The Cleveland Browns recently made a quality trade to land veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles. The deal plugged a major hole for Cleveland at cornerback, which was once a primary target to fill in this month's NFL draft.
Now the Browns have tremendous flexibility with their No. 7 overall pick. It's no longer predictable that Cleveland will get secondary help -- either at cornerback or safety -- in the first round. That makes the Browns somewhat of a mystery in the top 10, which new team president Mike Holmgren probably prefers.
So with the draft approximately two weeks away, the AFC North blog went back to the drawing board to break down Cleveland's new-found options on draft day.
Option No. 1: Draft Tennessee safety Eric Berry
Analysis: This was the best choice before the Philadelphia trade, and it remains the best choice after the Philadelphia trade. Last week it was debatable whether cornerback or safety was Cleveland's biggest need defensively. Berry and Florida cornerback Joe Haden were the two highest-rated players at their respective positions. Therefore, it was natural that Cleveland had both players on its radar. But acquiring Brown to be the team's top cornerback scratches Haden off the list with the No. 7 overall pick. Eric Wright should be a solid No. 2 cornerback while Brandon McDonald gets removed from the starting lineup. But a large void remains at safety, where the team lacks a playmaker. Berry's athleticism and big-play ability are exactly what the Browns need to run defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's aggressive 3-4 scheme. The question is, will someone ahead of Cleveland take Berry off the board first?
Option No. 2: Trade the pick
Analysis: If Berry goes off the board early, presumably to a team like the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 5, then it becomes very interesting for the Browns. Things will get murky, because several players rated in the top 10 are at positions Cleveland doesn't need, such as left tackle. That is why a trade in the first round is possible for Cleveland, and it can happen both ways. The Browns, with 10 total picks, could try to move up a few spots into the top five in an attempt to select Berry. Or they could move back to get additional picks while landing a player they still covet. The big difference is Cleveland wouldn't have to pay its first-rounder the type of money that comes with being the No. 7 pick, where the contract is expected to be in the range of $40 million this year.
Option No. 3: Draft Texas safety Earl Thomas
Analysis: If the Browns can't get Berry, using the pick to draft Thomas could be the next best thing. The dynamic safety from Texas is very comparable to Berry in a lot of ways -- including athleticism and football instincts. In fact, Mike Mayock of the NFL Network has Thomas rated higher than Berry, although that's not the general consensus. Added size is probably the biggest thing that separates the two, and one of the primary reasons the bigger Berry has the slight edge over Thomas on most draft boards. But if Berry is no longer available at No. 7, and the Browns still want to add that much-needed playmaker in the secondary, Thomas could be their guy.
Option No. 4: Draft Clemson RB C.J. Spiller
Analysis: Is Jerome Harrison a feature tailback in the NFL? That's the question the Browns have to ask themselves going into the 2010 season. Harrison showed tremendous flashes last year, leading Cleveland with 862 rushing yards in only seven starts. But the smallish Harrison has never started a full season, and it's unknown if he can take the constant pounding of 25 carries per game for 16 straight games. Spiller is a dynamic running back who could be a game-breaker, which the Browns lack on offense. Running back certainly isn't Cleveland's biggest need. But if Spiller is the best tailback in the draft and the top player on the Browns' draft board, should they pass him up?
Option No. 5: Draft Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
Analysis: With Sunday's blockbuster deal that sent quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins, who own the No. 4 pick, Clausen may be there for the taking at No. 7. But based on recent comments from Cleveland, this move doesn't seem likely. Holmgren has said publicly that he's not as high on Clausen as other teams. Clausen is probably the most polarizing player in the first round because NFL scouts and executives are either very hot or very cold on the Notre Dame quarterback. Holmgren also said he doesn't intend to draft a quarterback in the first round after committing $7 million to veteran starter Jake Delhomme. The Browns were a five-win team in 2009 and need their first-round pick to make an immediate impact. Clausen couldn't provide that holding a clipboard next season. So unless Holmgren is putting out a major smokescreen, Clausen to the Browns would be a significant upset at No. 7.