What I'm about to say may be considered sacrilegious, at least to myself - as well as to legions of other Browns fans still feeling the sting of the Braylon Edwards era, and although I've already gone on the record - albeit in a very tentative manner - by endorsing Florida's Joe Haden as our top draft pick in this coming April's draft, and despite the obvious needs at several other positions around the team, including linebacker, safety, right guard, right tackle and cornerback, I have to admit something:I really like Dez Bryant.Let me say that again - I really like Dez Bryant.And why would a self-professed critic of any NFL franchise, let alone an eternally rebuilding one like the Browns, endorse the selection of a wide receiver in the first round of the draft - perenially one of the biggest personnel risks - when needs at other positions are so glaringly obvious?One simple reason - Bryant is a beast. Actually, two - do the Browns currently have anything remotely comparable to Bryant among the current roster? Or, how about even someone in the same galaxy, at least in terms of raw talent?
Entering 2010, the Browns currently feature Mohammed Massaquoi, who definitely has some NFL potential, but is flanked by the underwhelming Chanci Stuckey and a great unknown in Brian Robiskie. Outside of this almost anonymous trio, the rest of the position features roster filler. Of course, the situation at wide receiver has helped to establish a new narrative regarding Brady Quinn's play in 2009. Simply put, some would believe that the talent surrounding Quinn essentially derailed his progress as an NFL quarterback. And while there certainly are some threads of truth held in this belief, it is also worth noting that Quinn is a terribly inaccurate passer. I'm just saying...Anyway, as for the case of Dez Bryant at Number Seven in April's draft, perhaps the debate has to shift towards first establishing the team's greatest need, then weighing the potential impact a rookie may have in alleviating the weakness.In the Browns' case, let's compare the merits of Haden versus Bryant. In most respects, Haden will probably not ascend to the mythical heights of the "shutdown" corner; however, he could certainly bring a dramatic upgrade to a position that currently features Eric Wright as a misplaced number one cover man. Or, in other words, if Wright does not have to continually draw assignments against opponents' top wideouts, his natural ballhawking instincts could finally florish. Of course, once again - it's imperative to point out that Wright would "not have to continually draw assignments against opponents' top wideouts", which would be a much welcome change for the defense going forward.As for Bryant, perhaps the case of Mohammed Massaquoi against the Bengals in October's marathon loss - still the most entertaining non-win of last season - is worth revisiting. Because the Bengals focused their coverages solely on Braylon Edwards, Massaquoi was able to consistently beat man coverage and dominated the game at times.Could you imagine a similar scenario with a Bryant-Massaquoi tandem?More than likely - if not in 2010, perhaps further down the road...which brings me to The Rules, Numbers One through Three regarding the draft:1. Don't draft a wide receiver early unless you're prepared to wait a few years for a return. 2. Don't draft a wide receiver early unless you already have an established quarterback in place.3. Don't draft a wide receiver early, especially with the seventh overall pick.So, according to my rationale, Dez Bryant should not and will not become a Cleveland Brown. However, if last weekend's Super Bowl taught us anything - besides the fact that the NFL is a quarterback driven league, it is that this is a golden era for receivers with size and great hands.In Bryant's case, he possesses both. While not as physical as a Marques Colston, or as "polished" - at least for a young wideout in Pierre Garcon's case - Bryant could finally offer the Browns the type of consistency lacking at the wideout position since the days of...Jesus, Webster Slaughter?Already, comparisons have been made between Bryant and Chad Ochocinco. While Ochocinco is not the type of physical specimen that is appealing in a first-round wide receiver talent, Bryant does possess a similar unique sense of balance and natural separation that often goes unmeasured in the run-up to the draft. Of course, another idea to consider regarding Bryant is the shape of the Browns' offense under the front-office direction of Mike Holmgren. Of course, while this represents a total contradiction, considering that Eric Mangini is still a vital member of the franchise, you have to at least examine the possibility that the Browns' passing offense will undergo a complete revamping heading into 2010.Having said that, could Bryant be the guy?In terms of Mangini's penchant for building a character-driven roster, the easy answer would be no. Certainly, Bryant will not enter the league without his share of baggage. Much was said regarding Bryant's illicit dealings with the NFL's version of Worldwide Wes, the NFL Network's Deion Sanders. However, it's fairly transparent that Bryant was basically caught in a bad spot - in a situation that was more evident of the NCAA's continued charade of casting semi-pro athletes as active scholars.In terms of character flaws, Bryant's was more evident of panic than any kind of lingering demon that could ultimately affect his professional career. In fact, the only real concern regarding Bryant's situation is the idea of rust building up on a still developing player. Sitting out an entire year of college football is indeed a concern. Perhaps the concern is not one of USC's Mike Williams proportions, but is still present.In the end, the Browns will likely enter and exit April's draft with one of the league's weakest receiving corps. Because there is such an inherent risk in investing a top pick in a wideout, it's beyond rational and probable that the Browns look elsewhere in Round One.And rightfully so.Much like any type of man-crush, or fan-crush - if you will - on a draft prospect, these types of lust often flame out in time. How appropriate is that given the spirit of today?Anyway, much like the Browns are hopefully planning for several different options with the seventh pick, Bryant's draft stock will rise and fall in the coming weeks. While it's not very likely that Bryant will fall out of the first twenty picks of the draft, his selection is still worthy of entry into the debate.At least for now. Until I start really looking at Rolando McClain.