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News » Browns had own strategy in draft

Browns had own strategy in draft

Browns had own strategy in draft

Read Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto's insights every Sunday

10 THINGS ABOUT THE Browns . . .

1. I have a feeling the Browns' draft board looked much different from that of most teams. It was aimed toward adding picks, adding depth with a couple of veterans via trade, and adding character. If it meant they took players higher than when the "experts" believed they should be selected, the Browns didn't care. They really did the draft their way, General Manager George Kokinis and coach Eric Mangini are not concerned with the opinion of anyone else.

2. I tend to agree with reader Geoff Beckman (Rocky River), who e-mailed: "To their credit, they didn't fall in love with anyone and throw away draft picks trying to move up - like giving (Kansas City GM Scott Pioli) a No. 1 and a No. 2 so they could draft Aaron Curry. The worst reach they made was David Veikune (No. 52). . . . But they also acted like guys who were worried about losing players they liked . . . so they overpaid . . . by picking them at least 10 spots higher than they should have gone."

3. By trading the No. 5 pick to the New York Jets for what became the No. 21 and No. 52 picks, here's what the Browns did: They traded that choice for Alex Mack (picked at No. 21), Veikune (No. 52), Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam and third-string quarterback Brett Ratliff (never thrown a pass in the regular season). Mack should start. Coleman can start on the line. The key is Elam, who has to perform at safety like someone picked in the middle of the first round for this deal to yield full value. Elam has to be above average, and it's possible the Kent State product can do that. He will be 27 on Opening Day and should be in his prime.

4. If Elam can be a playmaker at safety and if Mack indeed becomes the anchor in the middle of the offensive line, the trade looks very good. Coleman is probably a decent-but-unspectacular defensive end who knows the 3-4 scheme. The trade gives Mangini veterans in his defensive film rooms who know his system. Former Jets Hank Poteat and Elam are with the defensive backs. Eric Barton and David Bowens are in the linebackers' room, with C.J. Mosley and Coleman with the defensive linemen.

5. A real test of the new regime's talent evaluation will be the selection of Veikune, whom most draft experts had going in the third round or lower. He is 6-2, 257 pounds, and was a defensive end at Hawaii. He is an achiever, with nine sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Yes, it's in the midmajor Western Athletic Conference, but at least he was a major performer at that level. He also was a member of the All-WAC academic team. If the Browns' scouts are right, this guy becomes a pass rusher from the outside linebacker spot. If others are correct, he helps mostly on special teams.

6. The Browns also have mentioned Veikune possibly playing some inside linebacker. That seems a bit of a stretch as they have veterans D'Qwell Jackson and Barton at those spots. Williams remains in camp, and fourth-rounder Kaluka Maiava is another possibility. The real need is to create a pass rush from outside linebackers Kamerion Wimbley, Alex Hall and Bowens. This is where Veikune can make a real impact.

7. I have a sense the Browns are intrigued by Hall, who had three sacks last season while playing less than 20 percent of the snaps. This team desperately has to produce more of a pass rush, and Veikune is the only draftee who might supply that. It's also possible they can rush Elam from his safety spot as he's known as a hard-hitter.

8. Another player to follow is Maiava, who did start as the fourth linebacker (inside) at USC. He also was captain of the special teams. At the very least, the Browns believe he will help on special teams. At 5-11 and 229 pounds, he's not physically imposing. He was the Defensive MVP in the Rose Bowl.

9. I hear Shaun Rogers has had a good talk with Mangini, and the star tackle is in a positive frame of mind about the new direction of the team and the defense.

10. Considering what happened on draft day, I believe the Browns think this could be a tough season with a real change of culture (read: discipline crackdown) in the dressing room. They want high-character guys who can handle it, and so it seemed as if they were almost drafting for members of the National Honor Society. Mack won the Draddy Trophy for academics and character. Brian Robiskie was a runner-up, and No. 50 pick Mohamed Massaquoi already has his degree in psychology. I keep wondering if the Browns could have grabbed Robiskie at No. 50, but I'm not about to knock picking a receiver who can actually catch the ball, likes to run over the middle, can block and also fights off defensive backs to catch passes in the end zone. Don't know what to think of Massaquoi. Some scouts love him, others say he drops balls. He can block.


1. The Indians believe that the weakness in the right shoulder of Travis Hafner is something that will go away with a few week' rest. They realize he had surgery on Oct. 14, 2008 . . . so it's not even seven months since the operation. It also is why he should have had it done earlier last season, but that's another story.

2. While the Indians said Hafner's surgery was not major, any surgery to the shoulder is significant. It's a part of the body that can easily become inflamed and lose strength, and that's why the Tribe is wise to be careful with Hafner. And when he was healthy, he was showing more power than he had in a few years. Bottom line on Hafner: This may not seem serious, but in truth, no one can be sure until he rests it and tries to play again.

