Scouts Inc.: Browns need help at wideout

April, 3, 2009
4/03/09
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Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson

Donte' Stallworth has gotten himself into a world of trouble and his availability for the 2009 season is very much in jeopardy. Let's examine the Browns' group of pass-catchers and what value Stallworth has to the group.

 
  George Gojkovich/Getty Images
  Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth caught just 17 passes for 170 yards last season.

Despite making a very minimal impact in his one season with the Browns, Stallworth, a former first-round pick, does have some redeeming qualities. At times throughout his career -- mostly with New Orleans -- he has proved to be a dynamic downfield player who possesses top-notch speed. He is a quick-twitch athlete who can make the first tackler miss and take a short pass a long way.

However, Stallworth's inconsistencies are overwhelming. Although he's physically gifted, he doesn't appear to take his craft very seriously, as he hasn't progressed as a route runner or with the nuances of the position. He can struggle to get off jams from physical corners. His toughness is in question as a blocker and as an over-the-middle target. He too often misses time with injuries, as he was sidelined for five games last season.

On the surface, it appears as though Stallworth could flourish next to star players like Randy Moss and Wes Welker, with whom he played alongside of in 2007. Although that experiment was not a total disaster, Stallworth's role in the Patriots' offense dwindled as the season went along. He tends to wear out his welcome. Yet, Cleveland signed him for a similar role alongside its then-talented group of pass-catchers.

Stallworth switched teams in four straight offseasons, which might tell you all you need to know about this player. To say that his free-agent signing didn't live up to the hype after his paltry 17-catch season in 2008 would be a gross understatement.

As if Cleveland didn't have an enough problems carrying over from a year ago, its once-dynamic group of receiving options is now heavily depleted. Tight end Kellen Winslow is more wide receiver than inline tight end and his trade to Tampa Bay subtracted a sometimes top-flight weapon from the Browns' passing attack.

Braylon Edwards is coming off a down season and obviously drops far too many passes, but he is still one of the few players at his position who is a true No. 1 wideout. However, he enters his final season under contract and wants out of Cleveland. The Browns may just grant him his wish and ship their only true playmaker out. Obviously, this would make a poor group even worse -- with or without Stallworth in the fold -- and Jamal Lewis should expect to see plenty of stacked boxes in 2009.

Josh Cribbs is an excellent all-around player, but counting on him to make monumental leaps with his pure wide receiver ability is probably asking too much. Offseason pickup David Patten should be able to contribute as a spot player, preferably out of the slot, but he surely is not someone who Cleveland opponents will feel the need to game plan around.

The rest of the current wideout corps is underwhelming on a good day, and the Browns are going to have some uncertainty with the man responsible for distributing the football as well. Stallworth has shown time and time again that he isn't a No. 1 wideout. At his best, he was a worthy No. 2, but after last season's performance, I would struggle with him in my top three. If I were in charge of this organization, Michael Crabtree would be sitting at the very top of the draft board.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. 

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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