While the NFL is still stuck in a labor abyss and players are enjoying an extended vacation, the OBR staff took the opportunity to engage in a round table discussion regarding some of the more intriguing Browns' storylines heading into the 2011 season*.
*Assuming such a thing occurs.
What follows is the second in a series of questions posed to OBR writers. Today's topic regards which recently drafted rookie will have the longest-term impact on the Browns.
There is more than one way to examine this topic.
First, is the player easily replaceable? Second – and more importantly as it relates to the Browns – can the player fit into both the current defensive scheme as well as any future schemes? Finally, will the player remain healthy enough to last more than 5 NFL seasons?
In Phil Taylor's case, he could one day be regarded as the best defensive lineman in the team's expansion era. Based on his college experience, Taylor has used some serious bulk and strength to serve him well against opposing blockers. Coming to Cleveland, Taylor fills a void that has existed since the 1980's.
As for the second question, Taylor should complement Ahtyba Rubin inside and occupy the interior of most opponents' interior lines. The results could see some favorable matchups for the Browns' new defensive ends. Or, as Browns' tradition has revealed in the past, Taylor will eventually transition to the nose tackle spot once the team again shifts back to a 3-4 alignment – possibly sometime in 2015.
Regarding health, if Taylor can take care of his legs and lower body, he could become a long-term fixture when such an event occurs.
Atlanta's decision to trade up 23 slots to choose Alabama's Julio Jones may have set the fortunes of both the Falcons and the recipients of the trade, the Cleveland Browns. With the extra second rounder acquired from Atlanta, Cleveland chose its potential franchise receiver, North Carolina's Greg Little. Jones was considered an elite prospect, a superstar in the making, and blew scouts (and fans alike) away with his NFL combine workout. Physically, Little and Jones are very similar.
Let's compare the workouts of each.
Player A -----------------------Player B
6'3' ------------------------------ 6'3
220 lbs. ----------------------- 231
33 3/4 arms ----------------- 33 1/4
9 3/4 hands ----------------- 9 1/8
17 bench -------------------- 27
38.5 vert --------------------- 40.5
135. broad ----------------- 129
6.66 3-cone ---------------- 6.8
4.25 20-shuttle ------------ 4.21
11.07 60-shuttle ---------- 11.29
Player 'A' is Julio Jones. Player 'B' is Greg Little.
Rumors ran rampant regarding Little's personality prior to the draft. Many questioned his lack of polish, only playing a single season at wide receiver before being suspended in 2010.
Despite these issues, some scouts believed he could be a legitimate first round prospect had he played this season.
His raw ability and potential easily make Little the 2011 draft pick with the best long-term potential for the Cleveland Browns, and the team desperately needs him to step up sooner rather than later.
Phil Taylor is not only the team's first-round draft choice, he plays a position that allows for someone to play 10 years or more in the NFL. Also, on the defensive line, Jabaal Sheard should be a mainstay for the Browns for many years.
Offensively, Jordan Cameron could show long-range potential, as he has not played football for very long. His upside is large. Considering where Cameron was drafted, the Browns will be patient with him.
Owen Marecic has a chance to step in immediately and start at fullback. If he fits the bill, as a fullback, Marecic could be at fullback for many years.
Jason Pinkston could have a long NFL career if he can make the transition to the league. Historically, offensive lineman can play a long time, but generally there is a learning curve before they break into the lineup. The Browns think Pinkston can play as they traded two draft picks to take him in the fifth round.
Outside of Taylor, Sheard and Little, the Browns selected some interesting prospects in the 2011 draft.
TE Jordan Cameron is a very athletic, but raw player. Due to his athleticism and the kind of make up the Browns like, Cameron could be a long-range project type that could pay dividends sooner than later.
Owen Marecic was drafted as a fullback, but has some intrigue as an inside linebacker. At the collegiate level, Marecic displayed the ability to put a helmet on an opposing player with the best of them, which only leads to question whether he is ready to be a starter at fullback.
Offensive lineman Jason Pinkston is a player of intrigue. When he was on his game and aggressive, he was a very good lineman at the collegiate level. However, at times Pinkston appeared to lost focus and didn't fare nearly as well.
At the professional level, offensive lineman generally develop at a slower rate. Considering this fact and Pinkston's draft position, the Browns appear poised to be patient with him.
Greg Little's sample size is miniscule. In 2009, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver caught 62 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns for the University of North Carolina.
He was poised for a break-out season in 2010 and the end result would be Little shaking Roger Goodell's hand during first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Instead, Little was suspended for the entire season for receiving improper agent benefits.
Little missed what could have been a big year. Meanwhile, the label of the stereotypical "diva" wide receiver has stuck.
Another label has also stuck, which is a player of incredible potential. That is why the Browns selected him in the second round. For all the problems off the field, Little has the best long-term potential of the Browns' 2011 draft class. He can become one of the best wide outs in the league.
Yet, the path to that title is long. First, Little has to learn how to conduct himself off the field and on the field. Not only did Little miss a season in college, but he spent his first two seasons at UNC as a tailback. Much like second-year player Carlton Mitchell, Little passes the eye test as an NFL-caliber wide receiver.
At the NFL combine, Little showed he has speed (4.5 40-yard dash) and size (27 bench presses), but his experience at the position is limited. If his raw athletic talent can be harnessed into the wide receiver position, the long-term outlook is promising.