the first pick and the Chiefs go in another direction or trade the third pick to a team that doesn't need a linebacker.

As badly as the Browns need a pass-rushing outside linebacker, the inescapable fact is they did not score an offensive touchdown in any of their last six games in 2008. There is no reason to expect the drought to end if they trade Edwards because they already traded Kellen Winslow Jr.

Michael Crabtree would be a game-changing playmaker. The Browns or whichever team drafts him would have to be convinced the stress fracture in his left foot is not a concern, but his numbers are hard to ignore, even from pass-happy Texas Tech: 97 catches, 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2008. The Browns hosted visits with Crabtree and Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Most mock drafts have Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo and Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji going later than five but still in the first half of the first round. Either player would help an anemic Browns defense that struggled against the run and produced only 17 sacks, second fewest in the league.

The Browns not only had Orakpo in for a visit, they also watched him go through a private workout. He would be an outside linebacker in the Browns' 3-4 defense. They are convinced he can make the transition. His 11.5 sacks last season would be welcomed if he could repeat that effort.

Raji weighs 334 pounds. He can play end in the 3-4 and lining up next to nose tackle Shaun Rogers would suddenly make the Browns formidable against the run.

But for the Browns, this is not a one-round draft. Their picks in the second round are 36th and 50th overall. They could find a guard or center with the 36th pick, possibly Alex Mack of California or Eric Wood from Louisville and they could find a running back or safety with the 50th pick.

TEAM NEEDS: Outside linebacker, safety, right tackle, wide receiver, running back.

OLB -- The Browns have to get more pressure on the quarterback, a point evident after producing only 17 sacks last season, but whether they can find their solution solely with the fifth pick in the draft without reaching is another issue. Coach Eric Mangini is encouraged by the potential of Alex Hall, a seventh-round pick from St. Augustine last year, but the Browns cannot bank on Hall to turn the defense around. Aaron Maybin of Penn State is a possibility if the Browns move back from No. 5.

S -- The Browns did not replace starting strong safety Sean Jones through free agency (Jones signed a one-year contract with the Eagles). They are going to have to do it through the draft. Patrick Chung of Oregon is ranked 50th overall by Coincidentally, the Browns second second-round pick is 50th overall. Jones battled knee injuries in 2008 and did not play as well as he did in 2007. He missed four games and still was third on the team in tackles with 83 and second with four interceptions.

RT -- The Browns released starter Kevin Shaffer before a long-term replacement was found. They did sign John St. Clair from the Bears in free agency. St. Clair and 12-year veteran Ryan Tucker will compete for a starting job, but the Browns need a bookend to go with left tackle Joe Thomas.

WR -- This position becomes the biggest need if the Browns trade Braylon Edwards before they pick fifth in the first round. Edwards is in the final year of his contract, although if 2010 is an uncapped year, Edwards will be a restricted free agent so the Browns would be able to retain him at a bargain price. If Michael Crabtree is as good as advertised, he might be difficult to pass up. Last year the Browns scored only 17 offensive touchdowns -- 11 through the air and six on the ground. Crabtree would change that, and he plus Edwards would be a formidable pair.

RB -- The Browns need to find the eventual replacement for Jamal Lewis, but if they do not take a running back with one of their first three picks they might as well wait until next year. The Michael Turners and Terrell Davis' of the world are few and far between. Last year seven of the top 10 running backs were first- or second-round picks.


--The Browns enter the draft with a pick in the top seven for the seventh time in 11 years, and all they have to show for their futility is one playoff appearance and two winning seasons. None of the first-round picks selected from 1999-2004 are still on the team.

--For the 11th straight year -- every season since their rebirth -- the Browns will open the season at home. This year their opponent is the Vikings. Some teams might prefer opening at home, but not the Browns. They are 1-9 in season openers.

--Despite falling from 10-6 in 2007 to 4-12 last year, the Browns were rewarded with two primetime games, both at home and both against division rivals. They will play the Ravens in a Monday night game on Nov. 16 and the Steelers in a Thursday night NFL Network telecast on Dec. 10.  The Browns played five games in prime time last year and won twice. The only time they were blown out was in a 30-10 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia.

--Game 15 for the Browns will have some intrigue, even if a playoff berth is not at stake. It is against Kansas City, and that means Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli vs. Browns head coach Eric Mangini in a clash of personalities. Pioli was the first candidate Browns owner Randy Lerner interviewed for the general manager's job that eventually went to George Kokinis. Pioli was the vice president of player personnel while Mangini was on Bill Belichick's staff in New England from 2000-2006.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You're always looking to be able to stop the run. I think that's where defense starts. And then you're looking to not give up big plays, make a team go the long, hard way, work down the field. Those are two key things that come into play." -- Coach Eric Mangini on the 3-4 defense.

The OBR Top Stories