Everyone in Cleveland understands that the Browns have Tennessee safety Eric Berry in their cross-hairs with the seventh pick in the draft.
Berry is the elite defensive playmaker that the team so desperately needs. But “want” and “have” are two different words – so what are GM Tom Heckert and President Mike Holmgren to do if Berry is out of reach?
Texas safety Earl Thomas, Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams, and Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant are all talented alternatives.
But another name to keep in mind is Butkus Award winner Rolando McClain from Alabama. Running back and college teammate Mark Ingram may have won the Heisman, but Alabama won a National Championship because of its stingy defense – and McClain was its ringleader.
Mock draft experts have been relatively quiet on McClain as a Brown, but he certainly fits the Eric Mangini mold as a versatile, intelligent linebacker.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, a long-time NFL assistant, was one of the few college coaches to utilize the 3-4 defense. McClain was the defensive signal caller and playmaker from the middle linebacker slot that made it work.
He has been a starter at Alabama since the moment he walked on campus, and has been an All-SEC performer since his sophomore season. Incredibly instinctive with freak-of-nature athleticism for his size (6’4” – 250 lbs.), McClain is the downhill run-stuffer that the Browns’ defense severely lacks.
It is no secret that the Cleveland Browns have been one of the worst defenses in the league at shutting down the run game for the past ten-plus years. McClain would go a long way in shoring up that deficiency.
This leads us to D’Qwell Jackson, the Browns middle linebacker who is unhappy with the Browns refusal to offer him a long-term contract.
Besides the fact that Jackson missed the last ten games because of injury, the coaching staff is not convinced that he is an ideal fit for their system. At six feet even, Jackson is diminutive by NFL standards for a middle linebacker, and is often caught playing catch with ball-carriers instead of filling the hole with authority.
Jackson piles up tackling statistics, but is often chasing down running backs after 4-7 yard gains. When it comes to his contract situation, Browns management has every reason to reply, “Hey DQ…we went 1-5 with you…and 4-6 without you.”
Jackson and his agent have complained that the past regime promised him a new long-term deal, but this current regime owes him nothing. Neither Mangini nor Holmgren drafted him and it is becoming readily apparent that he is not a good fit.
Even if the Browns do not draft McClain, Jackson is on the trading block. The team has been stock-piling linebackers for the past two offseasons and would love to get a deal done so that they can fill some additional needs.
Note on Jared Odrick:
It has been rumored that the Browns have an interest in Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick for weeks, but that would be an enormous reach with the number seven pick.
Odrick should go as high as number fifteen (N.Y. Giants) to as low as twenty-seven (Dallas), with the chance that the Patriots or Ravens could take him somewhere in between.
He is an intriguing prospect with the size and strength to play on the inside (6’5” – 305 lbs.) and the pass-rushing skills to occasionally move to the outside.
With Sean Rogers' legal issues pending, the Browns have taken a long look at him. But do not expect the team to go that route unless Berry is gone before it is their turn to draft and they can find a suitable partner to trade down with.