What a day.
George Kokinis and Eric Mangini made shrewd moves as they maneuvered the Cleveland Browns to one of the strongest first day drafts in recent history.
Heading into draft weekend, several fans (this Gentledawg included) thought there was no way the Browns would be able to trade down from the fifth overall selection. Many believed the lack of top tier talent and the steep price that comes with a top 5 selection would prove too big of an obstacle for Cleveland to overcome.
Boy were we wrong.
The Browns traded down an unprecedented 3 times in the first round and landed several high-character players who should impact this team immediately.
Name: Alex Mack
Weight: 311 lbs
Draft: 1st round (21st overall)
George Kokinis and Eric Mangini seem to understand the importance of building this team through the trenches. In a division featuring two of the most complex defensive schemes in the NFL, strong offensive line play is absolutely critical for team success. That all starts in the middle with protection calls and reads, so it comes as no surprise the Cleveland Browns select the best center in the draft.
Alex Mack is a highly intelligent player who should have no problem starting and succeeding in the NFL. With the addition of Alex Mack at center and Joe Thomas at left tackle, Cleveland has two young players who should be very good for a long period of time.
Name: Brian Robiskie
Weight: 209 lbs
Position: Wide receiver
College: The Ohio State University
Draft: 2nd round (36th overall)
The Browns found a small degree of offensive success in 2007, and a large part of that can be attributed to Joe Jurevicius. Jurevicius provided quarterback Derek Anderson with a sure-handed target who moved the chains and sustained drives. Brian Robiskie can be that player. The Cleveland native is an excellent route runner known for his impeccable work ethic and detail-orientated approach to the game. He should have no problems adjusting to the professional game.
Robiskie has been hailed as the most NFL ready prospect in this years receiver class. With Dante Stallworth's ongoing legal troubles, Cleveland may need Robiskie to step in sooner rather than later.
Name: Mohamed Massaquoi (Mass-a-koi)
Weight: 210 lbs
Position: Wide receiver
Draft: 2nd round (50th overall)
The selection of 2nd round receiver Mo Massaquoi does two things for this football team. Not only does the move add depth to a very shallow position group, but it establishes character as a core value of the Cleveland Browns. According to the scouting report, Massaquoi is the type of player who will do the extra little things to improve himself as a player. This is the kind of work ethic Eric Mangini loves. As such, Massaquoi should fit in well in the lockerroom, and help Mangini establish an identity for this football team.
Mohamed will compete for a starting position come opening day. While he lacks game-changing speed, his intelligence and knowledge of the game should allow him to find his way onto the field.
Name: David Veikune (Vi-kune-nay)
Weight: 254 lbs
Position: Outside linebacker
Draft: 2nd round (52nd overall)
David Veikune possesses everything necessary to successfully make the conversion to linebacker in the NFL. He impressed scouts and coaches with his strength and work ethic at the combine - bench pressing 225 pounds an eye-popping 35 times. Veikune is known for delivering sledgehammer type hits. So much so, he was named one of the top 11 hitters in the state of Hawaii. His flawless record and outstanding personality figure well into the lockerroom.
While fans may still lament missing out on Rey Maualuga, Veikune may actually turn out to be the better pro. The level of discipline and raw power he displays should allow him a chance to start right away for the Browns.
Name: Abram Elam
NFL Experience: 4 years (1 year starting)
Weight: 207 lbs
Abram Elam is the posterboy for Mangini's philosophy on open competition. Elam came to the Jets after spending time with the Dolphins and Cowboys respectively. Elam impressed coaches enough to survive roster cuts and find a position on the 53 man roster. In week 5 of the 2007 season, the Jets had secondary issues, so Mangini elected to make a change and Elam got his chance. He did an adequate job and became one of Mangini's favorites ever since.
'Abe' Elam, as Mangini calls him, is more of a run supporting safety. He is a sure tackler much better suited to playing in the box. Elam does have some coverage ability, but look for him to play more strong safety than free.
Name: Kenyon Coleman
NFL Experience: 8 years (2 years starting)
Position: Defensive End
Draft: Drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2002 (5th round, 147th overall)
Eric Mangini thinks very highly of Coleman. During the 2008 offseason, Mangini and the Jets awarded Coleman with a 5 year contract reportedly worth $20 million...before he ever played a down. After his two seasons starting for the Jets, Mangini asked for Coleman as part of the Sanchez deal. His inclusion in the deal serves as testament to Coleman's ability and persona as a player.
Kenyon's biggest strength is his ability to play the run out of the 3-4 scheme. As we've seen over the past 5 years, this is not an easy thing to do. Coleman will likely start for the Browns at RDE.
Name: Brett Ratliff
NFL Experience: 2 years
Weight: 235 lbs
Like Elam, Ratliff is a self-made player who earned the coaches respect through training camp. As the story goes, Ratliff came into Jets training camp with little to no knowledge of the system. Mangini saw little in him initially, and even suggested he learn the wide receiver position if he wanted to stay around. With time on the practice field, Ratliff grew as a passer. He took advantage of Eric Mangini's "opportunity time" - option practice time for players to prove themselves. He shined. The Jets found a place for him as a backup QB.
It's difficult to evalute Ratliff as a passer because he has yet to do it at the pro level. We do know he is an extremely hard worker, and that usually translates well for quarterbacks.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this entire draft came in the moves the Browns did NOT make. Quarterback Brady Quinn and receiver Braylon Edwards are still with the team - leaving the Browns deeper than ever at both positions.
With this influx of first day talent, Kokinis has significantly improved the Cleveland Browns. It remains to be seen how these players transition to the professional game, but one thing is certain:
The Cleveland Browns are headed in the right direction.