With the 150th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Browns selected offensive lineman Jason Pinkston out of the University of Pittsburgh. The Browns sent both of their sixth round picks, Nos. 168 and 170, to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the 150th pick in 2011.
Pinkston not only went to Pittsburgh, but also grew up in the Steel City. However, now that he was drafted by the Browns, his allegiance to the Steelers, an AFC North rival, will not be a problem.
“I’ll be there,” Pinkston said of Cleveland. “I can’t wait to get there. I grew up a Steelers fan, watching them all my life, but it’s on to the business now and I’m a Cleveland Brown.”
As to what he will do with his Steelers gear, Pinkston had a matter-of-fact response.
“I’m going to donate it to the Goodwill,” he said.
During his career, Pinkston started the majority of his games at left tackle along the offensive line. He earned first team All-Big East honors as selected by the league coaches and second team All-American recognition from both SI.com and Rivals.com in 2009.
Last fall, Pinkston led the way for the Panthers to rush for 165.7 yards-per-game. The offensive line surrendered just 23 sacks for 176 lost yards.
“I’m a hard worker,” he said. “I love football; it’s my life. I love running the football; I love drive-blocking people. Whatever I can do to help the team win, I’m going to do it.”
Pinkston is the second player the Browns have taken out of Pittsburgh this year. In the second round, they selected defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard. The two players lined up against each other every day in practice.
“I did block Jabaal sometimes and we did have some pretty good battles,” said Pinkston. “He’s a great player and I can’t wait to just keep working with him and try and get situated on another team with Jabaal.”
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The Browns added 5-foot-10, 185-pound defensive back Buster Skrine to their secondary with the 137th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Skrine started 30 of 42 career games and was a two-time first team All-Southern Conference selection for the Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs. Despite dislocating his elbow on a kick return against Appalachian State University, he finished his senior season with 39 tackles, 29 solo stops and posted a team-leading six tackles against the Auburn Tigers.
“Even though I’m undersized, I’m a tough corner,” Skrine said on a conference call with the Cleveland media. “I play bigger than my height; I cover well and I’m coachable, which helps me a lot. I just play bigger than what I am. The size thing really doesn’t get to me. I see myself as a player, just like any other player on the field. I go out there, play my game and try to play better than everyone else out there.
“I definitely want to contribute in the return game, both punt return and kick return and defense, of course,” he continued. “I’m definitely going to be able to run with taller receivers and I can jump. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”
Skrine was elected captain as a senior and had five interceptions in his career, one of which he returned 46 yards for a touchdown. According to his roster page on Chattanooga’s athletics website, Skrine clocked a 4.22-second time in the 40-yard dash, 360 pounds on the bench press and had a 35-inch vertical leap.
Though he has a lot of speed and experience on the track team, Skrine is fully committed to the game of football.
“Actually, I ran a 4.22 and that summer, I was running 4.22s all summer,” Skrine said. “I thought I was going to run a 4.2 when I came to the Combine, but they had a 4.37. I bench pressed 360 when we maxed at school. The last time I max bench pressed was right before I left school and I got 360.
“I’ve always been a football player, so football’s always been my No. 1 goal,” he added. “In college, I ran on the 4×100-meter team and was the anchor.”
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With their second of two fourth round picks in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Browns selected Owen Marecic out of Stanford University. Marecic gave the Cardinal some versatility, seeing time as a fullback and linebacker.
Marecic has been a two-way player since his days at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon. He was a first team all-state honoree and the Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’ve been training as a fullback,” he said. “I always try to train to be a football player, but fullback may be the place I fit at home best. I’m very, very excited to be a Cleveland Brown.
“It was the coach’s idea,” added Marecic. “That kind of came around my junior year. We were pretty thin at linebacker after a couple injuries about halfway through the season. I started to try to learn the defense and played here and there. We switched defensive coordinators for my senior season and I spent all spring ball learning the new system.”
During his days at Stanford, Marecic caught 25 passes, including an eight-reception, 132-yard, one-touchdown season in 2009. He is looking forward to playing in the Browns’ West Coast offense and facing all of the AFC North Division opponents.
