After taking only one defensive player in the first round over the last eight years, it appears the Browns will finally look to defense again when they make the seventh overall pick of the three-day draft on April 22.
Three defensive players have been linked to the Browns in various mock drafts -- Joe Haden, the cornerback from the University of Florida, Jason Pierre-Paul, a defensive end from South Florida and, in what seems like a stretch, Eric Berry, the safety from Tennessee who says he tries to pattern himself after Ed Reed of the Ravens and Troy Polamalu of the Steelers.
Since drafting Gerard Warren with the third overall pick in 2001, the only defensive player drafted by the Browns in the first round was Kamerion Wimbley in 2006, who has since been traded to the Raiders.
Browns president Mike Holmgren has made it clear he is willing to trade up for the player he wants. In that regard quarterbacks Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen might be tempting despite the fact the Browns signed Jake Delhomme in free agency. Delhomme was signed for two years and is not the long-term answer, but Holmgren has a history of taking quarterbacks in later rounds and developing them.
Some things would have to fall just right for the Browns to get Berry without moving up. Bradford and Clausen would have to fall off the board. The same is true for defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy.
The wildcard teams are the Lions and Chiefs. They made huge investments in quarterbacks last season and now have to decide whether they want body guards at left tackle or defensive players.
Last year the Lions gave up 43 sacks. Matt Stafford was sacked 24 times and missed part of the season with injuries. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was sacked 42 times.
Berry could change the way teams attack the Browns. They have not had a defensive player of that stature since they returned to the NFL in 1999, with the possible exception of defensive end Courtney Brown. But Brown was often injured and ended up a major disappointment.
"I feel like I'm the best player in the draft because I bring a lot to the table," Berry said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. "I can do pretty much anything the coaches ask me to. I can play free or strong or nickel corner. You don't have to bring in the nickel package for me because I can cover up the slot based on regular personnel."
Safety happens to be the Browns' thinnest position.