Riddle me this - what does a defender who features the height of a stubby center, weight of an undersized defensive tackle, unpolished tackling skills of say an Andra Davis and virtually no experience playing in anything other than a three point stance have to do with the Browns and the upcoming NFL Draft?If we're referring to Michigan's Brandon Graham, the answer could be "simply everything."
Or, in other words - Graham could be the 3-4 outside linebacker - the kind that possesses freakish athleticism and is well-versed in a variety of pass rushing moves - that the Browns have been searching for since the arrival of the most understaffed defensive scheme in the league way back in 2005.
Which of course means that if this indeed were 2005 or even 2006, Graham would make perfect sense as a cornerstone of the Browns' defense.
However, in 2010 - can we make a similar claim?
As I've stated before, and again, and once more, the Browns' needs heading into April's draft are numerous. The Browns have holes - plural - on the roster that need immediate attention - yet it's hard to determine which is the most pressing.
Which explains why Joe Haden is the best option for the Browns at Number Seven. Or, Rolando McClain. But then there's Dez Bryant...or Eric Berry, Trent Williams, Russell Okung, and several others.
In fact, if you consider the above names as legitimate options, then the selection of Graham at Number Seven could be almost considered a "luxury" pick for the Browns. After all, 2009 was a season of rediscovery for Kamerion Wimbley, and 2010 looks to return some veteran gap-fillers such as Matt Roth and David Bowens.
Having said that, it would appear that perhaps Graham would be a bit of a stretch at Number Seven. In fact, it's a remote possibility that the Michigan alum could fall into the second round. But then again, have you seen this guy play?
In terms of NFL comparisons - which are so easy to dream up, but rarely translate to reality - Graham is the new version of Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley. While this comparison is not ideal, it is worth noting that both players were terrific college pass rushers, have similar builds, play a physical, if not nasty style and of course are each from Michigan.
And regardless of your college and pro allegiances, there's not one of you out there who would not want LaMarr Woodley on our current roster. Or, a guy who could be LaMarr Woodley.
However, here's where these simple comparisons get blurred.
While it would be an incredible stroke of success to grab a player like Graham - at least based on the pedigree that shapes these comparisons - it is his unknown potential that is dangerously intriguing.
Consider that although Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert are now firmly in charge of our franchise's ultimate destiny, Eric Mangini is still a prominent voice in the organization. As such, could you imagine the appeal that a player such as Graham would have in Cleveland?
Beyond his natural pass rushing ability, Graham's size could enable the kind of flexibility that became a hallmark of the Browns' December defenses - not to mention a staple of the Belichick coaching tree, of which Mangini fell from some years ago. Basically, Graham could potentially play three, if not four different positions along the defense. His experience makes him a natural passing down rush end, or evena Nickel-package inside tackle, while with a patient coaching approach, he could become a viable inside or outside linebacker in the Browns' system.
How's this for another comparison? Could Graham be a younger and far superior athletic version of David Bowens?
This time last year - did you ever dream that such a statement could be taken seriously?
There is no question that Bowens was the Browns' defensive MVP in 2009, as he became the gel that kept the team afloat heading into the season's second half. Bowens played a variety of roles for a shorthanded defense, including manning all linebacker spots. And while Bowens' contributions were nothing short of sensational - at least considering the circumstances of this past season - it's worth noting that he is entering the twilight of his career.
Such a cruel fate can only be found in Cleveland - along with others....
...Including this one - if Graham is indeed the answer in Cleveland, the age-old question again has to be asked:
How long will it take for a college defensive end to flourish as a linebacker in Cleveland?
Or, how about this old favorite - haven't we been down this road?
In some respects, Kamerion Wimbley has spent the past four seasons trying to make the transition from college end to NFL linebacker, with mixed results. Although Wimbley's 2009 performance helped to shed his prior "bust" label, his potential as a dominant NFL player is far from realized. And in terms of realizations, how about the mere glimpse that represents David Veikune's career?
Veikune may just be the only NFL player alive who is envious of Brian Robiskie's success.
All of this talk circles back to a most inconvenient truth regarding the draft. Simply put, projecting a college defensive end into a 3-4 contributor is one of the biggest April gambles to be found. Or, in other words, it is very hard to find the next DeMarcus Ware, or even a slightly better version of Kamerion Wimbley.
Although last year's draft did produce some quality players in the form of Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo and Larry English, the gamble is one that the Browns should probably avoid.
For a team that needs an instant impact on the defense, adding another project player is probably not the most sound of moves.
Especially not at Number Seven overall.
But then again, didn't LaMarr Woodley go in the second round?
I'm just saying...