Yeah, I know, the combine has already begun. This post is a few days late but there are a ton of intriguing prospects the Browns surely have been watching/will be watching in the upcoming days. Here are my top 10 (really 11) candidates to be picked by the Browns, eight of whom are candidates for the 6th pick, two others to keep an eye on in the second round.
10. Justin Houston OLB/DE, Georgia
Houston, a converted DE to OLB, should be on the Browns radar in round 2. Projected as a mid/late first round pick/early second round pick he would be a great addition to the new 4-3 defense Dick Jauron is putting in. He has been mentioned with Von Miller as one of the best pass rushers in the draft, especially as a 3-4 OLB. He racked up 10 sacks from the outside this season at UGA but could be a hot commodity after the combine and pro days. If by chance he is around in round 2, look for the Browns to show some interest.
9. Jonathan Baldwin/Titus Young WR, Pitt/Boise St.
Ok I cheated on this one, grouping two prospects together. The fact of the matter is that while the Browns don't have enough defensive linemen to put on the field if the season started today, wideout is the second most pressing need. Baldwin is a player who has unbelievable potential if someone could keep him motivated and put it into use on the field. At 6'4" 228, with 4.45 speed and a 42" vertical, we'd all better hope Heckert is paying attention. Young, on the other hand, has been referred to a poor man's DeSean Jackson. As you might remember, Heckert drafted Jackson while he was in Philly. Young would be a great fit in the WCO if he is anything like Jackson in the pros. The point is I expect at least one of these two to be on the board when the Browns pick in round 2. If they don't go receiver at #6, look for them to address it on day 2.
8. Von Miller OLB, Texas A&M
Let me say that I absolutely love Von Miller. He's the best pass rusher in the draft by some accounts and has been skyrocketing up teams' boards in the past few weeks. At least that's what the experts say. The reason I have him back at 8 is that the Browns front office seems very content with the three starters they have at the LB position (Fujita, Gocong, Jackson). Assuming Jackson can stay healthy and Marcus Benard can still be effective as a situational pass-rusher, Miller doesn't seem to be the fit at pick 6. However, a talent this good, especially considering Jackson's injury history, would be hard to pass up if he's on the board.
7. Da'Quan Bowers DE, Clemson
How can you not include so many people's favorite prospect on the list of players to watch? I have to issues with Bowers: 1) there's no way he falls to 6, in my opinion. I see Carolina scooping him up first overall. 2) I dont want Bowers. At all. Yes he had a monster season last year. Did you also know that he was the number 1 recruit coming out of high school? Did you also know that this #1 overall prospect had a grand total of 4 sacks in his college career before this year? Beware of one-year-wonders. My statistical analysis aside, it seems as if scouts and GMs love Bowers, and they surely know more than I do. If Bowers is there, it seems as if the Browns would be ecstatic.
6. Patrick Peterson CB, LSU
Peterson is an unbelievable prospect. I hate the term "safe pick" or anything along those lines because I've seen too many players bust but that's what they say about Peterson. He's big. He's fast. He's a hell of a special-teamer. I would love the idea of Haden and Peterson in the secondary next season, but with last year's first two picks invested on DB's I'll believe it when I see it.
5. Robert Quinn DE, UNC
Quinn has been touted as a top-5 talent had he not gotten suspended for the entire 2010 season. Had he performed up to his 2009 standards he very well could have been in the discussion for the #1 overall pick this year. Nevertheless he has dropped but I could see the Browns pulling the trigger depending on how he measures up in the combine, looks in drills, and addresses his suspension during interviews.
4. Cameron Jordan DE, Cal
Jordan's name has been flying under the radar the last few weeks but I seem to keep seeing it pop up more and more around the internet. Kind of reminds me how Jared Odrick's stock soared seemingly out of nowhere before last years draft, and he ended up going to Miami in the first round. Looking up Jordan all I see and hear is disruptive. This is a sleeper candidate to surely watch for in the coming weeks.
3. A.J. Green WR, Georgia
2. Nick Fairley DT, Auburn
Fairley caught the SEC by storm this year. However, he showed up to the combine a little lighter than teams would have liked, according to reports, so it will be interesting to see if his stock slips at all. He's been in the discussion as a candidate for the #1 overall pick, but in SI's Peter King's Monday Morning QB today he said he's almost positive the Panther will go in a different direction. That's coming from a guy who's been around a long time and knows things. The Browns are desperate for defensive line help and if Fairley is still available, he would be a very tempting pick.
1. Marcell Dareus DL, Alabama