With the eight picks the Browns made in the 2011 NFL Draft, they focused on adding depth at several positions on the roster.
After selecting defensive tackle Phil Taylor (No. 21 overall), defensive end Jabaal Sheard (No. 37), wide receiver Greg Little (No. 59), tight end Jordan Cameron (No. 102), fullback Owen Marecic (No. 124), defensive back Buster Skrine (No. 137) offensive lineman Jason Pinkston (No. 150) and defensive back Eric Hagg (No. 248), the front office and coaching staff felt as though the Browns accomplished that objective.
“I think we’ve added good football players,” said General Manager Tom Heckert. “We talked about the toughness factor, but that’s always been our goal. I think we proved that last year with Joe (Haden) and T.J. (Ward). Obviously, we helped our defensive line, which was a concern, but we just think we got good football players to come in and help us and we needed to get some young players in there. We think we did that.”
“As you can see, we placed a priority on filling the roster a little bit without reaching, which is the trick in the draft,” President Mike Holmgren said. “I think these guys (Heckert and Coach Pat Shurmur) did a marvelous job.”
The Browns also felt they added players who like to be physical and do not shy away from contact.
“That’s an underlying component of football in general, you like to have tough guys,” Shurmur said. “Let’s not undersell a guy’s ability to play the game, but if you get tough guys in the building, we feel that’s going to pay dividends.
“I feel extremely good about what we’ve accomplished,” he added. “We picked players that we feel like are going to have a chance to come in here and start and compete right away. We’ve got guys that we really feel good about and they’re players we like. If we came out of this draft with a lot of good players, we were going to get better and I think that’s what we’ve accomplished.”
The Browns made five selections on Saturday afternoon, the first of which was Cameron.
In two years at USC, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Cameron caught 16 passes with one touchdown and gained 126 yards. 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.
“He hasn’t played a whole lot of tight end or football for that matter, but he’s big; he’s super athletic; he’s got really good hands,” Heckert said. “As you watch him through the year, I know his production was not great, but when he did play, we thought he played very well. He played well at the all-star game; he performed well at the Combine. We’re excited. We thought this kid was a top athlete and we’re excited about him.”
“I think he’s a pup first of all,” said Holmgren. “He has played, as Tom mentioned, but his best years are clearly ahead of him. He was a basketball player, and a very good one, and he adapted to the football game, which isn’t always easy for a basketball player, at a difficult position. The tight end position is a very difficult position. You have to have the skill of a receiver and the toughness of a lineman and are asked to do a lot of things.”
After taking Cameron earlier in the fourth round, the Browns selected Marecic out of Stanford University. Marecic gave the Cardinal some versatility, seeing time as a fullback and linebacker.
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.
“He’s going to be a fullback for us,” Heckert said. “He’s a great kid, a super-hard worker. He’s a legit fullback. He can lead block, catch the ball. He can run the football. His strength is blocking and catching. We think he’s going to be a great special teams player. We think Jordan Cameron’s going to be a good special teams player too.”
The Browns went back to the defensive side of the ball with Skrine at the 137th pick.
Skrine was a two-time first team All-Southern Conference selection for the University of 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.
Skrine had five interceptions in his career and was elected captain as a senior.
“He’s super athletic and can fly,” said Heckert. “He’s a really fast kid. I think he’s had four different position coaches, so I think he can only get better. We’re excited to have him. I think he can play outside; he can play inside for us. We think he’s a good player that can run.”
With the 150th pick in the draft, the Browns selected 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 selection.
During his career, Pinkston spent the majority of his time at left tackle. 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.
“If he had to play left tackle, he could, but he can play right tackle, guard,” said Heckert. “Anytime you can draft an offensive lineman that has that type of versatility, you’re in good shape. He’s another guy that we liked, obviously because we traded both of our sixths to move up and get him. Hopefully, he comes in and plays well for us.”
BROWNS PICKS IN 2011 NFL DRAFT
No. 21 overall-Phil Taylor (DT/Baylor)
No. 37-Jabaal Sheard (DE/Pittsburgh)
No. 59-Greg Little (WR/North Carolina)
No. 102-Jordan Cameron (TE/Southern California)
No. 124-Owen Marecic (FB/Stanford)
No. 137-Buster Skrine (DB/Tennessee-Chattanooga)
No. 150-Jason Pinkston (OL/Pittsburgh)
No selections following trade up to No. 150
No. 248-Eric Hagg (DB/Nebraska)
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With their final pick, a compensatory selection at No. 248, in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Browns selected defensive back Eric Hagg from the University of Nebraska.
It was the second straight year in which the Browns selected a former Cornhuskers defensive back on day three of the Draft. Last year, they picked Larry Asante in the fifth round at No. 160 overall.
“I had no indication,” Hagg said of the call from the Browns. “I had a couple of other teams call me and tell me they were possibly going to pick me up, but to actually get the call, I was like in awe. I was in shock. I didn’t even know if I was to believe it was true, actually.”
Hagg was a second team All-American selection by Rivals.com and a third teamer by the Association Press. He was a unanimous first team All-Big 12 pick in 2010.
He registered 49 tackles, including 39 solo stops and one sack during the 2010 season, but made his biggest impact in pass coverage. After intercepting just one pass in three previous seasons, Hagg collected five takeaways in 2010. His longest return, a 26-yarder in a 45-17 win over Colorado, set up Rex Burkhead’s four-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Reed.
“The position I played at Nebraska was the nickel position,” Hagg said. “Most teams say it was the drop-down safety. I would assume that I would be able to play corner and safety, but it really depends on what the coaches want me to do and I will work at what they want me to do.
“My playing style would be close to the line of scrimmage, getting my hands on the receivers, running with them, being a little bit physical at the line and then, being able to go after the ball when it’s in the air,” he added.
Hagg was not an experienced returner on special teams but set a Nebraska record with his 95-yard punt return touchdown in a 20-13 loss to the University of Texas.
“That strictly depends on what the special teams coach or coaches want,” he said of being a returner in the NFL. “I’ll definitely do anything that they want me to do. I’ll be ready to do anything.”
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