Thursday, April 27, 2006

Drafting due diligence

With all the excitement surrounding the Cavaliers' playoff run and the start to the Indians season, the NFL draft has completely crept up on me.
I am not going to do an entire mock draft, because, quite frankly, I am in the process of changing jobs and I'm tired.
But I'm still chiefly concerned with what the Browns do Saturday and Sunday. In that vein, allow me to grade the Browns' draft probables on Saturday.
There are a handful of players the Browns could consider taking with the 12th pick. Some make sense, some make less sense, some are downright outlandish.
I'm only judging players I think might be available at 12. So A.J. Hawk, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Reggie Bush will not be appearing.

Good fits

Kamerion Wimbley, DE/LB, Florida State
Some people seem to think Wimbley would be a Courtney Brown redux. He's fast, he's reasonably strong, but he won't tear anyone's head off because he's too placid.
I'll go with the fast legs and work from there. The bottom line is the Browns have had a nonexistent pass rush for years, and Wimbley could give them one. Willie McGinest provides a valuable mentor for a young pass rusher like Wimbley. That, to me, is the closing argument for drafting Wimbley.

Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon
It might be a stretch to count on Ngata still being available at 12, but he might be, and if he's there, the Browns should snap him up. He'd even be worth trading up for if the price is right.
Ngata is likely the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. While I would normally tend to shy away from any defensive power player from a finesse conference like the Pac-10, Ngata is just what the doctor ordered for Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defensive alignment. He's a run-stopper who can take away a lot of the gaps between the tackles for north-south punishers like Jamal Lewis.
As with McGinest and Wimbley, Ted Washington could be a great mentor for Ngata.

Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa
Greenway isn't the strongest linebacker in the draft, but he is a defensive captain in the making. Known for his ability to lead, he could be the best inside linebacker the Browns have had since Clay Matthews. His ability to efficiently tackle could be a concern, but hustle and speed never should be.

Could do better, but they'll live

Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State
You can't turn up your nose at someone who can better your defensive front if you are the Browns, but Bunkley probably lacks the size to have an immediate impact. As an outside defensive tackle, he also plays a position occupied by Orpheus Roye and Alvin McKinley, two players the Browns seem to have in their long-term plans.
Bunkley also has a long injury history, which should be an immediate red flag for any team drafting in the top 15.

Vince Young, QB, Texas
Odds are slim Young will slip all the way to 12, but if he does, he poses a vexing problem for the Browns.
How do you pass on a potential franchise talent like Young? If you pass and he turns into Donovan McNabb, that's egg all over your face. But drafting Young would mean ignoring more pressing needs on the roster. It could also create a knotted mess of a quarterback competition in training camp, something that could distract the rest of the team.
The Browns haven't decided on Charlie Frye or Trent Dilfer. What would the arrival of Young do to that?

Jimmy Williams, CB, Virginia Tech
Williams is a big, physical, chuck-and-run corner. The Browns do not have one right now. But what they do have is a bunch of leftovers from last year. Gary Baxter will return in training camp, and Cleveland used two of their top four picks last year to draft defensive backfielders Brodney Pool and Antonio Perkins.
Again, it comes down to needs, and while Williams would be a good pick, the Browns have more pressing needs in their defensive front.

Square peg in a round hole

Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt
Four words: spread offense, dome team.
Cutler could put up some big numbers in his career, but it probably wouldn't happen playing for an outdoor, cold-weather team with a run-first offense. Let the Rams or Vikings take him.

Bobby Carpenter, LB, Ohio State
No matter how much scarlet and gray you bleed, Carpenter is not the consolation prize for not getting A.J. Hawk. If Carpenter falls to the second round, he is a worthwhile look. But he lacks the athleticism to warrant spending the 12th pick on him.

Any wide receiver
A pair of well-talented receivers should be available at 12 -- Florida's Chad Jackson and Ohio State's Santonio Holmes. But if the Browns burn a first round pick on a receiver, that would be the third straight year. And you know what that would make them? The Lions.
As a football executive, Matt Millen is a bad person to emulate.

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