While lacking the kind of franchise-changing talent characteristic of previous years, 2012's draft class features some intriguing talent. However the depth of prospects available seems tied to a team's given defensive scheme.
Pass rushing defensive ends and outside linebackers could prove key as the Browns enter the second year of Dick Jauron's 4-3 scheme, a draft priority could be to re-stock the thin depth found at the position.
Unlike most other roster positions, the Browns addressed defensive end by signing veteran Frostee Rucker. However, Rucker is more of a fit for the run-stopping defensive end position traditionally found in Jauron's defenses. With 2011 rookie Jabaal Sheard showing progress against opposing right tackles, the Browns could look to add another pure pass rusher – which can be found this year.
For the second consecutive season, North Carolina will produce a first-round pass rushing defensive end. In 2011, Robert Quinn was selected with the 14th overall pick – a spot that could produce a similar result for Coples. Yet, Coples is a far different player when compared to Quinn. Coples is big (275 lbs.) and relies on both quickness and raw power. In Jauron's scheme, Coples could fill either position – as evidenced by his UNC experience, where he played both end and tackle. It's possible the Browns could be considering Coples in the first round, as evidenced by his Berea visit.
USC's Perry is quick and has played in a pro style scheme, yet appears to be one-dimensional as a pass rusher. Coming out as a Junior, Perry's ceiling is high, but his bust potential is equally strong. Marshall's Curry possesses a similar game, but is probably faster and has displayed a talent for making big plays. Likewise, Clemson's Branch and Syracuse's Jones are tremendous athletes who could become premiere pass rushers in time. Branch was among the Browns' visitors to Berea.
Nebraska's Crick struggled through an injury-plagued Senior season, but could prove to be a 2nd or 3rd round steal. Crick's size and strength makes him the draft's best run-stopping defensive end – an area that the Browns upgraded with Rucker. While seemingly not a primary need for the Browns, Crick did visit Berea in recent weeks.
Depending on the tone of the draft, there could be a second and third round run on defensive ends – making the above players valuable later round picks. In particular, the Browns have shown initial interest in Pitt's Lindsey and Oklahoma State's Blatnick.
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