NFL DRAFT: High anxiety for Browns Print
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Wednesday, 25 April 2007 10:24
NFL Headline News

 CLEVELAND (AP) -The Cleveland Browns have ranked near the bottom in virtually every statistical category the past few years. However, they can usually be found close to the top of one place: the NFL draft board.
It's one of the perks of losing - over and over.
Barring a trade Saturday, the Browns will pick No. 3 in this year's draft. It's a familiar place for the orange helmets.
This will be the fifth time since their 1999 expansion season that the Browns have had one of the first three selections, and the sixth time they've picked in the top six. How's that for consistency?
And, as their woeful recent history has shown, the Browns haven't made the most of being ``on the clock'' early.
- 1999: Quarterback Tim Couch (No. 1). Sacked so much he's out of football.
- 2000: Defensive end Courtney Brown (No. 1). Injury prone. Recently cut by the Denver Broncos.
- 2001: Defensive end Gerard Warren (No. 3). Then-coach Butch Davis passed on running back LaDainian Tomlinson for him. Oops.
- 2004: Tight end Kellen Winslow (No. 6). Immense talent, he'll never reach his potential because of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
- 2005: Wide receiver Braylon Edwards (No. 3). Perhaps the best of the bunch, he was a locker room headache last season.
The track record of blown picks have gnawed at the most die-hard Cleveland fans, a few of whom recently approached general manager Phil Savage at a charity event and warned him that he had better get this one right.
``One of them said if we didn't draft Brady Quinn, they were going to drop their tickets,'' Savage said.
Tough town. Tough pick, too.
Sitting third, the Browns will undoubtedly get a quality player among the top five prospects - Quinn, JaMarcus Russell, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson and Joe Thomas - they are considering. But the question is, will it be the one they REALLY want?
Most draft experts have the Browns taking Quinn, Notre Dame's golden quarterback who was once considered the likely top pick. That was until LSU's Russell capped a sensational season by outplaying Quinn in the Sugar Bowl.
Quinn, who grew up as a Browns fans in Dublin, Ohio, has all the tools to become a star: strong arm, mobility, matinee-idol looks. He's also gotten the stamp of approval from Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis, a longtime NFL assistant who just happens to be close friends with Browns coach Romeo Crennel.
Savage, who has stated he's open to moving down in the first round, has sent out mixed signals about the club's interest in the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Quinn. The biggest knock on him was a 2-8 record in bowl games and against rivals Michigan and Southern California.
Savage, though, thinks the criticism is unfair.
``I went to the USC-Notre Dame game in '05, and if you don't get the Reggie Bush push, maybe that's Brady Quinn's signature moment, beating the Trojans,'' he said.
Before they settle on selecting a QB, the Browns have to decide if they're willing to go through the growing pains that usually come with breaking in a young signal-caller. Truth be told, they don't have time.
With a brutal early schedule next season - they'll play AFC North opponents Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore before Week 4 - the Browns need to win out of the gate or else Crennel could be on a hotter seat than he's already on.
Cleveland hasn't been able to sort out a jumbled mess at quarterback since its '99 return. Couch was replaced by Kelly Holcomb, who was replaced by Jeff Garcia, who was replaced by Trent Dilfer, who was replaced by Charlie Frye.
Another change could drive restless Browns fans over the edge.
``Quarterback is a hot-button issue in this town for sure,'' said Savage, beginning his third season with Cleveland. ``We'll see how it plays out, but I can't worry about what someone else thinks. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out when someone gets on the field.''
Unless the Browns are certain Quinn is ready to move under center immediately, taking him appears to be a huge roll of the dice.
A safer alternative would be Peterson, Oklahoma's electrifying running back who along with Jamal Lewis would give the Browns a 1-2 rushing punch unlike any team in their division. The one chink in Peterson's game has been a tendency to get hurt. He had shoulder, ankle and collarbone injuries in college.
But Savage sounded willing to forget Peterson's past for the possibilities he could bring to Cleveland.
``Every time he touches the ball, he's a home run hitter,'' Savage said. ``He's going to have some runs of zero, one, two and three-yard variety, but the next one might be 55 yards or 75 yards. He's definitely a guy who swings for the fences.''
And in this draft, the Browns need to hit one out of the park.

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