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On the clock: Turning the page to the next Browns quarterback discussion

May 05, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

The Morning Kickoff

The dust has settled: Now that the draft is over – and all the speculation and the rumors and the trade reports proved exaggerated – it’s quite possible that the Browns not only did not make up ground on their rivals but actually lost ground.

That is, if you measure the strength of a team by the quarterback position.

Because Pittsburgh still has Ben Roethlisberger, Baltimore still has Joe Flacco, Cincinnati still has Andy Dalton, and the Browns still have …

Let’s break it down as fairly as possibl

* Josh McCown: He turns 36 on his Fourth of July birthday and three weeks later will embark on his 13th NFL training camp with his seventh team. That doesn’t count the season of 2010, when McCown bounced out of the NFL and led the five-team United Football League in passing. The Browns will be McCown’s third team in three years. The last two saw McCown go from the sublime – a 13 to 1 touchdown to interception differential in a five-game relief stint for the Chicago Bears – to the ridiculous – a 1-10 record with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that helped them earn the worst record in the NFL and a free pass to Jameis Winston in the draft. McCown is now considered the favorite to open the OTA workouts, training camp and probably the regular season as the Browns’ 23rd different starting quarterback.

* Johnny Manziel: He finished his rookie season serving a timeout in the visitor’s locker room during the final game in Baltimore because he overslept and missed a scheduled rehab session for a hamstring injury suffered in the second of two miserable starts. And that was as good as it got for him. He would check into a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in Wernersville, PA, and receive therapy for 73 days. Manziel has made immediate progress in healing the scars of veteran teammates who may have felt betrayed by Manziel’s admitted lack of work ethic and dedication as a rookie. He also has checked out of his living quarters in a posh downtown apartment complex surrounded by night clubs and relocated to a quiet residential neighborhood in a far west side suburb. Manziel’s recovery from substance abuse may be the ultimate “day to day” classification. And while Manziel’s substantial fan base expects nothing less than for him to rise from the ashes, the Browns have proceeded exceptionally cautiously. “We’re off to a good start, but it’s a long road,” coach Mike Pettine said on Saturday.

* Connor Shaw: He held a 10-3 lead into the third quarter in the 16th game in Baltimore in his only start as an undrafted rookie. Suffering two injuries in that game and acquitting himself admirably in adversarial circumstances earned him immense respect and gave him the confidence to say to ESPN Cleveland that he considered himself in the mix for the starting job in his second season. After that game, Pettine remarked that some of Shaw’s passes resembled “pop-ups," which was a cutting remark considering Shaw suffered an injury to his ribs and dislocated a finger on his left hand during the contest. Recently, Pettine said that Shaw is “easy to overlook” because he is “very quiet … He’s not the tallest and he doesn’t have the biggest arm from a measurable standpoint, but in his own way he’s got a very subtle ‘it’ factor to him.”

* Thad Lewis: His signing to a second stint with the Browns on March 12 seemed to be backup insurance in case Manziel isn’t able to contribute anything. GM Ray Farmer’s most extensive comments about Lewis were interpreted by some as a shot at outgoing quarterback Brian Hoyer. At the NFL owners meetings in March, Farmer said of Lewis: “One, I like the player in the sense that Thad’s not a road block to anybody. He’s not going to come in here and have the personality or the disposition to come in and say ‘I deserve’ or ‘I need to be.’ He’s going to be a humble worker. I think that having humble workers in a group is a good thing. You want to have the right guys on your team to help the group grow, because as guys get better and the group gets better, then it’s a win for the club.” Lewis has had six NFL starts and won two of them, both for Buffalo while Pettine was the Bills’ defensive coordinator.

Going forward: In their recap of the draft, Farmer and Pettine downplayed the bleakness of the Browns’ quarterback situation.

“We go 11 against 11,” Pettine said. “We’re not just trotting quarterbacks out there at the 50-yard line and they’re thumb wrestling. To me, there are a lot of different ways to win football games and you just don’t force a situation.