“After talking with the coach briefly, he said it would be a great fit with the West Coast offense,” said Marecic. “I was part of a similar offense through four years in college, so I think it can be a great fit. I think the schemes and systems are very similar to what I’ve been used to running. Hopefully, it won’t be too much of a shock to learn a new system.
“There are such great players that have been playing for a long time and I’m going to do my best, everything I have to do to get ready for it and help out the team,” he added.
In his career, the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Marecic rushed 36 times for 67 yards and nine touchdowns. Last fall, Marecic finished with 46 yards and five touchdowns on 23 rushing attempts.
Marecic gained national attention with his play in a 37-14 win at the University of Notre Dame on September 25, 2010. With the Cardinal up 19-6 over the Fighting Irish in the fourth quarter, Marecic scored on a one-yard touchdown run. Thirteen seconds later, Marecic intercepted a pass from Dane Crist and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a great, great game, very fun and it was awesome to get a win over at Notre Dame,” he said. “I hadn’t done that in my time. It was good to be a part of a team that could do that.
“For those plays, it’s more of a testament to the team than myself,” he added. “Stepfan Taylor took the ball like 40, 60 yards, hard-rushing down there. He got the ball to the one-inch line and I just had to get it in from there. It was great to be part of a couple plays that clinched the game in our favor. It was a typical display of what a team has to do in order to win a ballgame.”
In his Pop Warner Football days, Marecic was coached former Browns linebacker Clay Matthews. He knows the Matthews family, particularly Oregon linebacker and Philadelphia Eagles fourth round pick Casey Matthews, well and is familiar with the tradition of the Browns.
“We still keep in touch,” he said. “It’s been fun, this process through the Combine. We kept running into each other and it’s fun.
“I know Clay is very, very proud to be part of the Cleveland Browns family,” added Marecic. “They’re huge football fans and growing up, the tradition was always evident. Hearing about the team, I’m very excited to join that whole tradition.”
WHY HE PLAYS
Football is a sport that can be physically and mentally taxing, especially at the fullback and linebacker positions. However, success after working hard is what Marecic enjoys about the game.
“In order to be successful, the entire team has to come together to reach a greater goal and that’s always been an attractive part of the game to me,” he said. “The feeling of winning, coming off the field victorious with your teammates is second to none. It’s just a big rush. You learn a lot about yourself and the people around you. It’s been a great experience for me, playing the game.”
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The Browns selected former University of Southern California tight end Jordan Cameron with the 102nd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It was the first of six selections for the Browns on day three.
In two years at USC, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Cameron caught 16 passes with one touchdown and gained 126 yards.
“I’m excited to embrace this process as a tight end and get really into football,” said Cameron, the 17th USC player and second Trojans tight end ever drafted by the Browns. “I can create some mismatches with my athletic ability and stretch the field a little bit.
“I feel like I’m a tip of the iceberg guy,” he added. “I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m willing to do so and I’m excited about my future in this league. I could add some weight. I’ve got a skinny frame and could get up to 260 and still be able to move pretty well.”
Cameron started his collegiate career at Brigham Young University and redshirted as a forward on the basketball team. He later transferred to Ventura (Calif.) Junior College and earned All-Western State Conference Pacific Division honorable mention accolades after catching 22 passes for 348 yards and five touchdowns. With Cameron on the team in 2007, Ventura compiled an 8-3 record, won the Pacific Division and later, the Southern California Bowl.
“At that time, I was a smaller guy and didn’t weigh too much; I was a late bloomer,” he said. “I didn’t have too many looks in football at all. I was playing basketball and there were some offers on the table. When I had the opportunity to play for SC, I took advantage of that.”
Though he played both basketball and football, Cameron was not looking at a career in the National Basketball Association. Cameron showed his athleticism in a YouTube video where he put on a slam dunk display with an assist from Los Angeles Clippers star forward Blake Griffin.
“It really wasn’t my dream to play in the NBA,” said Cameron. “I always loved playing football as a kid. I wanted to play both in college and it worked out that basketball was there for me at that time.
