Perspective is everything, but on the surface, the Browns got the job done in the 2011 NFL Draft. If based solely on players, it is clear the strategy was to select high ceiling players with minimal risk. Although there may have been reaches (despite what Mike Holmgren said in his press conference) at times, primary needs were addressed, and there is still room to fill in gaps in free agency.
Let's take a look at what experts around the interwebs are saying about Cleveland's draft this weekend.
Adam Kaplan of Fox Sports:
Draft picks: DT Phil Taylor (first round), DE Jabaal Sheard (second round), WR Greg Little (second round), TE Jordan Cameron (fourth round), FB Owen Marecic (fourth round), CB Buster Skrine (fifth round), RT Jason Pinkston (fifth round), DB Eric Hagg (seventh round).
Analysis: The first three draftees should challenge for a starting job this season, so the Browns got nice value. Hagg is well-respected by the scouting community and could start down the road.
-Kaplan makes a good point about Hagg. I feel like that was a really under-the-radar pick as a compensatory selection, and one that might just be the best value pick of the Browns' draft. He should get some special teams play immediately, and could see some work in dime packages as well.
John Dove of Mocking The Draft:
B-I really like Phil Taylor but thought he was a better fit in the 3-4 defense. However, he has the quickness to penetrate and could be moved around the defensive line. Sheard is undersized but can bring pressure off the edge and he plays with a good motor. Cameron needs some time to develop but can be a good pass catching tight end down the road. Jason Pinkston will be a good backup offensive lineman in the NFL and was a good value pick.
-I'm hearing a lot about Taylor as a 3-4 player, and that's perfectly fine, but a run stuffer is a run stuffer, and the Browns desperately needed one. Obviously there were other players around I would have enjoyed seeing in the Orange and Brown, but Taylor can be a very good player if he keeps his weight down.
-The Cameron pick is still a head-scratcher to me, as I believed he would be there in the fourth when the Browns picked again. Regardless, he does have terrific upside and could be a beast if he puts on more strength and learns how to block and play at the next level.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports:
Best pick: I like second-round pick Greg Little. He didn't play last year because of an NCAA suspension, but he has big-play ability. This is a team that needs it.
Questionable move: Trading out of the No. 6 spot. They could have landed a possible star, but instead picked up more picks. Can they be patient?
Analysis: If Phil Taylor becomes a dominant inside player, this could be a really good draft. They went for quantity over quality. That's always risky.
-Wait, what? Well, he has another take, but saying that the trade was "questionable"...? Really? I guess I have to fundamentally disagree. Greg Little isn't Julio Jones, but he's better than what the Browns have now, and there are still free agents to be had. The Browns didn't just need a WR; they need about 6-8 starters. This trade gives them potentially one more and an additional contributor next year, as well as another first next year and value in the fourth if they can get it. I'm sorry Pete, but...no. Especially since you're considering Little the Browns best pick. It's one or the other. If he's their best pick, then trading out of #6 was not only not questionable, but a great idea.
Kerry Byrne of Sports Illustrated:
What I liked: Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur added a nice 1-2 punch of run stopper (Phil Taylor) and pass rusher (Jabaal Sheard) with their first two picks.
What I didn't like: Cleveland's worst indicators last year were scoring offense (31st), passer rating (28th), protecting the passer (25th) and Offensive Hog Index (24th). Yet, they waited until their third pick to add an offensive weapon: WR Greg Little, one of a trio of UNC players who were drafted high despite the fact they were suspended all of last season. Risky pick.
Would have liked more resources dedicated to offensive line. Otherwise, potential to be a nice draft class. Grade: B
--I'll generally agree with Byrne here. But it was a strategic move, I suppose. It was either load up on defensive players, or go with playmakers. And it all depends on the production of the offensive players down the road. I have to believe that Cleveland a.) has some UFA in mind and b.) as I mentioned earlier, will be looking for FA WRs (Plaxico Burress Plaxico Burress Plaxico Burress).
Mel Kiper of ESPN:
Top needs: WR, DE, LB, RT
Summary: You would think Cleveland trading down and piling up picks for this year and into the next two years would be good enough, but once the picks started, Browns fans should have been even more pleased. Taylor may have been a bit of a reach, but he's the best clogger in the draft, and those guys aren't easy to find. The Sheard pick made a lot of sense, and Little is a really good value as a potential big, down-the-field threat for Colt McCoy. I would have liked to have seen the Browns get a linebacker and some help at right tackle, but given what they did in terms of adding future picks, the grade in this draft is also something that will truly extend to later drafts.
-Thanks Mel. You get it. Look, I know some Browns fans were mad about trading down because they wanted that "stud." Look, you're entitled to your opinion, but I still think you're wrong. The problem I guess with the draft grades in general was that the trade, for the most part, wasn't factored in. And that's fine. But the Browns did a lot with their picks, and as Holmgren mentioned, they got who they wanted. I agree with Kiper that they needed a LB though.
And where do I score the Browns? Well not that you were asking, but I think they went after a number of players that have a lot of skill and toughness. Would I have taken Cameron or Marecic? Probably not. Would I have tried to dangle a pick for someone who wanted Ryan Mallett? Absolutely. Would I have taken someone other than Phil Taylor and not traded out of the 27th pick. Again, yes.
But overall, I think the Browns got some really good players in this draft, and for a team that had a four year stretch in which only four total players are still on this roster, that's a pretty good sign.
They get a solid B from me.