Busy Browns Tackle Their Issues

Lane Adkins recaps a wild first day of the 2009 draft and, unlike some fans and members of the media, The OBR writer seems pleased with what the Mangini/Kokinis duo accomplished in their first Cleveland draft.

Heading into the draft, the Browns sought quality and depth from the players they were to select. Adding draft selections would come from a frenzy of first-round deals that left many high-profile names on the draft-board.

Upon announcing the Browns had traded the fifth selection in the draft to the New York Jets, Cleveland eliminated themselves from having to select a player in a position which this organization did not see true value.

The blessing on this day was USC quarterback Mark Sanchez falling to the fifth spot in the draft. As worked out prior to the draft with the Jets, sending the fifth pick would net the Browns a proven defensive end (Kenyon Coleman), a starting strong safety (Abram Elam), a backup QB (Theo Ratliff), plus the 17th and 52nd selection in the draft.

Due to issues of quality and depth at the SS and DE positions, the additions of Elam and Coleman are solidifying moves for this Browns roster. Assembling talent from his defense in New York, head coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis have quickly established this Browns team is not one which is going through a rebuilding process, but rather a re-tooling with players familiar to the scheme and coach.

As with many of the moves the Browns have made this off-season, the draft-day trade with the Jets not only was made to solidify roster spots with experiences talent in the scheme, but done so at what is a true value approach.

Looking for a pass rusher, a center and wide receivers to add quality and depth to the roster, the Browns achieved their plan when the deal with the Jets went down.

The selections of center Alex Mack, wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi and outside linebacker David Veikune will not win any popularity contests with fans of the team, but these selections attack some of the core issues within the roster.

Unable to control the line of scrimmage, the Browns offense and particularly the rushing attack suffered a season ago. With the offensive line playing at a below-average rate and a lack of weapons in the passing game, the lack of talent at the wide receiver position was exposed for what it is -- alarmingly inadequate.

What we are seeing in the tandem of Mangini and Kokinis is two men who are calling the shots in Cleveland may not make the popular moves, but they have the fortitude to make the moves they deem necessary -- whether these decisions are correct or not, only time will tell.

With players dropping off the board, the Browns targeted center Alex Mack. Mack, a bright and physical talent from California, is regarded as the best center prospect in the draft, an area which the Browns staff immediately acknowledged as one of weakness from viewing game-film. In a division that sports numerous high-caliber interior linemen, selecting a player such as Mack should help eliminate the Browns offensive line from being manhandled the way they were on numerous occasions in the 2008 season.

Knowing a couple teams were in the market for a center in the later stages of the first round, the Browns effectively worked their way back in the draft to the 21st position, ahead of teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills that were believed to be targeting Mack.

Dealing back from #17 and #19 is where I have my only concern with the draft process of the Browns. In each trade scenario, the Browns only received an additional sixth-round selection from the respective trading team to complete the deals. Not earth-shattering in theory, but the Browns could have done better in retrospect.

Despite being described a reach by many draft pundits, in selecting Mack at #21, the Browns got the man they had targeted early on and in an area of the draft which they ultimately wanted the player.

While the selections of WR's Brian Robiskie at #36 and Mohamed Massaquoi at #50 are also considered reaches at their respective draft spots by some, the Browns did solidify an area of grave concern due to a lack of quality and depth.

Brian Robiskie, a native of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, comes to Cleveland after a successful collegiate career at Ohio State. Not a burner, but not solely a possession receiver, Robiskie possesses sufficient speed, quickness and athletic ability to be deemed the most ready and safest WR in the draft. His precision route-running and sure hands are qualities which will be a fresh perspective for a Cleveland offense that's struggled mightily with inconsistency and poor technique.

The son of former Browns coach Terry Robiskie, Brian has developed under the tutelage and professionalism of a long-time NFL coach. As a member of the Cleveland Browns, Robiskie is expected to assume the role of the #2 receiver in the Browns offense opposite veteran Braylon Edwards and providing the Browns a legitimate option in the passing game, an element that was missing a season ago.

Massaquoi elevated his draft stock in recent months due to hard work and the ability to display his talent consistently in workouts and interview sessions. At one time looked upon as a late second-day selection, Massaquoi held private workout with numerous teams; his time spent with the Browns solidified his status with Cleveland offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as Massaquoi's workout was nearly incredible.

Not known as a speed-type WR, Massaquoi is sneaky quick. His ability to accelerate into and through cuts make his actual football speed quicker than his straight-line timing would indicate. Late in his junior season and into his senior season, Massaquoi continued to develop, became sure-handed and developed into a weapon in the slot or flanked out wide in the Bulldogs offensive set. In Cleveland, Massaquoi could develop into a viable weapon out of the slot, where his ability to find space and create in the open field would be magnified.

With the center and wide receivers in the fold, the Browns had yet to secure a pass rusher from the outside linebacker spot they coveted. With the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins rumored to be looking at DE David Veikune as a pass rushing OLB in their 3-4 defensive scheme, the Browns again could be classified as "reaching" for the Hawaii product.

Relentless, hard-working and simply a young man of character and determination, Veikune fits the profile of a player Mangini and this Cleveland Browns organization is looking for. His tireless work ethic, power and quickness had elevated Veikune's draft status for a team looking for a legitimate pass-rushing prospect. Due to his physical ability and mental capacity, Veikune could project to being an OLB, as well as playing inside in different defensive sets.

Day One of the college player draft netted the Browns potentially four immediate starters (Coleman, Elam, Mack and Robiskie) and two others (Massaquoi and Veikune) that are expected to play more of a situational role from the onset.

For a team with the numerous needs the Cleveland Browns entered draft-weekend with, the selections made within the first two rounds of the draft provide the organization with talent. This influx of youth and talent will be counted upon as the Cleveland Browns again look to finally get it right and become a consistent contender, rather than the laughingstock so many associate Browns football with.

I liked Day One due to the value and flexibility the deal provided the Browns and here's to hoping Day Two and throughout the summer training sessions prove to be more of the same for this once proud franchise.

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