“They definitely translate,” he added. “It’s a sport where, at the tight end position, they select these hybrid basketball guys. It’s moving in space and in basketball, you do a lot of that. You’re in space, you have body control jumping for balls and lateral movement. I think the sport definitely transitions well into football.”
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DEFENSIVE LINEMAN JABAAL SHEARD
With the selections of Phil Taylor (21st overall) and Jabaal Sheard (37th overall), it marks the first time in franchise history that each of the Browns’ top two draft choices have been defensive linemen.
Sheard is the 13th player drafted by the Browns from the University of Pittsburgh. The last Panther selected by the Browns was punter Brian Greenfield in the 10th round (252nd overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft.
He now joins Dave Puzzuoli (1983 – sixth round – 149th overall) as the only defensive linemen drafted by the Browns from the University of Pittsburgh.
Sheard is the first Browns player drafted with the 37th overall pick since the inception of the common draft in 1967.
He is the first defensive lineman selected by the Browns in the second round since Dan Footman was taken with the 42nd selection of the 1993 NFL Draft.
WIDE RECEIVER GREG LITTLE
Greg Little is the third player selected by the Browns with the 59th overall pick since the inception of the common draft in 1967. The previous two were: RB Montario Hardesty (2009 ) and DB Sean Jones (2004).
Little is the ninth player from the University of North Carolina drafted by the Browns and first since defensive lineman Elijah Austin was selected in the 12th round (308th overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft.
Little’s second round selection is the highest of any of the nine players taken from the University of North Carolina. The previous high was offensive lineman Irving Holdash, who was drafted in the seventh round of the 1951 NFL Draft.
Browns tight ends coach Steve Hagen held the same position at North Carolina during the 2007-08 seasons, while Little was a freshman and sophomore.
The Browns have drafted at least one wide receiver in the past seven drafts dating back to 2005.
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After adding to their defensive line, the Browns went with an offensive player when they drafted North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little with the No. 59 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Little missed the 2010 season, his senior year, after being suspended for accepting improper benefits from an agent. He was one of several Tar Heel players that missed time last fall.
“It was really tough for me, man,” Little said in a conference call with the Cleveland media. “I learned a tremendous amount about how to deal with success and just being able to deal with such an adverse time, I think I’ve grown from it. A lot of my morals and values have changed so much just from sitting out that year. I’m just so hungry to get back and play.
“I’m happy to be there,” he added about joining the Browns. “There were so many people via Twitter pulling for me to come to the Browns and it’s just really exciting to kind of fulfill that. Just being able to become a part of the Cleveland Browns nation, I’m just really excited to be a part of them.”
During his career, Little switched from running back to wide receiver. Despite playing multiple positions, he finished his college career with 86 receptions for 969 yards and six touchdowns. Little, who played in an offense system in college similar to a West Coast scheme, brings a 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame to the Browns offense.
He has been described as a player who looks for contact after making a catch.
“I think I developed a lot of that from being a running back early in my career and being a physical, downhill runner,” said Little. “Getting north and south after catching the ball is really where I got it from. Now, I’m just trying to develop into a complete wide receiver.
“I come from the West Coast offense; it’s the same terminology, the same verbiage, the exact same calls, everything,” he added. “I think it’s going to be such a smooth transition. When I met with the Cleveland Browns, I knew their terminology already. I think that’s one of the things I’m really excited about as well.”
Little’s selection marked the second straight season in which the Browns drafted an offensive player with the 59th pick. Also via a trade, the Browns took running back Montario Hardesty in 2010.
The Browns obtained the second of their second round picks through a day one trade with the Atlanta Falcons. In exchange for the No. 6 overall pick in the first round, the Browns received the Falcons’ first (No. 27), second (No. 59) and fourth (No. 124) round picks in 2011. They also gained the Falcons’ first and fourth round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
It is the second consecutive year in which the Browns made two second round picks. This season, it was Little and defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard. In 2010, it was safety T.J. Ward and Hardesty.
