This is the second of a two-part segment on the 2011 NFL Draft: The first edition from three weeks ago previewed the overall forecast of the draft. This second article takes a closer look at the stories behind the potential first round draft picks by the Cleveland Browns.
It’s been a few weeks since my last update of the NFL Draft, but just like with the Cleveland Cavaliers record in the win column, nothing really has changed that significantly. As I published my last report, Andrew Luck had just announced his intent to stay at Stanford University, and this was shaping the makings of the top of the draft’s first round.
That has certainly happened, and there is a solid group of about five players that seem to be the most likely fits for the Browns at the No. 6 spot. What follows is my analysis of each of these folks and yet another look at what sources around the web are saying right now.
Here is the current ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc. Big Board (players highlighted in italics/underlines have been rumored to fit at the No. 6 spot for Cleveland):
1. DE Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson, 67 tackles, 16 sacks and one INT
2. DT Nick Fairley, Auburn, 55 tackles, 11 sacks and one INT
3. CB Patrick Peterson, LSU, 42 tackles and four INT’s
4. WR A.J. Green, Georgia, 57 catch, 848 rec and 9 TD’s (in 9 games)
5. CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska, 59 tackles and one sack
6. QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri, 3,186 pass (63.4%), 16 TD/9 INT, 232 rush and 6 TD’s
7. DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama, 33 tackles and five sacks (in 11 games)
8. DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina, 52 tackles and 11 sacks (from 2009)
9. OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M, 68 tackles, 11 sacks and one INT
10. DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue, 70 tackles, 13 sacks and one FF
11. DT Stephen Paea, Oregon State, 45 tackles and six sacks (in 11 games)
12. WR Julio Jones, Alabama, 78 catch, 1,133 rec and 7 TD’s
13. DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa, 52 tackles and four sacks
14. OT Nate Solder, Colorado, AP First-Team All-American
At the top of the draft board from nearly every single outlet, Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers is one of the most talented defensive line prospects in years. Rated as incredibly athletic for a 6-feet-4, 275-pound beast on the line, he led the nation with 15 sacks this past season as a junior for the Tigers. He was the nation’s top high school prospect three years ago and has lived up to the billing throughout his impressive college career.
More likely than not, Bowers will not be available for the Browns at the No. 6 spot in the first round. Whether he goes to Carolina, Denver or even Buffalo, there’s no way such a prestigious prospect falls this far.
Grass is Greener
Meanwhile, the fan favorite in terms of who the Browns should select in the first round clearly has to be Georgia wide receive A.J. Green. The top receiver in the draft slightly ahead of Alabama’s Julio Jones, Green became a YouTube sensation with some of his spectacular catches over his three seasons for the Bulldogs. He missed the first three games of this season for his struggling team, but ended up with yet another successful collegiate season in the uber-talented SEC.
Green would finally give the Browns a major offensive threat, something the team has lacked severely since shipping away both Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow a few years back. Once again here however, it’s likely that Green will be selected before Cleveland has a shot to grab him, but I suppose fans will still be clamoring for him up until draft day as he is the most attractive offensive option.
Yes, yes, the Browns selected Joe Haden with their first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. But should that deter the team from potentially adding Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and creating one of the best young secondary duos in the league? Add in T.J. Ward, and this becomes uncharted territory for an up-and-coming team to build through that form. Sure, most fans prefer to build the lines first with Bowers, Dareus or Quinn, but Amukamara would be a gamble that could pay dividends in the AFC North.
He was touted all year as one of the best cornerbacks in the nation, just behind LSU’s Patrick Peterson. He was hardly thrown toward at all in the Big 12 Conference this season, but probably will enter the draft with more positive reviews than Haden a year ago. It would be a risk, but this still could happen if others are off the board.
A Monster Tide
If anybody at all watched Alabama play college football this year, then you certainly know Marcell Dareus. The defensive tackle that seemed to always be around the ball somehow, Dareus is shooting up draft boards and should certainly be selected within the top 10 picks no matter what. He is pesky and athletic for his very large stature, and could be a pest in any NFL defensive scheme. There’s no exact knowing where he’d fit alongside or potentially replacing Shaun Rogers or Ahytba Rubin, but he’d be a huge help for any team in the league.
Dareus is one of those players that undoubtedly will make a large difference in the NFL. The biggest question mark with his selection or any of the defensive lineman is the impending Cleveland switch to a 4-3 defense, but this large Alabama product could still potentially fit here.
A little smaller than Bowers or Dareus, former North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn is the enigma of this group of prospects toward the top of the draft board. Quinn missed all of this past collegiate season for admitting to accepting improper benefits from an agent in excess of $5,000, but still remains an elite draft prospect. He should transition well to the pros despite the year off, and would be the reclamation project among these top defensive options in the first round.
Dareus would likely fit equally well in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme because of his size, but Quinn is likely more suitable for an outside linebacker mold for a 3-4 defense. Sure, if he remains the final legitimate prospect available at No. 6, I could see the Browns taking this sort of a defensive gamble, but I’m a little skeptical about his sub-par track record of work ethic and intensity.
Mock Drafts Du Jour
Amukamara – “The Browns could go a couple ways with this pick. In a division with the Steelers and the Ravens it might help to slow down some pretty good CB’s. Amukamara has the ability to be a shut down corner and he also has the ability to help against top WR’s like Mike Wallace and Anquan Boldin.” [NewNFLDraft.com]
Dareus – “The Browns are expected to make the transition from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, in which case they will have to make some significant changes up front. Alabama’s Marcell Dareus is exactly the type of the penetrating, difference-maker they’d need to add at defensive tackle to effectively run an even front.” [DraftCountdown.com]
Dareus – “Dareus is a space-eater in the middle of the defensive line and that is exactly what Cleveland needs.” [FFToolbox.com]
Dareus – “At Alabama, Dareus played defensive end in their 3-4 defense, and would be a great fit for Cleveland if they remain a 3-4 team. However, Dareus is also big and strong enough to play as a three-technique tackle and clog up running lanes.” [SidelineScouting.com]
Dareus – “The Browns would love to land a top-tier weapon for the impressive Colt McCoy like A.J. Green. But if Green isn’t available, Cleveland will almost certainly beef up its front seven. Cleveland will be moving to the 4-3, but still could definitely use Marcell Dareus. Shaun Rogers, 32, is due $5.5 million in 2011. And Dareus is the best player on the board.”[WalterFootball.com]
Quinn – “The Browns need to add some youth to their defensive line, Quinn looks very promising and will be a much needed upgrade.” [DraftSeason.com]
(Photos above via Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated and John Bazemore/AP)