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Browns feel they got the best player in this year's NFL draft



Published: Sat, April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



BEREA (AP) -- Braylon Edwards wore No. 1 at Michigan, and he was second to none for the Cleveland Browns.

They picked the wide receiver with the third overall selection in the NFL draft Saturday, selecting the highest rated player on their board -- a player the Browns hope reverses their run of first-round flops.

"This is a no-brainer pick," Browns rookie general manager Phil Savage said. "It's the best player. You take your highlighter and say, 'We just got the No. 1 player in the draft.' "

The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Edwards, whose father, Stanley, was a running back for Houston and Detroit during the 1980s, should help the Browns' offense, which ranked last in the AFC and No. 28 overall last season.

Pool second-round pick

With their second-round pick, the Browns selected Oklahoma free safety Brodney Pool, a 6-foot-2, 208-pounder who skipped his senior season with the Sooners. Pool's versatility may allow coach Romeo Crennel to move him to cornerback.

"We felt like we needed to do something on defense in the second round," said Savage, who tried to trade back into Round 1 to get another defensive player. "This is a case where he was the best player available."

Pool was thrilled to be joining a team he's somewhat familiar with.

"When I was 8-years old in Pee Wee ball, I played for the Cleveland Browns," Pool said. "I just want to help this team get over the hump."

To team up with Winslow Jr.

Cleveland envisions a passing game built around Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who played just two games as a rookie last season before breaking his leg. Edwards can stretch defenses, outjump and outrun cornerbacks, and he has a knack for making the big catch in the big game.

"He adds another dimension to our offense," Crennel said. "Having both guys puts more pressure on defenses. They can't load up on one particular guy now. If they double cover both guys, that gives us a chance to open up the running game."

Edwards had 97 receptions for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the Wolverines. He shattered all the receiving records at a school that has produced NFL wide receivers Anthony Carter, Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, Amani Toomer and David Terrell.

He had one of his finest games for the Wolverines with Savage sitting in the stands. Against Michigan State, Edwards had 11 receptions for 189 yards and three TDs, two in the final seven minutes of regulation and the game-winner in triple overtime.

"His background, character, leadership, toughness, big-play ability in big games, all those things factored in for us," Savage said. "Another thing is that he played in cold weather and I think that's important to anybody that comes into Cleveland."

Upgrades receiving corps

Edwards immediately upgrades a Browns receiving corps that has speed in Antonio Bryant, Dennis Northcutt and Andre' Davis, but not the go-to target they can count on.

His first draft in Cleveland couldn't have started any better for Savage, who built his reputation as one of the league's top talent evaluators as Baltimore's director of player personnel. Savage helped the Ravens draft 10 Pro Bowl players from 1996-2003.

Shortly after making Edwards his first pick for Cleveland, Savage read from glowing reports submitted by Cleveland scouts. One of those endorsements came from Paul Warfield, the Hall of Famer who now evaluates wide receivers for the Browns.

Barring any trades, Cleveland has seven selections -- four in the top 103 -- in this year's draft. The club discussed trading down out of the No. 3 pick, but a possible deal with Tampa Bay never got beyond the talking stage.

Tops picks have been busts

The Browns have gone just 30-67 with one playoff appearance since 1999, and their draft picks, especially at the top of the first round -- Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren -- have had little impact.

One of Savage's goals this weekend is to earn back the trust of Cleveland fans, who have grown weary of the team's incompetence.

"We want the fans to walk around and say, 'You know what? That's a good pick' instead of saying, 'who's that guy?' " Savage said. "If we didn't take him, I think everyone in Cleveland would have said, 'What are they doing?' "




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