The Crystal Ball

It's always fun during the off-season to speculate as to what the Browns depth chart is going to look like when the 2003 season kicks off. Swerb takes that a step further, gazing deeping in a crystal ball to foretell the future. Here's the latest from Swerbstradamus... <P><I>Opinions expressed may not represent those of Bernie Kosar or the staff of Bernie's Insiders</I>

I was just about to start hammering out Volume III of my NFL Draft Notebook when it hit me.  The amount of pre-combine draft analysis and study I've done has simply been unhealthy.  I've watched and re-watched tape of the three major college all-star games, spent countless hours scouring the close to 100 strictly NFL Draft related websites, and have altered my personal mock draft probably 20 times. 


For draftniks, the first 3 weeks of February are a dead time.  With the college all-star games in the books, free agency yet to begin, and the combines not until month end…there's not really anything actually occurring that has much of a bearing on how things will shake down on draft day.  The 32 NFL franchises are busy updating their scouting reports, and the potential draftees are working with their agents to find out what they need to improve on leading up to the ever so crucial scouting combines.  Shockingly…I received e-mails from three separate agents, each of whom represented 2-4 fringe NFL prospects, asking for my opinions of their clients.


I decided to stop inundating myself with meaningless draft info and updates until after the combines.  Instead, I've decided to try and get inside the heads of Butch Davis and Pete Garcia with a forecast of what they may do this off-season in an attempt to go from 7 wins to 9 wins to the Super Bowl….


Quarterback:  Butch Davis hates quarterback controversies.  And Tim Couch's statement that he will not sit the bench at age 25 is what created a controversy, not Holcomb's stellar performance against the Steelers.  As a result, one of the two players will be traded.  But who? 


TRADE:  The Browns trade QB Kelly Holcomb and CB Corey Fuller to the Carolina Panthers for DE Mike Rucker, QB Chris Weinke, and their 3rd round selection in this year's NFL Draft.


To the chagrin of the vast majority of Browns fans, the team sells high on Holcomb to Carolina…a team in need of a QB and a veteran CB and loaded with players that can rush the passer.  In Rucker, the Browns get a legitimate Pro-Bowl caliber defensive end that has posted 19 sacks in the past 2 seasons and is just 28 years of age.  They pick up another 3rd round pick and bring in Weinke to compete with Josh Booty and Pat Barnes for the backup jobs.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  1. Tim Couch, 2. Josh Booty, 3. Chris Weinke


Running Back:  In a move just a tad more popular than the Holcomb trade, the Browns resign Jamel White for just under a million dollars per, entrenching him as the teams 3rd down back and primary backup to William Green.  The Browns also use their final draft pick (6th round) on RB Dahrran Diedrick out of Nebraska.  Though Diedrick has poor hands, he beats out James Jackson for the 3rd RB spot because the Browns like his ability to block and run people over.


‘03 DEPTH CHART:  1. William Green, 2. Jamel White, 3. Dahrran Diedrick


H-Back/Fullback:  Keeping in sync with a decision made during the bye week last year, the Browns all but eliminate the H-Back/Fullback position from the Arians offense.  The Browns will continue to operate out of 2 TE or 3 WR sets in '03, making William Green…who hates following a lead blocker… more comfortable and back in the formations he thrived running out of to close the year.  However, the Browns do keep R.J. Bowers for use in certain formations as well as a special teams contributor.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  1. R.J. Bowers


Wide Reciever:  Despite the fact that everyone keeps trying to run Kevin Johnson out of town…the Browns make no changes whatsoever in their wide receiving corps.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  1.  Quincy Morgan, 2.  Kevin Johnson, 3.  Dennis Northcutt, 4.  Andre Davis, 5.  Frisman Jackson, 6.  Andre King


Tight End:  Tight end becomes a bigger focus point with the H-back phased out of the offense, and Butch and Pete are not enamored with the draft prospects available after round two.  As a result, they sign Pittsburgh's Jerame Tuman to a 2-year deal in free agency.  The Browns feel Tuman and Heiden will be one of the best pairs of blocking tight ends in the league.  Darnell Sanders role will grow, and Mark Campbell is once again retained after showing soft hands in '02.  Aaron Shea and Colonel Mustard are set free.  All four TE's kept will see significant playing time in different sets.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  1. Mark Campbell, 2. Steve Heiden, 3. Jerame Tuman, 4. Darnell Sanders


Offensive Line:  The Browns get a gift on draft day as Kwame Harris, the talented young tackle from Stanford falls to them at #21 overall.  The Browns also use one of their two 5th round selections on OG Montrae Holland (a former Butch recruit) from Florida St.  In addition, the Browns sign OG/OT Edwin Mulitallo away from the hated Ravens in free agency.  Verba, Tucker, Fowler, and O'Hara are brought back and Wolobaugh, Barry Stokes, and Paul Zukauskas are waived.  The Browns opening day offensive line ends up looking like this:


'03 DEPTH CHART:  LT-Kwame Harris, LG-Ross Verba, C-Melvin Fowler, RG-Edwin Mulitalo, RT-Ryan Tucker


Verba and Mulitallo's ability to move out to tackle allow the Browns to keep just one true reserve there.


