Cleveland Browns Had an Excellent First Round

In a post earlier this morning, rufio posed the question, "What does [the drafting of Phil Taylor] mean for our defensive scheme?" One of our favorite members, mooncamping, responded with, "It means we have come to play." That about says it all.

The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft was certainly full of surprises, and the Cleveland Browns were at the center of some of those surprises. I don't think anyone would have guessed the Browns would have left the first round with defensive tackle Phil Taylor, but that fact alone does not make him a bad pick, and we should know that by now. I like to look at how many hits and misses a general manager has. When it comes to Tom Heckert, he hits a lot more than he misses, so I instantly gave him the benefit of the doubt when the pick was made. Taylor was projected to go at No. 21 overall to the Chiefs or No. 30 overall to the Jets. Another team looking for the top nose tackle, including the Jets themselves, might have traded up before the Browns were on the clock, so Heckert decided not to wait.

The price to move up was not very steep either -- a third rounder in this year's draft -- when you consider what the team gained in their previous trade with the Falcons. In the end, the "net" result of the picks we ended up with is what matters most to me. Cleveland headed into the day yesterday with the following (this does not include picks after the fourth round):

  • No. 6 overall pick in the first round
  • 1 second round pick
  • 1 third round pick
  • 1 fourth round pick

By the end of the day, they had the following:

  • No. 21 overall pick in the first round
  • 2 second round picks
  • 2 fourth round picks

That might seem pretty fair, but the icing on the cake is that the Browns also scored Atlanta's first and fourth-round picks in 2012. Some fans complained that the Atlanta Falcons will probably have a pick around No. 30 next year, but so what? That is still a big luxury to have two first-round picks. Hopefully by this time next year, the Browns will have less pressing needs and can sit back and relax to take the best players available when they are on the clock. The Saints had two later picks and came away with Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram.

I think the use of the word, "excellent" is appropriate when describing Cleveland's first round. Sure, I would've still liked to have come away with Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, or Marcell Dareus, but all three players were picked in a row before the Browns were on the clock. Tom Heckert said that there was only one player that the team would have stayed at No. 6 for, and Peter King says that player was Green. King says that the Browns and Falcons had been talking for a week about the exact scenario that unfolded between the two teams. It was a win-win for both teams. The Falcons don't need excess picks -- they needed a potential difference maker at the receiver position, and Jones fits that bill. The Browns needed to rebuild their defensive line, a unit that really only contained Ahtyba Rubin as a confirmed starter. One of the vacancies on the line has been filled. The criticisms Taylor faced from fans when he was drafted -- such as not being an every down guy or having character or health issues -- were dismissed.

The Browns have also been praised as one of the big winners but some members of the media. Take a look:

From John Clayton of ESPN:

Winners

1. Cleveland Browns: Earlier in the day, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy said team management was going to get him some offensive help. Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones would have been the perfect choice with the sixth pick in the first round. But sometimes teams can make offers you can't refuse, and that's what Atlanta did. Browns boss Mike Holmgren traded the No. 6 pick (Jones) to Atlanta, dropping down 21 picks in the first round but gaining a second-rounder, a fourth-rounder and two picks next year -- in the first and fourth rounds. Sure, it would have been nice to add a big, fast threat for McCoy and the offense. But the Falcons feel as though they might be one offensive player away from a trip to the Super Bowl. The Browns have to rebuild an entire roster. The Browns had to take that offer.

From Don Banks of SI:

• Browns fans might be disappointed in the near term, because they didn't get an impact playmaker like Jones up high, but Cleveland set itself up nicely for the rest of this draft and next year in its deal with Atlanta. And I also like the Phil Taylor selection at No. 21, moving up six spots from 27th (dealing with Kansas City) to take the Baylor nose tackle.

The Browns are in a tough, rugged division, and you have to have the big boys up front to compete with the Ravens and Steelers, matching the likes of Haloti Ngata and Casey Hampton at nose.

From Peter King of SI:

21. Cleveland: Very interesting pick upon trading down to 27 and then trading back up to 21. Nose tackle was not a big need position for the Browns after unknown Ahtyba Rubin came out of nowhere to be so solid late last season. But they picked the best nose guy in the draft, Phillip Taylor of Baylor. Tom Heckert told me last night Taylor's more than a nose, and he had some experience playing the three-technique in college. Cleveland needed reinforcements on the line for the switch to the 4-3.

From Terry Pluto:

The approach of adding picks and not forcing the issue at No. 6 is commendable. This team has so many needs, so many losing seasons and so many older players -- the team must get younger. This also relies on Heckert and his staff to find players outside of the first round. They did it last season with T.J. Ward in the second round and Colt McCoy in the third round -- both became starters. Ward led the Browns in defensive snaps and brought some needed grit to the safety spot. McCoy has become the quarterback of the present -- and hopefully the future. They believe Shawn Lauvao (a third rounder) will start at right guard this season.

As they head into the second day of the draft, the Browns have the 37th and 59th pick in the second rounds. They also have picks number 102, 124, 137, 168, 170 and 248. That's nine picks. It's also two first rounders (their own and Atlanta's) and an extra fourth rounder next year. The Atlanta trade says the Browns were nervous about paying millions of dollars for a player who is not projected as a star. There is some speculation the NFL will operate under 2010 rules in 2011, and that means no rookie salary cap.

It is easy for any team in the league to sugarcoat a draft pick (not including the Raiders) and make it seem like the right decision. I'm sure Cleveland passed up on some prospects that we will look back on and say, "we could have had this guy." The Browns passed up on Clay Matthews a couple of years ago, but guess what? We got Alex Mack. I'm not making an apples-to-apples comparison, but the pick worked, and if that happens with Taylor, that is all that will matter because of how stacked we are when it comes to picks now. It has been so frustrating over the years to see Cleveland have difficulty at stopping the run, and I am a firm believer that two big defensive tackles can go a long way in creating havoc for opposing offenses. The duo can end up making all of the "lesser" pass rushers around them appear better than they actually are.

It'll be interesting to see who the Browns take in the second round, which starts at 6:00 PM EST. Two spots remain open on the defensive line, and there is still a need at right tackle. In reality, I could see Cleveland using the picks on any position except quarterback, running back, and tight end. Whatever Heckert decides to take, remember to stay optimistic -- it's all part of the plan.

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