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….
To the chagrin of the vast majority of Browns fans, the team sells high on Holcomb to
'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
‘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.
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
'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
Verba and Mulitallo's ability to move out to tackle allow the Browns to keep just one true reserve there.
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
'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
'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
Safeties: 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
'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