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The Cleveland Browns selected former Pittsburgh defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard with the 37th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Sheard registered 52 tackles, including 34 solo stops in 2010. He had nine sacks as a senior, after posting back-to-back five-sack seasons during his sophomore and junior years at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I think I’m an aggressive player,” he said. “I know you guys are familiar with James Harrison from the Steelers. I watched him play a lot and I think I’m aggressive. I know how to get to the quarterback and I’m a hard worker. I’m going to get the job done.
“I had no idea,” Sheard added about being picked by the Browns. “I hadn’t talked to them since the Combine. I think they came to my Pro Day and I just had no idea it was going to happen. I heard rumors. It’s right up the street from Pittsburgh where I went to college, so I think it’s great. It’s awesome.”
A native of Hollywood, Florida, Sheard had three multi-sack games in his final collegiate season, including two each against Miami (FL), at Notre Dame and in a 20-3 win against the Louisville Cardinals.
Moving from the college level to the National Football League can be a difficult task, but Sheard is no stranger to a challenge. He was awarded a bravery medal when he helped an elderly woman escape from a burning building back in Florida.
“I grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood and the house was smoking and the fire alarm was going off,” he said. “Nobody reacted; everybody just kind of watched it. I was about 11 at the time and me and a couple of my friends were on bikes around the neighborhood.
“We ran over and tried to break in; then, we ran and called the police,” Sheard added. “We came back and just as we broke in, the fire truck arrived, so they came in and got us out the way. There was an elderly woman that had slipped and was unconscious. We did it just in time because it could have been worse than what it was.”
With the selections of Sheard and Phil Taylor, the Browns have drafted defensive players in back-to-back rounds for the second consecutive year. In 2010, the team selected cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward with their first and second round picks, respectively.
“I got to meet him down at the Combine; that’s a cool guy,” Sheard said of Taylor. “I think it’s great. I’d love for him to be in the middle. I know they’re going to have to double-team him and give me a little freedom on the edge. It’ll be a great package.”
The pick was announced by Browns Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield. Warfield, the team’s first round pick in the 1964 NFL Draft, spent eight seasons with the Browns (1964-69 and 1976-77). He was on the receiving end of 52 touchdowns and gained 5,210 yards. Warfield earned enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
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After several flight delays in getting to town, Browns first round pick Phil Taylor was introduced to the Cleveland media on Friday afternoon inside the Dino Lucarelli Media Room at the team’s Berea headquarters.
Taylor, one of four defensive tackles along with Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley and Muhammad Wilkerson taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, was presented with his No. 1 jersey by Browns Coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert.
“I just know that it’s an up-and-coming team,” Taylor said about the Browns. “I look forward to being out there. It’s a young defense and I look forward to being out there making plays with the young guys out there. I just want to get out there as soon as we can.
“When I came here on my visit, it felt like home,” he added. “In my mind, I wanted to be a Brown. When they called, it was like a dream come true.”
Taylor registered 107 total tackles, 16 tackles for 57 lost yards, 5.5 sacks and one interception in his collegiate career. He blocked a field goal against the University of Connecticut and an extra point against Kent State in 2009.
“He wants me to be a great athlete, get out there and do what I’ve got to do,” Taylor said of Shurmur. “He’s a great coach and I look forward to being coached by him.”
Taylor, who was part of history as his college teammate Danny Watkins became the first pair of Baylor Bears ever taken in the same first round, was the third defensive lineman drafted by the Browns in the first round. He was the first defensive lineman taken in the first round by the Browns since 2001, when they drafted Gerard Warren out of the University of Florida at No. 3 overall. Doug Atkins (Tennessee) was taken in the first round of the 1953 NFL Draft.
Taylor may have endeared himself to Browns fans by answering questions about facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, specifically quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his motivation to play in the National Football League.
“I know how much the Cleveland fans hate Pittsburgh and I look forward to the match-up, just going against him,” said Taylor. “He’s a great quarterback, but when I’m playing against him, he’s going to go down.
“I want to win and get to a Super Bowl,” he added. “I love to win and hate to lose. I’m going to come in here, ready to work and do what I’ve got to do to play.”
