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Browns Look at LB's

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Here is a nice piece...with a few quotes I haven't seen before:


NFL combine: Browns become linebacker trackers

Scott Petrak | The Chronicle-Telegram


INDIANAPOLIS — One by one, they walked into the room.

Texas’ Brian Orakpo first, then Penn State’s Aaron Maybin, Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis, USC’s Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews Jr. and Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry.


It was linebacker day inside the media room at the scouting combine Saturday, and there’s a good chance one or more members of the procession will find their way to Cleveland following the draft in April. Linebacker is the Browns’ biggest need — they must find a starter outside and one inside — and they could begin to address it with the No. 5 pick. Curry is widely viewed as the top linebacker prospect and is NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock’s No. 1-rated player in the draft.


“I’m a big believer Aaron Curry might be the safest pick in the entire draft,” Mayock said. “He rushes well, he drops well, he’s a fifth-year kid, he’s mature. He’s scheme-diverse. He’s intelligent.” He might be too good for four teams to pass up.


“I think ‘safe’ means I can come in instantly and make an impact on everybody’s defense,” Curry said. “I’m versatile, I can play inside or outside in the 3-4. You just can’t go wrong. I have the ability to rush the passer and I’m strong enough to play inside.”


The ability to do more than one thing well is mandatory with Browns coach Eric Mangini. Although the Browns recorded just 17 sacks last season (tied for 30th in the NFL), Mangini refuses to bring in any player he views as one-dimensional, no matter how many sacks he might’ve had.

“I would never draft a guy that’s a pass rusher, or a guy that’s a cover corner, or a box safety,” he said Friday. “Because if that’s all they do, then teams run against pass rushers, they throw against box safeties and they force cover corners to tackle.

“I’m looking to draft complete football players. He may have a real strength in pass rushing, but they’ve got to be able to play the run. Inevitably, you put that guy out there and you always want to play him more and they stop throwing the ball. They run at him.”


Curry (6-foot-1½, 254 pounds) had just 2½ sacks as a senior, but has good size, speed and strength and was effective against the run and in pass coverage. He was bubbly at the podium, saying good things about each of the teams with top-five picks — including the Browns.


“They have some spark in their defense,” he said. “They have guys like D’Qwell Jackson, that I watched play at Maryland, he’s a pretty darn good linebacker. To play alongside him would be another amazing scenario.”


Luckily for the Browns, the draft is deep at linebacker. But after Curry, it’s up for debate if there’s another one worthy of a top-five pick. Mayock thinks there is, and that person is Orakpo, who would make the conversion to outside linebacker in the Browns’ 3-4 scheme. He had 10½ sacks last season, measured in at 6-3, 263 and sounds like Mangini’s kind of guy.


“In a perfect world, I would just want to rush the passer first through fourth down,” Orakpo said. “I want to go to a team that needs a pass rusher and a guy that’s not shy of the run, either. If you turn on film, I take a lot of pride in playing the run as well.”


Maybin is slotted to the Browns in some mock drafts, but he doesn’t appear to be Mangini’s type. He had to put on 20 pounds after the season to get to his combine weight of 250, started just one year at Penn State and needs work against the run. The Browns also need work against the run, and that help is most likely to come from an inside linebacker who can complement Jackson.


Maualuga is rated as the top inside linebacker ahead of Laurinaitis. Maualuga (6-1, 249) has the reputation as a big hitter who intimidates and has drawn comparisons to Baltimore’s Ray Lewis.


“I’m nowhere near Ray Lewis,” he said.


But what if the Browns decided he was the next Lewis? That he could make plays sideline to sideline, scare offenses, inspire teammates and become a perennial All-Pro? Would they be reluctant to use the fifth pick on an inside linebacker, when most teams wait to address that position?


“I don’t think there’s any position that’s too high to take,” general manager George Kokinis said. “If it’s the right fit, then you should take it. If it’s the right player that you evaluated, then you should take it. To say that a linebacker gets too high to pick, no, because if we all knew what Ray was, then we all would’ve picked him.”


Sounds good to me!!!

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More and more, Orakpo could be the right guy. He's a beast, and a fast mean one. And smart.


I'd go with that, but a trade down could still bring huge dividends...

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