ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his grades for the NFL Draft Sunday and discussed them this morning during a conference call. Kiper gave the Browns a B for filling needs, an A- for getting value out of their picks and an overall draft grade of B+.
"I think every one of these players makes their team," Kiper said of the Browns' eight draft picks. "I could see five starters out of this group very easily, and every one of them will be contributors. I could easily see in a couple years five of these kids being in the starting lineup."
Here are Kiper's quick thoughts on each of the Browns' selections:
- First round — Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor, pictured above, (21st overall)
"Phil Taylor is a huge kid who had some very good games at Penn State early in his career (and) showed flashes," Kiper said. "He just needs to improve his stamina, his endurance, and that's up to the organization and the coaching staff to work on that. Strength and conditioning, all those things, to get him to play at a higher level for a longer period of time. But he fits the mold of that stay-at-home defensive line who can free up your linebackers and handle the run, which is important."
- Second round — Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard (37th overall)
"Jabaal Sheard gives them exactly the opposite (of Taylor)," Kiper said. "He's the pass-rushing defensive end. I like him."
- Second round — North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little (59th overall)
"I like Little," Kiper said. "Little would have been a first-round pick had he played last year."
- Fourth round — Southern California tight end Jordan Cameron (102nd overall)
"Cameron is one of those basketball players turned football players," Kiper said. "(He's) more of a finesse guy. He's got to toughen it up a little bit, but he can catch the ball. He's very athletic."
- Fourth round — Stanford fullback Owen Marecic (124th overall)
"Marecic, we know about him," Kiper. "He's a throwback fullback. He played linebacker. (He's) tough, good blocker, short-yardage runner, good receiver out of the backfield. (He has) just a great attitude, great approach. With Marecic and (running back Peyton) Hillis, that's a rough, tough group there."
- Fifth round — Tennessee-Chattanooga cornerback Buster Skrine (137th overall)
"He's a nickel-back type," Kiper said. "(He's) a nice pick in the fifth round out of Chattanooga."
- Fifth round — Pittsburgh offensive lineman Jason Pinkston (150th overall)
"I really like Pinkston," Kiper said. "I didn't like him as a second- or third-round pick, where some people were talking him up that I heard before the draft. ... In the fifth round, he's a nice pick. He's got talent. He just needs to balance it out."
- Seventh round — Nebraska defensive back Eric Hagg (248th overall)
"You finish up with the safety from Nebraska who's a nice pick," Kiper said. "I thought he could have been a fifth-round pick."
Kiper gave the Atlanta Falcons a B+ for filling needs, a C- for value and an overall grade of C+ in part because he believed they gave up too much in their trade with the Browns. (The Browns traded the sixth overall pick to the Falcons and received the following in return: The Falcons' selections in the first (No. 27), second (No. 59) and fourth (No. 124) rounds this year, plus their first- and fourth-round selections in 2012.) "This grade (for the Falcons) reflects extraordinary value given up," Kiper wrote.
However, Kiper didn't have a problem with the Browns later trading the 27th overall pick and their original third-round selection (No. 70) to the Kansas City Chiefs, so they could move up and take Taylor at No. 21. Kiper said he thinks the New Orleans Saints could have picked Taylor at No. 24, and he said the New York Jets were candidates to trade up and take Taylor ahead of the Browns at No. 27.
"I don't really have a problem with that," Kiper said. "Phil Taylor is a big-time, stay-at-home defensive tackle. I mean this kid will occupy. He's gonna command double teams. He's gonna be great against the run. He's gonna free up your middle linebacker. He's gonna do a good job. I thought at that particular point, you really can't argue with (trading up to take Taylor).
"You think back to Gilbert Brown, how valuable he was to the Green Bay Packers all those years. You think about what Pat Williams has meant to the Minnesota Vikings. These huge defensive tackles that have some athletic ability and some talent, which (Taylor) has, are very valuable. Now what he needs to do is work on his endurance and his stamina. If he does that (and) the strength and conditioning coach gets him up to speed there, you've got yourself a heck of a player."