“Do we look at it and say, ‘OK, if we perceive our quarterback room is not the best in the division, what does that mean? Do we call the league and cancel games?’ We’ve still got to play them. I don’t think we can emphasize it enough that we’re going to build a football team. We’re not going to over-prioritize the quarterback position.”

On Monday, the first work day after the 2015 draft, the mock drafts for 2016 started trickling in.

Dane Brugler, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com, had the Browns picking 12th and selecting Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook of Hinckley, OH.

Brugler had Cleveland native and Ohio State 2015 national championship hero Cardale Jones going to Arizona at No. 24.

And so, let the quarterback debates begin anew.

 

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Where do the new Browns fit in and which veterans should be worried?

May 04, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/AP

The Morning Kickoff …

Ripple effect: Every draft has reverberations on the roster.

For obvious reasons, the higher the pick, the bigger the impact expected of that player. And somebody feels the brunt of that impact.

The Browns drafted a league-high 12 players over the weekend. Not all will even make the roster. But on paper, here is how these new players may – may -- affect the players already on hand.

1. Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton

A year ago the Browns picked up the team option on the fifth and final year of Phil Taylor’s rookie contract, at a huge increase to $5.47 million. Since then, Taylor underwent two knee procedures – one a major surgery – and he missed 11 games in 2014. The Browns wound up giving up 141.6 rushing yards a game, mostly to no-name backs. Taylor’s recovery from the knee procedures was termed “uncertain” by coach Mike Pettine during draft weekend. Shelton’s arrival might make Taylor’s future with the Browns “uncertain” – after this year.

2. Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving

A two-year starter at left tackle for Florida State, Erving filled in at center midway through the 2014 season and, according to GM Ray Farmer, played like “an All-Pro,” or at least an All-Collegian. This pick was made with one eye at center Alex Mack and the other at right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. And yet, right guard John Greco might be the player most affected in 2015. It will be interesting to see whether the Browns let Erving compete at right guard and right tackle, or restrict him to guard. Schwartz is in the last year of his contract, but is consistently lauded by Pettine. Mack can opt out of his contract after 2015, but there is no guarantee Erving is the automatic heir at center. If a suitable replacement for Mack is groomed in 2015, Erving could succeed Schwartz at right tackle in 2016 and eventually be Joe Thomas’ replacement at left tackle.

3. Utah linebacker Nate Orchard

The Browns liked Orchard so much that they sacrificed a higher second-round pick and traded down to assure taking him before the third round, where he was earmarked. When Jabaal Sheard departed in free agency, it was assumed that Barkevious Mingo, fully mended from shoulder surgery, would return to the edge pass rusher for which he was originally drafted by Joe Banner. Not so fast, my friend. At the Browns uniform reveal, Mingo said he was not informed of a change in the pass coverage role he filled in the first year of Pettine’s defense. Orchard, who had 18.5 sacks at Utah in 2014, will get first crack to be the bookend pass rusher to Paul Kruger. Which may make the Browns the first team east of the Rocky Mountains to field two pass rushers from Utah.

4. Miami running back Duke Johnson

First-year backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell combined for 20 receptions for 151 yards in 2014. That wasn’t good. Johnson, roughly 5-9 and 210 pounds, was an every-down back at Miami – the school’s all-time leading rusher – but he figures to break in as third-down back who can contribute immediately in the passing game. Johnson brings a quickness and ability to make plays in the open field that was not evident in the games of West and Crowell last year.

5. Washington State defensive tackle Xavier Cooper

Prior to this selection, the Browns signed versatile lineman Randy Starks in free agency and re-signed John Hughes to a four-year contract extension with a $2.5 signing bonus. Meanwhile, Billy Winn has not received a similar deal. Winn is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Meanwhile, nose tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen – an original undrafted free agent of Baltimore -- signed a one-year deal for about the same amount of Winn’s 2015 salary. So it doesn’t take a Tarot card reader to figure this one out. Cooper is boost to the pass rush and could easily find himself on the sub packages as an interior rusher on the four-man line on passing downs.

