Physical WR Draws Cleveland's Interest

Which wide receiver prospect was this Browns scout spotted interviewing? Scout.com's Ed Thompson fills you in and shows you the rest of the photo inside...

While reviewing prospects at the Senior Bowl, the Cleveland Browns took time after one of the practices to thoroughly interview New Mexico wide receiver Marcus Smith.

The Browns are very much in need of some fresh talent at the wide receiver position. Our Cleveland Browns team expert on the Scout.com network, Barry McBride of TheOBR.com explained why.

"Despite the breakout year from Braylon Edwards and a solid performance by Joe Jurevicius, the Browns are thin in the wide receiver corps," he said. "Tim Carter was a disappointment as the team's third wide receiver this year, and second-year man Travis Wilson was unable to even crack the gameday roster most weeks.

"Josh Cribbs has potential, but is so important in the return game that the team is hesitant to risk him by constantly lining him up as a receiver."

Making the situation even more uncertain in Cleveland is the possibility that this could be Jurevicius' last season since he'll turn 34 years old in December. He's played a key role as a possession receiver, making clutch catches for the team. So if he moves on, that will create yet another void that the Browns can't afford based on their current depth chart. So GM Phil Savage would be wise to make a significant move through the draft or free agency this year to get a new receiver acclimated to the team's offense.

"Since Edwards and Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow get so much of attention from defensive backs and linebackers, a quick second or third receiver could quickly emerge as a force for the Browns," McBride said.


Marcus Smith answering questions for the Browns following a Senior Bowl workout.
Ed Thompson/Scout.com

Can Marcus Smith be that player? Honestly, it's hard to say at this point.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound receiver had a collegiate career worthy of a Senior Bowl invitation and a Combine invitation. But Scout.com Draft Analyst Chris Steuber recently ranked Smith as the 37th-best receiver out of the 55 who will be performing at the Combine this week. And after observing Smith during the Monday Senior Bowl practice, former pro scout Tom Marino wrote that Smith, "...did not look like a natural route-runner (stiff in his upper body) nor does he have the top end separation speed to get me very excited" in his column at Scout.com.

That said, Smith's achievements, especially over the past two seasons, are deserving of respect. He was the top receiver in the Mountain West Conference in 2007 with 91 catches for 1,125 yards in 2007. The 91 receptions also set a school record, surpassing former New Mexico receiver Terance Mathis who caught 88 balls in 1989. And he's a physical presence with strength that he uses to his advantage when pressed by a cornerback at the line. Smith put up amazing numbers in the weight room, hoisting 355 pounds in the bench, 308 pounds in the power clean and 445 in the squat. An unusually strong blocker for a wide receiver, Smith is a player who adds value even when the offense isn't passing the ball.

One advantage the New Mexico standout has on his resume is his special teams work, both as a return specialist and in punt and kickoff coverage. During his career with the Lobos, he made 26 tackles (22 solo) and recovered a fumble on special teams. And while his 19.9-yard average on 68 kickoff returns isn't likely to earn him the return specialist position at the pro level, he could serve as a capable backup handling both kickoffs and punts.

Smith is also a high character, mature individual who has been forced to grow up quickly due to family circumstances. And that weight grew even greater last September when his mother unexpectedly died. Smith was recognized with the FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award for his perseverance both on and off the field during a tragic period in his life that could have derailed his performance and his hopes of pursuing an NFL career.

A Day-Two prospect in this year's draft, Smith could be a high-value pick for Cleveland if he's still on the board during the last two rounds. But he's not likely going to be the quick-fix answer that Cleveland may need who can break into their top three slots in 2008.

Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and are syndicated through FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.


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