3. Like most fans, I was thrilled to see the Indians promote Matt LaPorta. I know that LaPorta doesn't even have 600 pro at-bats. I know that LaPorta has only 75 official at-bats in Class AAA. I know that he probably can use more seasoning. But I also doubt he will be totally overmatched, and given how Ben Francisco has struggled in left field - let's look at LaPorta.

4. At Columbus, LaPorta was batting .333 (1.054 OPS) with five homers and 11 extra-base hits in 75 at-bats. He struck out 10 times. The right-handed batter was hitting .353 vs. lefties, .328 vs. righties and .333 with runners in scoring position. For his career, he is at .314 vs. righties, .237 vs. lefties. This season, all five of his homers were against righties. He looks like a strong, all-around hitter and has done a very respectable job in the outfield. Look for him to platoon with Dave Dellucci at DH, and see some time in left field. He probably will go back to the minors when Hafner is healthy, but if he hits . . . that can change.

5. Dellucci had six hits in his first two games back from Columbus. He batted .414 for the Clippers, but had only two extra-base hits in 29 at-bats. I just know that David Dellucci is David Dellucci. He is 35, has had trouble staying healthy and has not been productive since the Indians gave him a three-year, $11 million contract in 2007. He has a career .258 batting average (.779 OPS) in 1,077 big-league games. He also has hit only .235 (.700 OPS) in two years with the Tribe.

6. The biggest disappointments based on their spring performances are Jensen Lewis and Francisco. The Indians gave Francisco the left-field job, and he entered today batting .239 (.708 OPS) with two homers and seven RBI. His defense also has been shaky.

7. The problems for Lewis come down to one thing - control. His fastball is in the 90 mph range, the same as when he saved 13 games after the 2008 All-Star break. He is still using his change-up, so it's not all fastballs. But his fastball is waist level and flat. And he does not have enough stuff to survive unless he keeps the ball down. He has allowed six homers in 11 appearances covering 12 2/3 innings. A year ago, the Indians sent Lewis to Class AAA on May 24. He returned on July 4, a far more effective pitcher.

8. What has saved Lewis from a demotion is no one in the Columbus bullpen has been extremely effective. Since being sent back to the minors, Zach Jackson has a 10.38 ERA in three appearances (through Friday). John Meloan was picked up in the Casey Blake deal and is considered a real prospect, but his ERA is 5.14 in 14 innings and he's allowed three homers.

9. Luis Valbuena was recalled because the Indians began a string of 17 consecutive games Friday in Detroit. The Indians will rest some of their infielders in that span, and they figure Valbuena can receive about five starts. At Columbus, he was hitting .321 (.975 OPS). A left-handed hitter, Valbuena was batting .375 vs. righties, .182 vs. lefties. He is supposed to have average range at second base, but a good arm that helps him on the double-play pivot.

10. Mark DeRosa - a real good person to be around - will be at the Wahoo Club meeting at 11 a.m. May 20. The meeting is at Massimo da Milano's, 1400 West 25th St. For details, call 216-999-1781.


1. Until LeBron James arrived in 2003, the Cavs had appeared in the second round of the playoffs three times (1976, 1992 and 1993). That's three times in 33 years. This is the fourth consecutive season that James has led the Cavs to at least the second round. In fact, the Cavs are the only team to make it to the second round in the past four years now that Detroit and San Antonio were eliminated in the first round.

2. Time off between games tends to help veteran players, especially in the postseason when their bodies have been through close to 100 games between preseason, regular season and the playoffs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas produces more with more rest. He played 14 regular-season games with at least two days of rest - averaging 15.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and shooting 49 percent. No doubt, the time off should help Ben Wallace (coming off a broken leg), Wally Szczerbiak (cranky knee) and James (whose body takes a beating).

3. It's not a shock that Wallace took only two shots (making one dunk) in 45 minutes of playoff action. But Szczerbiak (a shooter) was only 1-of-3 from the field in 38 postseason minutes. He does not seem to be looking for his shot. Szczerbiak was active in other areas as he had 10 rebounds in those 38 minutes, and was 6-of-6 at the foul line.

4. Daniel Gibson received 60 minutes in the first round and shot 5-of-16. He had only two assists and one rebound. They will need more from Gibson or Szczerbiak as they move deeper into the playoffs as someone off the bench has to make outside shots.

5. Something else that happens in the playoffs: The longer they last, the more important it is for players to create their own shots when set plays break down. That's why Mo Williams is so critical. He not only can hit open jumpers, he can score off the dribble. He also can set up James and other players for open shots with his ability to drive to the basket. In the James era, the Cavs have not had a guard who can do all that.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 5, 2009

Matt Chatham Name: Matt Chatham
Position: LB
Age: 31
Experience: 9 years
College: South Dakota
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