Written by: Barry Lewis on April 23, 2011
When Mike Holmgren decided to take over football operations in December 2009 for the Cleveland Browns, it was the best move made by any ownership group in the NFL that year.
In their 2010 campaign, the Browns saw a lot of good things developing on the field. Colt McCoy looked like a starting NFL quarterback. RB Peyton Hillis looked like John Riggins. Benjamin Watson played above expectations and more like the 1st round draft pick that he was 9 years ago. This was only one of two teams that beat the New England Patriots during the regular season and they didn’t just beat them, they dog-pounded them.
Nevertheless, this team has its short-comings. They need a legitimate #1 wide receiver so that Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie become very good #2 and #3 wideouts. They need to upgrade their pass rush. They need to upgrade their outside linebacking corp and depth at cornerback. And – they could use an improvement at right tackle.
The Browns were able to achieve many of these things in the 2011 Twitter Draft.
WR AJ Green, Georgia, is a lock to become the #1 wideout in Cleveland. He will remind a lot of people of Santonio Holmes and he should have ample opportunity to be a leading rookie of the year candidate. Additionally, OT/OG Joseph Barksdale, LSU, has the skills needed to play on the right side and start immediately at either guard or tackle.
Cleveland is switching to a 4-3 set which means that draft picks DT Marvin Austin, DE Greg Romeus and OLB Mario Harvey are going to have to be instant contributors. Fortunately, each of these three picks have the skills and talent needed to immediately improve the front 7 for the Browns. ILB Greg Jones, Michigan State, provides solid insurance for oft-injured LB D’Qwell Jackson.
Additionally, CB Rashard Carmichael will compete for a starting job from day 1 and that is saying something considering that he was selected at pick 139. He was great value at that point in the draft.
RB Derrick Locke and WR Dane Sanzenbacher provide nice depth and special teams capabilities and should make the team.
From a talent perspective and a needs perspective, the Browns achieved what no other team in the AFC North could reasonabily achieve. A perfect draft and if the Browns have a draft like this come next weekend – it will not be long before they are breathing down the Ravens back for a spot in the upper half of their division. Their draft grade is an A.