Cleveland Browns 2011 NFL Draft Recap: Browns' New Class Filled With Balance, Talent

Mike Holmgren and the Cleveland Browns were wheeling and dealing on draft weekend, making sure the Browns improve off of their 3rd place finish in 2010. At least on paper, it appears as though the Browns have done just that. After trading down with the Atlanta Falcons and then moving back up with the Chiefs, the Browns came away with one of the more balanced draft classes in the league.

Probably the most telling thing from this draft was that Holmgren did not draft a quarterback as he’d promised, indicating his confidence in young Colt McCoy, at least for the time being.

1. First Round, 21st overall: Phil Taylor, DL, Baylor

There was a lot of speculation that Taylor was the top 3-4 nose tackle in the draft, making it odd that the Browns decided to take him with their first pick and start the rebuild of their 4-3 scheme. However, Taylor has very quick feet, showed a lot of maturity in his game this past season, and could be a Pat Williams type of player for the Browns’ new look defense. At 6’4" 330 pounds, he is a mauler who will take up space and can provide a little bit more than just gap clogging. The name of Taylor’s game is playmaking, and the Browns have to be excited about what he brings for the future.

2. Second Round, 37th overall: Jabaal Sheard, Defensive End, Pittsburgh

Sheard was the Big East player of the year for Pitt and is one of the more underrated pass rushers in the draft. He will likely start for the Browns as the weak-side defensive end and is not bad against the run by any means, at least not by what his size would indicate. This is a guy who is going to come in and bring intensity and the ability to sack the quarterback. He had some minor character concerns at Pitt, which is why he fell to the 2nd round.

3. Second Round, 59th overall: Greg Little, Wide Receiver, North Carolina

At 6’3" 230 pounds, Little has drawn comparisons to Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall. The former Tar Heel is simply a playmaker, but he really has boom or bust potential for the Browns. This is the third straight character concern player they drafted, but apparently Mike Holmgren isn’t worried about it. Little has the chance to be an early contributor for the Browns, and if you’re a fantasy football player, he could be a real sleeper as a third receiver.

4. Fourth Round, 102nd overall: Jordan Cameron, Tight End, USC

This is another gutsy pick from Holmgren, but one that on paper I really like. Cameron was a top five TE prospect on my board, and has excellent ability and potential. He is one of those “basketball” style tight ends who will be a great vertical threat in the Browns’ offense. He is a phenomenal athlete with a ton of speed for his size, and he reminds me of Tony Scheffler.

5. Fourth Round, 124th overall: Owen Marecic, Fullback/Linebacker, Stanford

This was probably the coolest pick of the entire Browns draft. Owen Marecic is a guy who played both ways at Stanford, and won the award for the country’s most versatile player. He is a hard-nosed runner who loves to hit—sound familiar?

The thought of pairing Marecic with Peyton Hillis in the backfield is one of the more interesting things NFL fans have to think about in the next few months as we await free agency and normal football activity to begin once again. Marecic will be a great fit for this offense, and can also be a strong contributor on special teams.

6. Fifth Round, 137th overall: Buster Skrine, Cornerback, UT-Chattanooga

Buster Skrine is a very raw prospect, but he has a ton of upside for the Browns. He is a supreme athlete with the requisite size, speed, and athletic ability that you look for in a starting quarterback. Now, he was very inconsistent at UTC, and that is why he dropped this far. The Browns got a great athlete, but what they need to do is mold him into a great player. Right now, he will contribute on special teams, and develop as a nickel or dime defensive back for the Browns.

7. Fifth Round, 150th overall: Jason Pinkston, Offensive Lineman, Pittsburgh

This was a great value pick for the Browns, because not too long ago, Pinkston was considered a second round prospect. There’s obviously a reason he fell this far, but the upside is still there. Pinkston can play guard or tackle, but scouts think he projects best to guard at the professional level. He is a powerful blocker who drew rave reviews at the draft from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.

8. Seventh Round, 248th overall: Eric Hagg, Safety, Nebraska

This was one of the best picks the Browns made. Not because Hagg is going to be the ultimate steal at this pick, but I believe he is one of the hardest working players that was available in the draft, and he is also a guy who will be a special teams ace in the NFL, and what more can you ask of this pick?

Hagg’s scouting report reads, “Productive, durable, and reliable in coverage.” That’s a pretty solid seventh round pick, if you ask me.

Overall

I absolutely hate to grade a draft before it has the chance to perform, but on paper this is a boom or bust draft. It could be an A+, or it could be a D. I will say, for now, that this draft was in the B to B+ range, because I like the risks that Holmgren is taking and I believe in taking calculated risks.

Hopefully the Browns can build off of a season that showed promise, potential, and something of a future with this draft.

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