6. Northwestern safety Ibraheim Campbell

He is not an insurance against a potentially long Tashaun Gipson contract dispute. Campbell is a potential replacement for Donte Whitner. Whitner turns 30 in July and his $4.5 million salary was guaranteed on March 24. Next season, Whitner’s increases to $6.2 million. Campbell will break in on special teams and may find his way to some dime packages. If he makes an impact, or just holds his head above water, he could be a competitor for Whitner’s job in 2016. Maybe.

7. Washington State wide receiver Vince Mayle

Mayle (6-2, 225 pounds) is a physical facsimile to Dwayne Bowe, but is seven years younger. Mayle had prodigious numbers in the Cougars’ throw-every-down offense last year, but is still raw and would not be expected to compete for a starting job. But he experienced a lot of opportunities in two years at WSU and could take playing time away from under-six footers Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin.

8. Louisville cornerback Charles Gaines

He’s joining the most competitive position group on the team. He has experience at kick return and should break in on special teams.

9. Mississippi State fullback Malcolm Johnson

There is a job waiting for him as lead run blocker and H-back who could be used as pawn to create some mismatches through motion prior to the snap. The Browns are bringing in a couple undrafted fullbacks. Johnson will be given every chance to win the job.

10. Southern California tight end Randall Telfer

He is a good-hands receiving tight end who can split the seams. Problem is, he was injury-prone at USC. He brings an injury rehabilitation on his left foot to rookie camp.

11. Southern California linebacker Hayes Pullard

An inside linebacker he has a chance to knock Tank Carder off the roster if he can earn a starting job on special teams.

12. Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

A great pick in the seventh round, he had ACL surgery in December or else would have gone in the late first, early second round vicinity. He may be red-shirted and compete in 2016 for a nickel back role. He was projected as a potential starter. Where he ends up in 2016 depends on the progress of Justin Gilbert and the gas gauge on free agent signee Tramon Williams.

 

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns' 12-player draft includes one wide receiver and no quarterback

May 02, 2015 -- 8:00pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/Getty

The Browns concluded their draft with seven picks after another trade, giving them a total of 12 new players over three days – the most drafted by a Browns team since 2000.

There were so many, they even found a wide receiver they liked. But they didn’t add a quarterback.

And GM Ray Farmer said that a national report that they were beaten out of Baylor’s Bryce Petty by the Jets with the fourth pick of Round 4 was not true.

Farmer said he was talking with Jacksonville to move up to the 103rd overall pick for another player and the Jets thought it was Petty.

“The inference came because the team that actually took the player felt we wanted to take the player,” Farmer said. “You never say the name. You say my guy’s there, I’d like to move up to your spot. I did make several phone calls in that round. How they linked me to any one player is not fair.”

Farmer said that the Browns characterized Petty as a “developmental prospect” – partly through the evaluaton of new quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell, who worked with Petty prior to the draft.

“We had him slated at a certain spot,” Farmer said. “That wasn’t our place to make that move.”

Neither Farmer nor coach Mike Pettine seemed particularly upset that the quarterback roster of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw and Thad Lewis remained unchanged after weeks of rampant speculation that they would feverishly try to add one.

“I like who we have,” Farmer said. “Whether or not they’re great or Andrew luck or John Elway, or whoever, I don’t think that’s the case. I do know what we’re going to ask those guys to do, they’re capable of doing.”

Pettine said, “We’re very confident in the guys in that room. We are. In the guys coaching them, in the plan we’re going to build, and I’m thrilled about the guys we’re putting on the field around the quarterback.”

Here is the breakdown of what the Browns did on Saturday:

* Fourth round, No. 115 overall: Safety Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern.

* Fourth round, No. 123 overall: Receiver Vince Mayle, Washington State.

* Sixth round, No. 189 overall: Cornerback Charles Gaines, Louisville.

* Sixth round, No. 195 overall: Fullback Malcolm Johnson, Mississippi State.

* Sixth round, No. 198 overall: Tight end Randall Telfer, Southern California.

* Seventh round, No. 219 overall: Inside linebacker Hayes Pullard, Southern California.

* Seventh round, No. 241 overall: Cornerback CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon.

