The Cleveland Browns could be the most important team to pick ahead of the Minnesota Vikings. The Browns hold the third pick in the draft while the Vikings draft seventh.
Two Cleveland favorites are quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Adrian Peterson, both of whom are considered strong candidates for the Browns' third pick.
"If you go by what some of the quotes are, Adrian Peterson says he feels like he wants to be a Brown, Brady Quinn wants to be a Brown, Troy Smith wants to be a Brown and JaMarcus Russell says he wants to be a Brown," Cleveland general manager Phil Savage said. "When players come in for a visit, the perception is that the Browns aren't very good. When players get here, walk through the building, meet with myself and Romeo (Crennel) they say that it's a legitimate NFL operation and they want to turn this thing around. I don't read the newspapers of other cities, but I'm not sure these guys are saying these things about other teams. The Browns seem to put on a good picture when the players come for a visit."
While many feel the draft is six deep with top blue-chip talent, Savage said he believes there are a consensus top-five picks. Although he didn't name them specifically, he talked in positive terms about Oklahoma's Peterson, LSU's Russell, Notre Dame's Quinn and Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who is visiting Cleveland at some point this week as well. That might leave Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas or more likely Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams lower on Cleveland's rankings than others have them.
Regardless, Peterson and Quinn seemed to be the focus of Savage's questioners at his predraft press conference this week, and those two players have been heavily speculated about in Minnesota as well. For Peterson, the biggest question is durability.
"Adrian is a player that has somewhat of an upright style. He has terrific feet and he avoids contact with his feet. He does lower his shoulders at times through the hole," Savage said. "Every time he touches the ball, he's a home-run hitter. He's going to have some runs of the zero, one, two and three-yard variety, but the next one might be 55 yards or 75 yards. He's definitely a guy who swings for the fences and he does it on a down basis. Does he take some shots and hits at the college level? I would say he does. Will he take some at the pro level? Yes. There are very few guys who play the position that don't get hit. Those defensive players are very good too."
Savage said he believes Peterson might have to adjust his aggressive style in the NFL to try and avoid hits at the end of runs.
The knock on Quinn is that he doesn't play as well in big games, something Savage disagreed with.
"I think it's a little bit unfair. When you come into the summer of your senior year and you're anointed as the No. 1 pick, uneasy is the head that wears the crown. Unfortunately, people in our society like to knock other people off of the throne and tear them down. A lot of people tried to knock Brady Quinn around and one of the knocks was his bowl-game performance," Savage said. "… In those big games, it was 30-plus points in eight of those games. A lot of times you are trying to play catch-up. I went to the USC vs. Notre Dame game in 2005. If you don't get the Reggie Bush push, beating the Trojans might have been Brady Quinn's signature moment. It's a little bit unfair that way. He's a talented player and a good guy. He's indicated he would like to be a Brown."
Savage said the team won't necessarily pick the best player available; rather, the Browns are open about players needing to meet their needs.
"There is always the question of the best available athlete compared to team need. I think the phrase we operate on upstairs is ‘best available need for the Browns,'" Savage said. "That's the theme of the building of our draft board from the first time we met in December to last week. Each team has its individual order and we try to do what is best for the Browns."
It remains to be seen if that translates into helping the Vikings meet their needs.
Browns Could Hold Key to Vikings' Draft
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