When he takes the field for the Browns, Taylor will see a former opponent in the Browns secondary. While at Gwynn Park High School, he competed against the team’s top draft pick from 2010, cornerback and Pro Bowl alternate Joe Haden.
Haden played prep football at Friendly High School back in Maryland.
“We played at rival high schools,” Taylor recalled. “I never lost to Friendly High School.
“I know Joe on a personal basis,” he added. “We’re real excited. I’m ready to get to work and he’s ready to get to work as well.”
DEALING WITH THE PAST
Prior to the transfer to Baylor, Taylor was at Penn State University. Off-the-field incidents in 2007 and 2008 led to his dismissal from the team. However, Taylor left those problems in Happy Valley and took a new attitude down to Texas.
“It was just a learning experience; everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “I was young and just moved on from it. I’m blessed to be in this situation right now. Baylor was just the best move for me and I’m glad I made that move.
“You can only get better learning from the things you did in the past,” added Taylor. “I learned from that and I just moved on. It made me better today.”
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The Browns’ Director of College Scouting, John Spytek, stepped outside of the team’s war room and joined Jamir Howerton of the Browns Radio Network to discuss first round draft pick, defensive lineman Phil Taylor, on Friday afternoon.
Taylor played at Penn State University before transferring to Baylor University. He registered 107 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and one interception combined between both schools.
“The way he moves, he’s a violent guy inside and that’s a good thing to have in a d-tackle,” said Spytek. “He uses his hands well and he beats people up. The thing that pushed him over the top was, this was a big man playing in Texas in a lot of heat and he played 75 snaps a game. He plays hard and there’s times where he’s tired and you know he’s tired, but he’s still playing hard. That’s a good thing to have because I think he’s a fighter in there and we want those guys.
“He was a little bit of an under-the-radar guy coming into the season,” he added. “Our first scout, John Stigall, who does the Southwest for us and does a great job, he went in there, alerted me to him and said, ‘This kid’s lost some weight from last year. He’s playing a lot better. The coaches are excited about him.’ We sent Bob Welton in there and it was the same report. Then, Pat Roberts went in there. By the end of it, we thought there was a really good player down there at Baylor. He’s a good player, there’s no doubt and we’re happy he’s here.”
While at Baylor, Taylor started at both the strong-side defensive tackle and nose guard positions. In 2010, he earned second-team All-Big 12 Conference honors and attracted the attention of scouts with a performance in the team’s 53-24 loss to Oklahoma in the regular season finale.
“The Oklahoma game was impressive and it’s kind of funny to say because they were getting killed,” said Spytek. “It was the end of the game and a lot of the starters had left Baylor’s defense and a lot of the back-ups for Oklahoma’s offense were in, but Phil was still out there. He was still chasing the football and playing hard. They were down and the kid was still out there competing. We asked him about it and he said, ‘If I’m out on the field, I’m going to play hard.’ That’s admirable and shows a competitive spirit and a guy who’s prideful in what he’s doing. That excited us about him.”
Before the Browns drafted Taylor, they traded with the Atlanta Falcons and went back from the No. 6 pick to No. 27 overall. Later in the first round, the Browns traded with the Kansas City Chiefs, obtained the 21st pick and made their selection.
“We had a lot of discussions as to where the value was,” Spytek said. “Was the sixth pick more valuable or was the slew of picks that we were going to receive from Atlanta more valuable? We came to a consensus as a scouting department, as an organization that the number of picks was just too much to pass up. While we knew we were going to be passing on a player that was going to be really good, I think we trusted our scouts and our scouting department that we were going to find good picks with the picks that we received. It’s going to work out good for us.”
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With the 21st pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Browns selected former Baylor University defensive tackle Phil Taylor.
Taylor registered 107 total tackles, five sacks and one interception in three years at Baylor and Penn State University.
Taylor was introduced by Browns running back Peyton Hillis, the winner of the Madden NFL 12 cover voting contest.
The Browns traded the 27th overall pick and a third round selection to the Kansas City Chiefs and moved up to the 21st spot.
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