The pick of Mayle (pronounced: MAY-lee) ended a receiver drought for the Browns that lasted 16 picks over three drafts, three head coaches and two general managers.

Josh Gordon was the last receiver previously drafted by the Browns in the 2012 summer supplemental draft.

Benefitting from Washington State’s throw-every-down offense, Mayle produced prodigious numbers in his second season there after transferring from a community college – 106 receptions for 1,483 yards, including games of 263 and 252 yards.

There was this, too – 19 drops in 163 targets.

But despite good size of 6-2 and 224 pounds and good production, Mayle tumbled to the fourth round. He was the 17th receiver taken in the draft.

“A humbling experience,” he said. “It’s something that just lets me know that there’s something wrong with my game, something I need to improve. That’s how I feel.”

Mayle said scouting reports of bad hands “are wrong,” and attributed the drops to “lack of focus … I like to get up field and run right away.”

Mayle also was a “gunner” on WSU special teams and flatly stated, “I’m willing to play special teams for as long as I have to. I am just a physical competitor who loves to win and hates losing.”

Campbell (5-11 3/8 and 208) was a four-year starter at Northwestern as an in-the-box safety, and built a reputation as an aggressive, physical tackler with coverage liabilities. He could be an immediate core player on special teams.

“It’s a violent game and I try to be as violent as possible in everything I do,” Campbell said. “It’s something I try to approach every game with.”

Gaines (5-9 7/8, 180) was projected by Dane Brugler’s Draft Guide as a third- or fourth-rounder and potential NFL starter. He may have dropped because of “immaturity” issues that resulted in two suspensions as a freshman in 2012 for separate team rule violations.

A receiver at the time, Gaines said the first one was for not running a pass route hard enough and the second one was for allegedly drinking before a game, which he denied doing.

“I’m a totally new man,” Gaines said. “I grew from it. I haven’t been suspended or had any problem with any coach or player on or off the field (since then). I feel it made me who I am today.”

Johnson (6-2, 230), a converted receiver, was known for his hands at Mississippi State, but was versatile – and short – enough to line up also as a fullback and H-back. The Browns will list him at fullback, but use him as a lead-blocker and pass receiver.

“Tight end, fullback, H-back … that’s what I expressed to them I could do and they’re going to hold me accountable,” Johnson said.

Telfer (6-3 ¾, 250) is more of a pass catching tight end. But his production was limited by numerous leg and ankle injuries. He had surgery on his left foot in February and may not be able to do much at the team’s rookie minicamp next weekend.

Pullard (6-0 ½, 240) was a two-year team captain who played in three different defensive systems and led the Trojans in tackles in three of the past four years.

Ekpre-Olomu (5-9 1/8, 192) was projected as a top 40 prospect until he suffered a torn ACL knee injury in a Dec. 16 practice leading up to Oregon’s semifinal game against Florida State in the College Football Playoff.

He had major surgery and possibly could be “red-shirted” his rookie season. Ekrpe-Olomu reportedly is in line to collect $3 million from an insurance policy purchased for him by Oregon prior to his senior season that protected him if he fell out of the first two rounds of the draft because of an injury.

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns conclude second draft day with two defensive players and one offensive playmaker

May 01, 2015 -- 11:48pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photos/Getty

On the second day of the NFL draft, Browns GM Ray Farmer returned to Trader Ray.

He started by moving down in the second round and ended by moving a fourth-round pick to the bottom of the third round.

The end result for the evening was Utah pass rusher Nate Orchard (second round), Miami running back Duke Johnson (third round) and Washington State defensive tackle Xavier Cooper (third round).

Johnson was their offensive playmaker of five players taken in their draft.

He left the Hurricanes one year early as the school’s all-time rusher with 3,519 yards – and that included a sophomore season shortened to seven games after a broken ankle. Johnson out-produced such Miami luminary backs as O.J. Anderson, Alonzo Highsmith, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, Edgerrin James and Willis McGahee.

At 5-9 and 207 pounds, the Browns see Johnson as a triple threat as rusher, receiver and returner. He averaged 31.8 yards on 41 kickoff returns, with two touchdowns.

