2011 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Need Offensive Help To Save Peyton Hillis

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2011 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Need Offensive Help To Save Peyton Hillis
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A player like Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis comes along about once in every 10 years.

He is one of the toughest guys to bring down in the NFL, has enough speed to turn the corner and post big gains, soft hands, the ability to make acrobatic catches and he’s not afraid to put a pulverizing block on anyone rushing the quarterback, either.

However, probably his greatest trait is that he is a quality individual who puts the team above his individual accomplishments.

Acquiring Hillis for the overhyped Brady Quinn was probably the best personnel move the Browns’ front office has made since the beginning of the millennium.

Yet, if something doesn't change very soon—like next season—Peyton Hillis could turn into a one or two-year wonder, destined for the junkyard of overworked, injured and unappreciated running backs.

That’s perhaps the biggest reason that the Browns must get offensive help in the 2011 draft, while not totally forsaking the defense.

The current receiving corps of Brian Robiskie, Muhammad Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs and Chansi Stuckey will do nothing to deflect any attention from Hillis, the Browns’ only bonafide offensive threat.

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A.J. Green

Promising RB Montario Hardesty is set to return after blowing out his knee in the 2010 preseason, but he is an injury-prone, roll-of-the-dice player who, when all is said and done, may turn out to be a one-legged dog.

There are some experts who feel that the West Coast offensive system may provide some relief for the overworked Hillis. However, the fact of the matter remains that there are not enough talented players to prevent Hillis from becoming a human battering ram in the mode of former Oilers running back Earl Campbell.

The Browns have hired an offensive-minded head coach in Pat Shurmur, which lends credence to the fact that the offensive side of the ball may be getting a little more emphasis than the defense in the 2011 draft.

Assuming the Browns stand pat (no pun intended) with the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, here are some of the realistic possibilities on offense.

Wide receivers A.J. Green (Georgia) and Julio Jones (Alabama) are the first players who come to mind. However, there is debate as to whether Green will even be on the board when the Browns pick—the consensus being he will be available as long as he slips past the Bengals at the No. 4 spot.

Arguing which receiver is better could be an entire article in itself, but it looks like both will become stellar players in this league.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Tyron Smith

Therefore, either Green or Jones would require opposing defenses to remain on guard at all times, taking some of the pressure off Hillis.

The Browns front office has indicated that it is sold on the play of quarterback Colt McCoy, but that could be a smoke-screen.

The Browns have been scouting both Cam Newton (Auburn) and Blaine Gabbert (Missouri) and Mike Holmgren has always been a sucker for drafting a thrower early. However, neither one of these guys (especially Gabbert) will provide much respite for Hillis in 2011, so the Browns may be wise to sit back and watch McCoy develop for another season.

The only other two possibilities for drafting an offensive player with the sixth pick would be Alabama RB Mark Ingram and USC OT Tyron Smith.

Ingram was a player who posted good enough numbers to win the Heisman, but that award does not always guarantee success in the NFL.

Ingram should turn into a solid NFL contributor, but it is debatable whether he would justify a No. 6 draft pick.

Smith (6'5", 307 pounds) is a super-sized tackle who prefers to play on the right side—a position where the Browns need considerable help.

The selection of Smith would certainly help prolong the career of Hillis. What's more, it could possibly give the Browns the best offensive line in the entire NFL.

Would Smith also be a reach at the No. 6 position? Probably—but acquiring the best bookends (Smith and Joe Thomas) in the league is quite an intriguing idea.

Keep in mind that talented Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi could very well be available when the Browns select in the second round. While he’s no Smith, Carimi could definitely shore up the right side of the line.

If the Browns decide to go to defense with their first pick, LSU CB Patrick Peterson would give Cleveland the best young set of corners in the league and possibly one of the best secondaries.

Let’s not forget defensive linemen Marcel Darius (Alabama), Nick Fairley (Auburn), Da'Quan Bowers (Clemson) or Robert Quinn (North Carolina), along with OLB Von Miller (Texas A&M).

Any one of these guys would fill a gaping hole on the defense—although it’s anybody’s guess which one may actually be available when the Browns select at No. 6.

In reality, the Browns are like a canoe that has sprung many leaks.

Filling one or two holes only leaves several others unfilled. The Browns will not go to the Super Bowl and probably not even to the playoffs in 2011. But it still should be a priority to get Hillis the help he needs so that we may enjoy his special talents for several years to come.

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