Say hello, Browns fans, to your new nose tackle and new offensive right tackle who will be your starting center in 2016.
Say hello to Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving – two intelligent selections for a change.
In making common-sense picks with his first two cracks in the first round of the annual National Football League college draft Thursday night in Chicago, Cleveland General Manager Ray Farmer went trenching for talent and struck it rich.
It was a statement that indicates the GM realizes his two lines needed help. Resisting – or least seemingly resisting – the temptation to trade up in order to address the skilled areas of the team, it appears he finally gets it.
Shelton, the boulder-sized defensive tackle from Washington, can’t help but improve the team’s shocking inability to stop the run and, at the same time, improve the interior pass rush.
His entrance on stage with Commissioner Roger Goodell provided the highlight of the evening. Dressed in his native Samoan garb, the academic All-America bear-hugged the much smaller commissioner, then joyously lifted him off the floor for a few seconds.
With this addition to the roster, the Browns’ annual slide to the bottom of the league while defending the run should stop.
The wide body 6-2, 335-pound Shelton, whose short-area quickness is his greatest asset, is a shorter version of Haloti Ngata, who tormented Cleveland offenses for many years with the Baltimore Ravens before being traded to Detroit in March.
He should have no trouble supplanting Phil Taylor in the middle of the defensive line in coach Mike Pettine’s 3-4 hybrid scheme, mainly because Taylor can’t stay healthy. Look for Taylor to move outside.
Shelton is not your standard two-down run stuffer who trots to the sideline on third down. Asked by the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders what the Browns should expect from him, he replied, “The best defensive tackle. The best run-stopping defensive tackle. The best pass-rushing defensive tackle.” In other words, he stays on the field.
His ability to penetrate on obvious passing downs enabled him to record nine sacks last season at Washington. With Shelton on board and a healthier defensive line overall, it will be difficult for the Browns to land again at the bottom of the league’s rankings against the run.
The selection of Erving, another smart move, was to a certain extent made out of necessity. His versatility – he has played all five positions along the offensive line – will allow the Browns to move him into the pivot when Alex Mack leaves following the 2015 season.
So while it appears as though the Erving selection was a hedge against Mack’s departure, that is hardly the case. He is considered the second-best interior lineman in this lottery and should fit in nicely, giving the right side of the offensive line some needed toughness.
For right now, though, look for him to start at right tackle, moving Mitchell Schwartz inside at right guard where he should be more effective. No need to worry about Erving’s pass protection skills. He was good enough to play left tackle and protect Jameis Winston’s blind side at Florida State.
In selecting Erving, Farmer passed up Kentucky’s Bud Dupree, an edge rusher who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who was grabbed by the Baltimore Ravens.
Nevertheless, it was somewhat gratifying he did not overdraft for a wide receiver after the last of the top three wideouts fell off the board two picks after the Shelton selection. The Trader Ray Farmer of last year's draft was missing in action.
So now with two vital areas addressed, the GM goes back to work Friday night in rounds two (pick No. 43) and three (pick No. 77), where the wide receiver situation should finally be addressed. Jaelen Strong of Arizona State and Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham are still on the board.
So are outside linebacker Randy Gregory from Nebraska, Alabama safety Landon Collins, offensive tackles T. J. Clemmings from Pittsburgh and Oregon’s Jake Fisher, Virginia outside linebacker Eli Harold, Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams and cornerback Jalen Collins from LSU. All are need positions.
If Farmer is as successful in the next couple of rounds as he was Thursday night, then the uniforms won’t be the only things new in Berea.