“He can run the football, catch the football, return kicks. He’s a dynamic player. He can affect our roster in a lot of ways,” Farmer said.

Although the Browns also showed interest in top-rated backs Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, coach Mike Pettine indicated that the addition of Johnson does not exclude last year’s rookie backs, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, from the backfield mix.

“You want to have diversity of the skill sets in the room, so you can match up differently in different weeks,” Pettine said. “Duke kind of gives us that added element, not the label of third down back, but a guy out of the backfield we can get some mismatches with.”

Farmer said Johnson has “some Giovani Bernard in him, some Brian Westbrook.”

Orchard was a fourth-year captain at Utah who improved from 3.5 sacks to 18.5 his senior season. The Browns targeted him since the Senior Bowl and traded down from No. 43 to No. 51 in the second round because they felt he wouldn’t last until the third round.

At 6-3, 250 pounds, Orchard moved all over the Utah’s 4-3 defense. He’ll be an edge rusher and outside linebacker in Pettine’s scheme.

“This is a guy who has a knack for getting to the quarterback,” Pettine said. “We’re always looking for that hybrid pass rusher.”

Cooper, 6-3 and 293 pounds, is the second defensive lineman added in the draft (after nose tackle Danny Shelton) and third in the offseason, including free agent pickup Randy Starks.

On Thursday, Pettine made reference to tackle Phil Taylor’s availability being “uncertain” after two knee procedures last season, including a major one.

On Friday, Pettine said that Taylor has had “no complications … As with any other injury, there’s just uncertainty. Just a general statement, nothing specific.”

The trades left the Browns with five picks in Saturday’s final three rounds – Nos. 115 and 116 in the fourth round, Nos. 189 and 195 in the sixth, and No. 219 in the seventh.

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Browns trade down in second round and select edge pass rusher Nate Orchard of Utah

May 01, 2015 -- 9:21pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/via ESPN

In the midst of the second wide receiver-rich draft year in row, the Browns extended their streak of ignoring the position to nine rounds.

Not only did they pass on a receiver in the second round Friday night, they traded down eight spots to add fourth- and sixth- round picks from the Houston Texans. And then they used the 51st overall selection in the second round on Utah edge pass rusher Nate Orchard.

The deal was announced shortly after Carolina selected Michigan receiver Devin Funchess with the 41st selection – two picks ahead of the Browns’ scheduled pick at No. 43. Also off the board by then were Ohio State’s Devin Smith (Jets) and Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham (Titans).

Orchard, a team captain his senior year, was second in the nation with 18.5 sacks as the right defensive end for Utah. At 6-3 ¼ and 250 pounds, he likely will be groomed as an edge rusher from the outside linebacker position as a complement to Paul Kruger, who also played at Utah.

Orchard is married with an infant daughter and attributed a jump of 15 sacks from 3.5 his junior season to 18.5 as a senior to “being married, having stability and realizing football is the way I’m going to feed my family.”

Orchard was a receiver when he came to Utah under the name of Nate Fakahafua. His natural parents were natives of Tonga and Orchard was born in Inglewood, CA. Orchard changed his name two years ago before he got married to the name of his legal guardians, with whom he has lived for 10 years.

While GM Ray Farmer’s aversion to drafting wide receivers is well known by now, some observers felt the second round would be where Farmer would end the drought.

But on Thursday night, Farmer said, “Our wide receivers … I thought they more than held their own last year. We bolstered that group in free agency (with Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline). I feel like we’re even better in that spot.”

Four picks after the Browns selected Orchard, the Baltimore Ravens chose Maxx Williams, the top-rated tight end in the draft. That was seen as another position of need on the Browns.

The trade with Houston padded the Browns’ stockpile of draft picks to three in the fourth and three in the sixth rounds.

They also own No. 77 overall in the third round, plus one in the fifth round. They surrendered their seventh-round pick in the trade with Houston.

