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Saturday, April 25, 2009
Browns continue major overhaul

By James Walker
ESPN.com

 
  G Fiume/Getty Images
  After trading down three times in the first round, the Browns finally selected Cal center Alex Mack at 21.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

BEREA, Ohio -- The 2009 NFL draft was held in New York City, but the central hub for trades and significant movement Saturday was in northeast Ohio.

The Cleveland Browns were the most active team on the first day of the draft, passing on highly-coveted players such as USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji early, and later Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin and USC linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round.

Flurry of activity
The Cleveland Browns made a league-high three first-round trades Saturday.

Browns trade No. 5 overall pick to the New York Jets for the No. 17 pick, No. 52 pick (second round) and DL Kenyon Coleman, S Abram Elam and QB Brett Ratliff.

Browns trade No. 17 pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No. 19 pick and No. 191 (sixth round).

Browns trade No. 19 pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 21 pick and No. 195 (sixth round).

Browns select Cal center Alex Mack with the No. 21 pick.

Instead, the Browns preferred three additional draft picks, three veterans from the Jets and California center Alex Mack in the first round. The Browns' three trades in the first round were a league-high.

"We bumped back, we bumped back, and we bumped back again," Browns first-year general manager George Kokinis said with a smile Saturday night.

Entering the weekend, it was clear Cleveland didn't covet any particular player at the top of the draft more than adding depth. As a result, the Browns added a total of seven new players Saturday to a team that finished 4-12 last season.

Cleveland turned over 13 percent of its 53-man roster in a single day. That percentage will only increase Sunday with four more draft picks on the way.

But it's one thing to gain additional picks. It's another thing to draft the right players.

For the next several months, expect many questions to linger about Cleveland's first-day selections.

A center was the first pick of the Eric Mangini era. The new Browns coach mimicked his former mentor Bill Belichick by trading down with the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles in a flurry of shrewd moves. But the end result turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic.

Mack is considered by many to be the highest-rated center in this year's draft. He is a solid player by all accounts and very smart. But most projections had him going somewhere between No. 25 and No. 40. Add in all the aforementioned flashy talent Cleveland passed over at other positions, and it certainly opens the team's first pick for debate.

"I like it because I'm on the team now, [so] I think it was a good move," Mack said Saturday. "Hopefully we get another great class, because we can do a good job and get to work."

"With Alex, he's an outstanding player, he's an outstanding person and he should be a good player for a long time," Mangini added.

The remainder of the picks included second-rounders Brian Robiskie of Ohio State (No. 36), Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (No. 50) and defensive end David Veikune of Hawaii (No. 52).

Similar to Mack, Robiskie also could be considered a reach early in the second round. But he does fill a major need at receiver, as does Massaquoi, who was a top target for quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford at Georgia. Following the release of veteran receiver Joe Jurevicius and the pending legal trouble with Donte' Stallworth, it's apparent Cleveland was concerned with its receiver depth.

"I'm anxious to get up there with Robiskie and the other guys up there," Massaquoi said. "I just want to go out there and put together some wins."

Veikune is listed as 6-2, 252 pounds and has potential to play the hybrid defensive end/linebacker role in the Browns' 3-4 defense. He was the first defender drafted this year for a Browns unit that struggled last season and finished 26th in the NFL.

At least on paper, the 2009 Browns will look nothing like the 2008 Browns.

Cleveland's roster has been dramatically altered from last year's 4-12 team via free-agent signings, the draft and multiple trades. But whether the Browns' win total also changes significantly next season depends a lot
on the production of these four first-day draft picks.