ONE thing we learned quickly about the new Cleveland Browns regime is that it likes doing things the Bill Belichick way.
Coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis pulled a page out of the Belichick draft manual by trading down not once but three times in the first round of the draft. The deals moved the Browns from five to 21, a pick they used on University of California's Alex Mack, the top center in the draft.
The deals gave the Browns an extra second-round pick and two sixth-round selections, increasing their total from five to eight. The trade with the New York Jets also brought in defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam and quarterback Brett Ratliff.
Here's what was good about the Browns' draft:
Landing Mack didn't set off horns and sirens among the fan base, but it was a move that will help the offense for years to come. Mack is a physical, intelligent player, two traits needed at center. He was twice named winner of the Morris Trophy, symbolic of the top offensive lineman in the Pac-10. The award is voted on by Pac-10 defensive linemen. Previous center Hank Fraley is no longer an effective blocker. The Browns knew that the Steelers or perhaps the Bills would select Mack, so they didn't take any chances of losing out on a talented player.
Using the first of three second-round picks on Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie was important. Receiver was a position with the least amount of talent, and there's still a chance Braylon Edwards will be traded. Robiskie - like the entire draft class - is a smart, big-play performer. If Mangini can find a quarterback that can deliver the ball to Robiskie, he'll pay immediate dividends.
Few people heard of Hawaii defensive end David Veikune, whom the Browns selected with the third of the second-round choices. Veikune was projected as a mid-round pick, but the Browns had to make a move on him when they did because they didn't have a third-round choice. Veikune posted big numbers for the Warriors, including 16.5 tackles for lost yardage and nine sacks. He might be moved to outside linebacker to better utilize his pass-rush skills. It was a reach pick, but apparently there were other teams that valued his services.
Getting the three players from the Jets was huge for a team that needs to fill plenty of holes. Coleman has improved each season and is a solid run-stopper. He'll probably start up front with Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. Elam flashed signs of promise in starting nine of 16 games last season. Mangini tried to sign Elam as a restricted free agent in March, but the Jets matched the offer. He could be the starting free safety. Don't forget Ratliff. Mangini liked what he saw of Ratliff during preseason last year. There's a belief that he would have beaten out Kellen Clemens for the starting job if Mark Sanchez hadn't arrived on the scene.
Cornerbacks Don Carey of Norfolk State and Coye Francies of San Jose State were both mid-round projections, but the Browns were able to land them in the sixth round. Francies came on strong last season and performed well at the Senior Bowl.
Here are a few things I questioned about draft weekend:
It was wise to select another receiver in the second round, but Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi might have been a reach. Massaquoi was a big-time talent in high school, but he struggled at times for the Bulldogs. He had a decent senior season in catching 58 passes for 920 yards and eight touchdowns, but he drops too many balls.
If the Browns couldn't get one of USC's big three linebackers - Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews or Brian Cushing - they got the forgotten linebacker - Kaluka Maiava. Mangini plans to move Maiava from outside to inside, but that's a tall order to ask of someone who weighs 229 pounds. Maiava vows to show that size doesn't matter, and he has the determination to prove critics wrong. He is a talented special teams performer, which could secure him a roster spot for a long time.
With Jamal Lewis showing signs of age, there was a need to address running back fairly early in the draft. Instead, the Browns waited until their final pick, late in the sixth round, on Clemson's James Davis. Davis has never been a full-time back, and there are questions about his toughness. His size (5-11, 218) and leg strength, however, apparently impressed the Browns.
One of the Browns' biggest needs was finding a dominant pass rusher, and they're still looking. Mangini believes sacks are the product of a collective effort, which means players being in the right places at the right times. Still, you need at least one player that strikes fear into the hearts of quarterbacks. That's why Mangini tried to get Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka in a trade for Edwards, and he might still be trying.