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

Now what? Possible targets for Browns on Day 2 of the NFL draft

May 01, 2015 -- 6:20pm

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/ClevelandBrowns.com

Notes, quotes and observations before the start of Day 2 of the Browns’ draft …

Now what?: After taking two “big skill” guys in the first round to fortify their lines of scrimmage, what will the Browns do with their picks on Friday night at No. 43 in the second round and No. 77 in the third round?

Some positions they should consider:

• Pass rushers: Nebraska’s Randy Gregory (who has failed a few tests for marijuana), UCLA’s Owa Odighizuwa, Virginia’s Eli Harold, Louisville’s Lorenzo Mauldin and Utah’s Nate Orchard figure to go off the board through the third round. Another name to consider is Hau’oli Kikaha, who was new nose tackle Danny Shelton’s teammate at Washington.

Wide receivers: After six receivers went in the first round, the next wave includes: Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham (multiple character concerns), Ohio State’s Devin Smith, Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Georgia’s Chris Conley, Auburn’s Sammie Coates and Tre McBride (also a returner) of William & Mary.

Tight ends: After top-ranked Maxx Williams of Minnesota, possibilities include Michigan receiver Devin Funchess, Miami’s Clive Walford and Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman.

Receiving back: One role the Browns don’t have covered is a third-down receiver back. Throwing to backs last year was just a rumor. If the Browns intend to revive that role, players to consider include Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Northern Iowa’s David Johnson.

Quarterbacks: Over the next two rounds, expect the next wave of quarterbacks to be taken off the board. Those are UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson and maybe Oregon State’s Sean Mannion.

The new guys: Nose tackle Danny Shelton and center/tackle Cameron Erving arrived from Chicago for their introductory press conferences. Some highlights:

Shelton greeted the media by saying, “How’s the Dawg Pound?” A long way from home – he was born in Samoa and grew up in Auburn, WA – Shelton said, “I’m ready to enter a new world and start my journey.”

Shelton takes pride in honoring his heritage. He didn’t wear his native sarong on Friday, but he talked about following in the footsteps of previous NFL stars of Polynesian descent.

“Troy Polamalu … I always wanted to be a safety, but was too big. I looked up to Haloti Ngata. Those are just guys that represent our culture really well. I just want to follow their footsteps,” Shelton said.

Shelton dismissed concerns about his 5.64 40 time at the NFL Combine and questions about whether he would merely be a part-time player on running downs in the NFL.

He said 40 times are “super important if you’re a track star. If you would watch my high school tape, I definitely can do a 50-yard sprint and the big man relay. I was a track star back then. I’m mature now. It’s all business and that’s part of business.”

On playing every down, he quipped, “I play two down, three down, four down. If there was a five down, I’d play it. Honestly, it doesn’t matter about my weight, or whatever. I’m gonna be that guy that out-works you, gonna be that guy to break stereotypes, break the negativity, bring positive energy.”

Erving and Shelton never played against each other and only met on Tuesday during pre-draft activities in Chicago scheduled by the NFL. Erving had a premonition they might end up teammates.

“Honestly, I was telling people early, we try not to pay attention to those mock drafts,” Erving said. “But a lot of people already knew Cleveland had their eyes on Danny. First time I met him, I said, ‘Man, Cleveland’s gonna get you. I said I think they like me a lot. We might be teammates.’ And it happened on draft night.”

Erving said he had “a little inkling” the Browns would take him because of “real good meetings” in the pre-draft process.

Erving was converted from defensive tackle to offensive line in his redshirt sophomore season. He started two years at left tackle, helping quarterback Jameis Winston win the Heisman and lead the Seminoles to the national championship in his second season, and then was moved to center to give the running game a boost in the last five games of the 2014 season.

Erving said he became a quick study to offensive line by listening to his position coaches teach all five of the positions and also by studying film of Browns left tackle Joe Thomas.

“He’s just one of those guys who you look at his sets and you just watch and try to see what he does and how he comes out of his stance and his steps he’s taking, and his hands,” Erving said. “I got really technical with it later as an offensive lineman. I’ve only played the position for three years, but when I first started playing I watched him, Rodney Hudson, guys like that.”

####

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@goodkarmabrands.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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