The 2011 Cleveland Browns draft picks were met with mixed reviews, but were selected based on one key need for the Browns in 2011: the defensive line. Two of the top draft picks, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, were able to make plays and have an impact in their first year as professional football players. Taylor and Sheard finished 7th and 8th on the team in tackles, and Sheard leading the team in sacks his rookie season with 8.5.
Taylor was known only as a big body from Baylor on draft day, with few people really understanding how strong and active he turned out to be. He was labeled as a liability issue due to his apparent problems with authority while at Penn State, which eventually led to his dismissal from the school. He finished his career at Baylor without many speed bumps, and was able to keep his nose clean and play hard in his first year with the Browns. He looked a bit tired at times, and I feel like some of that was due to the lack of learning practice habits and strategies from veterans during training camp. Sheard was also looked at as a liability as he also got into some trouble while at Pitt for throwing someone through a sliding glass door during a fight. He supposedly was simply protecting his friend and was able to keep his nose clean for the remainder of his college career. He obviously grew into the Browns’ best pass rushers, and was able to use his athleticism to beat offensive tackles consistently this year.
This is what you like to see in a drafting strategy for defensive lineman: big, strong defensive linemen that are not drafted because of what they were rated on the most popular online draft poll says on ESPN. They were chosen because of what they showed on the field, how they battled each down, how they reacted to game situations, and how they made big plays. These are attributes that lead to quality defensive line units that eventually gel together and wreak havoc on opposing pass blocking schemes. Hopefully these guys will only improve on this year and create a defensive line that Browns fans can be proud of.