- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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Starting Sunday and running through April 18, "SportsCenter" will put every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock." Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering, starting with the Browns, one of two teams that do not own a pick in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft.
The Browns were a surprise team in 2007, and quarterback Derek Anderson very well could have been the most surprising player in the league. The Dog Pound has to be frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the upcoming season, and many experts will project the Browns to be the new kings of the AFC North. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow are budding superstars, the offensive line is among the very best in the league and the defense should be improved. Anderson did struggle some toward the end of last season, but Cleveland has Brady Quinn in reserve should Anderson have a difficult time repeating his success of a year ago. Cleveland took a very high risk/reward approach this offseason with nearly every player it inked, showing it thinks its time is now. It's an exciting time for the Browns organization, and the season cannot come soon enough.
To say the Browns have been aggressive this offseason would be a big understatement. The team's defensive line was its glaring weakness, and Phil Savage aggressively set out to fix that problem with the trades for Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. The Browns now have not only star power up front, but also plenty of depth, which will be of utmost importance in keeping Rogers fresh and as productive as possible. Rogers can be dominating, or he can go in the tank. How much the Browns' coaching staff gets out of him may be the key to how successful the defense is next season. Williams has the skill set to quickly adapt to the 3-4 scheme and will be an immediate presence as an interior pass rusher, an area where Cleveland was deficient last year.
The Browns also added talented speedster Donte' Stallworth to an already explosive offense. Though he has been inconsistent and has bounced around the league, he can be a difference-maker as a downfield threat and gaining yards after the catch. Center Rex Hadnot was an excellent signing. He brings versatility, aggressiveness and power to the Browns' interior offensive line. Head coach Romeo Crennel's contract was also appropriately extended, giving the Browns much-needed stability.
In order to acquire Rogers, the Browns had to send Leigh Bodden to the Lions. At his best, Bodden ranks among the top dozen or so cornerbacks in the league, but 2007 was a very forgettable campaign for this talented cover man. Without question, though, he will be missed.
Other than Bodden, the Browns did not lose anyone of particular significance. Clearly Cleveland believes that it is a contender; the team did a fantastic job of locking up its own free agents in addition to bringing in a boatload of new talent.
Though the Browns do still have some problems, they will not be able to address their issues through the draft. They don't have a pick until the fourth round because they've surrendered a second-rounder for Williams and a third-rounder, plus Bodden, for Rogers. They could always take a page from last year, when they sent this year's No. 1 for Quinn, but is there a player they like enough in this year's draft?
Their secondary is very young and rather unproven, but talent exists there, and the entire unit will surely be bolstered by better pass-rushing production from the defensive line. Still, the secondary is an area of concern. LB Kamerion Wimbley is an excellent young player, but had a down year last season and there are questions at the other outside linebacker position, where Willie McGinest is well past his prime and Antwan Peek has battled injuries. The additions on the defensive line will lessen the stress on these players, but there is still some concern here. Also, behind Jamal Lewis, the Browns do not have a proven running back.
With all that being said, Cleveland did win 10 games last year and has improved.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.