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News » Instead of tackler, what about tackle for Browns?

Instead of tackler, what about tackle for Browns?

Instead of tackler, what about tackle for Browns?

Indianapolis - Most Browns fans are fixated on a defensive player for the team's selection at No. 5 overall in the draft.

But what about an offensive tackle, a complement on the right side to franchise left tackle Joe Thomas?

At the start of the NFL scouting combine this week, the top four spots in the draft looked like this:

1. Detroit, quarterback Matthew Stafford, Georgia.

2. St. Louis, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, Virginia.

3. Kansas City, linebacker Aaron Curry, Wake Forest.

4. Seattle, receiver Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech.

By Saturday, though, there were questions about No. 1 and No. 4. The Lions, some believe, could opt for Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith instead of the inconsistent Stafford. And the Seahawks might look to another player after it was disclosed Crabtree will miss 10 weeks because of surgery needed to mend a stress fracture in a foot.

In either scenario, the Browns could be in position to select Alabama tackle Andre Smith, who is the biggest of the three best tackles and is generally considered a better prospect on the right side, where his maulish run-blocking could be put to best use.

Smith, 6-4, weighed in at 332 pounds and looked to carry it well. He disputed reports that he ballooned to 380 in a constant battle with his weight.

"No, sir," said the soft-spoken giant. "The highest I've ever been is 345. . . . I never had a problem at the university as far as having a weight issue."

Smith created a stir on Saturday when he went AWOL and had to be located by a "search party." Smith also left a bad impression with coaches and scouts by not participating in workouts because he felt he needed to get in better shape.

The other Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith, is the most agile of the three tackles, having been converted from tight end. Jason Smith might also be the smartest, though Wonderlic test scores are now guarded like government secrets. Smith earned a bachelor's degree in recreational and leisure services in May with a 4.0 grade-point average.

That fact is interesting in light of comments made by Browns General Manager George Kokinis, who was asked what he looks for in offensive linemen.

"The first thing is how smart they are," Kokinis said. "They've got to be smart. There's so much going on in those 3-4 schemes we see in our division, they've got to be able to think on their feet.

"Then, obviously, physical size. You've got to be big in this division. You've got to be able to get some push at the line. And you've got to be physical. We've got some downhill runners in our backfield, and we need some push, and that's what we're going to try to strive for."

Jason Smith, 6-5 and 309 pounds, was very impressive in the media interview room, exuding confidence and wit.

He said he's not out to prove he's the best Smith at the combine, but "the best offensive tackle."

"My greatest strengths are my ability to play fast, physical and with a lot of effort for four quarters," he said.

Both Smiths and Monroe bear watching as the draft process hits the next phase of personal workouts and visits. It's not out of the realm that one of the tackles could grade out higher than a defensive player on the Browns' draft board.

Would Mangini do it again?

Many draftniks still project the Browns to fill their perceived greatest need with a pass-rush outside linebacker at No. 5. The leading candidates include Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo and Florida State defensive end Everette Brown.

A year ago with the Jets, Mangini tried to fill the same need at No. 6 with Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston. Gholston, a workout warrior who zoomed up the draft rankings with stellar post-season workouts, played in 15 games as a Jets rookie and recorded 13 tackles with no sacks.

Mangini said that experience would not make him gun-shy about pulling the trigger on a projection in a 3-4 defense again.

"We did a ton of research on Vernon," he said. "Rookies do develop differently. [Jets offensive tackle] D'Brickashaw [Ferguson's] rookie year versus this past year, it's light-years different. For some guys it takes a year. Some guys it takes two years. You're really hoping you draft that guy, he comes in and makes an immediate impact, but it doesn't always work out that way. Who was it that Houston drafted [Mario Williams]? He was the biggest bust in the NFL that first year, was kind of how it was portrayed."

Mangini predicts a fine career for Gholston.

"What Vernon showed is, he had the stats that he had, but he had great strength . . . his ability to fall off and make plays. I think his play in the running game right now is further ahead of where he is in some of the other areas. But he has the potential to keep growing. I think Vernon has tremendous upside. He's a gifted guy, he works at it, he'll keep working at it. I don't think one year will define his career."

Combine bits: Comparisons between Crabtree and Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald may taper off some after Crabtree measured at 6-1 3/8 - not the 6-3 he was listed by Texas Tech. Fitzgerald is a legitimate 6-3. . . . It was pointed out in NFL Insider last week that Tampa Bay could be an intriguing candidate to pursue Browns quarterback Derek Anderson. At the combine, new Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik said he intends to add a fourth quarterback to join Luke McCown, Brian Griese and Josh Johnson. Dominik said: "We're certainly still looking. We're willing to look at any level - college, a veteran who may be unrestricted, it could be someone we could acquire. We're looking at every level."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: tgrossi@plaind.com, 216-999-4670

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 24, 2009

Calvin Pace Name: Calvin Pace
Position: LB
Age: 27
Experience: 6 years
College: Wake Forest
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