Reserves:  1. Shaun O'Hara, 2. Qasim Mitchell, 3. Joaquin Gonzalez, 4. Montrae Holland


Defensive Line:  The addition of Rucker via trade gives the Browns a nice mix at defensive end.  In addition to Rucker, Kenard Lang is brought back and Courtney Brown rebounds to start the '03 season healthy.  Also, Mark Word and Tyrone Rogers are also retained as pass rushing ends.  At defensive tackle, the Browns select Matt Walters from Miami of Florida with their other 5th round selection.  Walters, along with Michael Josiah…a huge and promising youngster from Louisville who was injured in camp last year…will back up Gerard Warren and Orpheus Roye.  The Browns realize depth at DT is an issue, and toy with the idea of moving Lang inside and keep a close eye on the waiver wire late in training camp.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  LE-Mike Rucker, DT-Gerard Warren, DT Orpheus Roye, RE-Courtney Brown


Reserves:  1. Kenard Lang, 2. Michael Josiah, 3. Mark Word, 4. Tyrone Rogers, 5. Matt Walters


Linebackers:  As expected, the Browns keep Earl Holmes and jettison Dwayne Rudd.  What surprises Browns fans is the resigning of Darren Hambrick, and the selection of TCU OLB LaMarcus McDonald in the 2nd round.  McDonald has everything Butch and Pete like.  A high motor, good speed, a sure tackler, and is always around the ball.  By week 4 McDonald will be starting…and impressing.  The Browns also sign OLB Shawn Barber in free agency, and he is brought in to compete with Hambrick and Kevin Bentley.  Brant Boyer, a special teams demon and serviceable reserve LB is brought back as is Andra Davis to spell Earl Holmes.  Jamir Miller ends up signing with Kansas City and Ben Taylor and Lenoy Jones are cut in camp.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  OLB-Darren Hambrick, MLB-Earl Holmes, OLB-LaMarcus McDonald


Reserves:  1. Shawn Barber, 2. Brant Boyer, 3. Kevin Bentley, 4. Andra Davis


Cornerbacks:  With Fuller now in Carolina and The Lewis Sanders Project coming to a merciful ending, the Browns elect to use two draft picks on cornerbacks and also pluck veteran Tyrone Poole away from Denver in free agency.  With their 2nd pick in the 3rd round, the Browns ink CB Donald Strickland from Colorado.  They come right back in the 4th round and take CB Shane Walton from Notre Dame.  Both players only go about 5'10…but both are playmakers that are always around the ball.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  1. Daylon McCutcheon, 2. Anthony Henry, 3. Tyrone Poole, 4. Donald Strickland, 5. Shane Walton

Robert Griffith comes back as the starting strong safety and for the first time since their return…the Browns finally plug a competent player in at the free safety position.  That player is taken with the selection acquired from Carolina early in the 3rd round and his name is Todd Johnson, a 6'2/200 lb free safety from the University of Florida.  Cut from the John Lynch mode, and a 4-year starter for the Gators…Johnson will step right in and play well.  The Browns also will sign two free agents to back up the safety spots.  One will be one of our own free agents, Chris Akins, who was one of our best special teams players a year ago.  The second is Omar Stoutmire, who had a pretty good year backing up both safety spots for the Giants a year ago.  Although he had no INT's and is only 5'11, he was amongst the team leaders in tackles and is a sound defender who will provide insurance for the rookie Johnson.  Earl Little, Devin Bush, and Michael Jameson are all kicked to the curb.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  1. Robert Griffith, 2. Todd Johnson, 3. Omar Stoutmire, 4. Chris Akins


Special Teams:  Phil Dawson fights off the pesky Jay Taylor in camp, and Gardocki once again brushes aside whatever lame duck meatball they bring in to "challenge" him.  Ryan Kuehl is not brought back because Butch hates the idea of surrendering a roster spot to a guy that does nothing but long snap.  Shaun O'Hara becomes the long snapper, and the Browns pay for it early…losing one of their first 4 games due to a muffed snap on a punt.


'03 DEPTH CHART:  K-Phil Dawson, P-Chris Gardocki, LS-Shaun O'Hara

The OBR Top Stories