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2011 NFL Draft Grades: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns got their draft going with a bang, making a huge trade to acquire five total picks including a first, second, and fourth rounder in 2011 and a first and fourth rounder in 2012 from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for the 6th pick. This should not come as a surprise as the Browns have a variety of needs to fill and the draft appears to be quite deep with talent. What’s more is that the front office had indicated that they would be interested in trading down if they could get the right value for number six and I have a feeling that this is just what they had in mind when they made such a comment.

After this trade the Browns were left with the 27th pick as their only selection for the night, but just when it seemed like they were content to sit and wait for that pick they made a deal to move up and select 21st. This trade was a swap of their 3rd rounder this year and number 27 to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for number 21. It seemed to me that they perhaps had made the move to select either DE Da’Quan Bowers from Clemson or CB Jimmy Smith from Colorado. Both players have huge upside and were rated out very highly by the experts, but at the same time have strong red flags either with the potential knee injury issue for Bowers or the off the field drama with Smith.

The Browns did stick to defense with this pick, but instead opted to go for a defensive tackle in Phil Taylor from Baylor. Most mock draft and rankings had Taylor as a mid to late first rounder and so he went just about where people would have expected. Much of the analysis about Taylor discussed his fit in the 3-4 scheme as a nose tackle. The problem with this is that the Browns will be playing a 4-3 defense next season and that led to some criticism of the pick by the ESPN panel.

After considering the entire situation though I really this is a solid pick for the Browns moving forward. Defense was obviously a huge need for the team who really only have DT Ahtyba Rubin who they can count on for production there next season. What’s more is that the key to winning in the AFC North has and always will be stopping the run and that appears to be biggest strength about Taylor. He has been compared to Shaun Rogers who spent much of his career playing in a 4-3 at a very similar size and skill set.

There appears to be reports about possible foot issues for Taylor that could impact his ability to play long term. MRIs at the combine have reportedly shown that he has bones growing together in his feet, which is apparently uncorrectable. However, Taylor himself has claimed that he does not and never has had a foot problem. There are other concerns about Taylor’s ability to keep his weight in check as he weighed as much as 380 pounds in college. Though obviously if the Browns were interested enough in him to move up to select him they must agree that there is no real issue with his foot or his weight.

Finally, for anyone upset about the Browns going with Taylor instead of Bowers at 21 just think back to all the “sexy” picks they Browns have made on the defensive side of the ball that were busts like Kamerion Wimbley and Gerard Warren. Obviously the jury is far from reaching a verdict on the success of this pick, but at this point Browns fans worldwide should be ecstatic at what Tom Heckert was able to get accomplished Thursday evening.

Rounds two and three of the draft will be held on Friday night starting at 6pm ET. The Browns will pick at number 37 and number 59 on Friday. The keys to these picks for the Browns are to continue attacking positions of need namely DE and OT. If Bowers is still available at number 37 there is no reason the Browns should pass him up there and make the foundation for a potentially great defensive line with this draft. At the same time the team could use talent at WR, CB, and S and I would not be surprised or disappointed if they went that route, but it is essential for this team to use at least one of their second rounders to continue to fortify either their offensive or defensive line.

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