With the sixth pick in the 2011 BGN Mock Draft iggle me this selects...
Marcell Dareus: DT, Alabama
A hush falls over Radio City Music hall as the fans realize that the Browns only have 10 seconds left to make their pick. The Browns runner is frantically pointing at his phone and gesturing to the NFL officials, but to no avail. All of a sudden, the sound of a dying walrus fills the room as Mike Holmgren bursts through the front door, red-faced and carrying what appears to be half of a 3-foot long Italian hoagie. Holmgren looks up to see the last seconds of his team’s slot run out, and begins to run (jog?) up to the podium. Unfortunately, the 49ers have prepared for this scenario, and have enlisted Ted Ginn, Jr. as their representative (work with me here… I mean, what else is he doing on draft day?) who easily sprints past the winded Holmgren and hands a slip of paper to Roger Goodell. Holmgren looks on in dismay as Goodell opens the paper and reads the contents.
"With the sixth pick in the NFL draft, the San Fransico 49ers select Prince Amukamara, Nebraska.
Holmgren sighs a sigh of relief, shrugs, and calmly walks his pick up the podium. No harm done.
GM Tom Heckert and the Browns find themselves in the enviable position of being able to pick from several top prospects that fit their biggest needs. The team is in a period of transition on both sides of the ball as Pat Shurmur beings to implement his West Coast offense and Dick Jauron switches the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3. That’s a good thing, since both the offense and defense need some serious help; in 2010, the Browns ranked 31st in points scored, 29th in yards gained, and 22nd in yards allowed. Despite those depressing statistics, Mike Holmgren seems to have this team headed in the right direction. Colt McCoy has been the surprise QB success of the 2010 draft (Holmgren reportedly stepped in and picked him personally… shame on us for doubting your skills, sir), Peyton Hillis has had flashes of brilliance, and the Browns pulled off a few major upsets against the Saints and Patriots. Now, it’s time to continue that momentum.
With so much talent still left on the board, the Browns will have a hard decision to make between WR A.J. Green, DE Da’Quan Bowers, and DT/DE Marcell Dareus. Between the two linemen, I’d give a slight edge to Dareus, since right now there are still a few (minor) concerns about Bowers’ knee. Those concerns will hopefully be put to rest on April 1st when Bowers will work out for NFL teams, but since we’re picking now, Dareus is still higher on my big board. So, do the Browns pick up the elite WR prospect, or take the DT that some have ranked as the best lineman in the draft?
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: He’d be a great pick here, as the Browns have lacked a true weapon at receiver for years and have a young QB who would benefit from having better weapons around him. Green looks like a beast, and has the potential to become elite. He’s an excellent route-runner who has fantastic hands, and it won’t take long for him to become a productive NFL receiver. However, it’s important to note that he’s not an absolutely perfect fit for the West Coast Offense that Shurmur has said he plans on implementing. While the WCO focuses on smaller, quicker receivers, Green’s greatest skill is his ability to use his large frame (6’4’’, 212 pounds) to create mismatches with smaller DBs. There’s a reason that none of the nine wide receivers that Heckert drafted with the Eagles drafted between 2001 and 2009 are over 6’0’’. But before I get torn apart in the comments, let me be clear that I’m not saying that Green couldn’t be successful in a WCO, or that Shurmur wouldn’t be able to find ways to make sure that he’s productive; it just reduces his value a little for the Browns.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama: I normally try not to put too much stock in combine numbers, but I have to admit that my eyebrows were raised when I saw Dareus run a faster 10-yard split in the 40 yard dash than DT Nick Fairley, who is about 30 pounds lighter than him. Dareus is a huge, powerful linemen who uses his hands well and could instantly improve the Browns’ 27th ranked run defense. Until recently, I would have listed WR as the Browns’ biggest draft need, but with the recent release of former Pro Bowl DT Shaun Rogers, improving the DL has instantly become the highest priority. Several draft experts have Dareus listed as the best tackle in the draft, and he’s definitely impressed Holmgren so far:
Heckert, on Marcell Dareus: "He's relentless, he plays hard. I think he spent a lot of time this year with a high ankle sprain and he played through it. He's a high, high-motor guy and he doesn't stop and he makes a ton of plays for a defensive tackle."
Anybody else cringe when they read "high-motor"? I digress… the major downside of taking Dareus here is that this draft class seems to be reasonably deep with linemen. If the Browns don’t feel like Dareus has the ability to be a game changing player, they’d happily take AJ Green and wait to address the gaping hole in their defensive line.
In the end, Heckert can’t go wrong with either pick. To be honest, I think it’s unlikely that both players are on the board when the Browns pick on April 28th, so Heckert won’t be faced with this decision. However, if he is, I expect the Cleveland Browns to make the smart move of selecting Marcell Dareus. The Browns will definitely look to address their WR needs in the draft, but AJ Green would be a bit of a luxury pick here. Releasing Shaun Rogers sent a clear message that the Browns are overhauling their defense, and picking Dareus would be a huge step in that direction. Dareus would become the focal point for Jauron’s 4-3 defense, and could act as a disruptive force inside during both passing and rushing situations. I recognize that Dareus isn’t the sexy pick here, and that picking him may end up disappointing some fans, but it’s the right decision if such an elite defensive prospect falls to the Browns.