INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL could’ve renamed Saturday at the scouting combine “Browns Day.”
The parade of top-notch defensive linemen through the interview room at Lucas Oil Stadium began with Alabama tackle Marcell Dareus. Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers was next. North Carolina’s Robert Quinn followed, but Auburn’s Nick Fairley never made it.
The defensive linemen take the podiums on Saturday every year at the combine, but the Browns don’t always have an overwhelming need to draft one. They are making the conversion to a 4-3 scheme, and general manager Tom Heckert admitted Friday they needed to add numbers and talent upfront.
The Browns could take Georgia receiver A.J. Green or LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson with the No. 6 pick, but defensive line is the better bet.
“It’s a good group all the way around,” Heckert said. “Who knows how many are going to go before us, but there’s a lot of guys who are going to go really early.”
Here’s some information on the prospects (will be updated as the day progresses):
6-foot-3½, 319 pounds
Left after junior season. Had nine tackles for loss in 2009, 11 in 2010. Played in 3-4 defense, but said he can play in all schemes and with all techniques. He models his game after Warren Sapp, who called Dareus the best three-technique tackle in the draft.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has the Browns taking him at No. 6.
“If you go back in the history of watching football, before the game was started, it started up front,” Dareus said. “Some people were scared and backed up off the ball, but the real bulls stayed upfront and played the game.”
He was asked if he thinks he’s the best lineman in the draft.
“Kinda, sorta,” he said. “Nick Fairley had a great year this year. I can say I think I’m the most versatile D-lineman here.
“I describe myself as a nice guy. I’m a real nice guy. Everybody I tackle I pretty much help ‘em up. I’m coming after you the next play.”
Dareus knocked Texas quarterback Colt McCoy out of the 2010 BCS championship game when he landed on McCoy, who suffered nerve damage in his throwing shoulder. He was asked about possibly becoming teammates in Cleveland.
“No, it wouldn’t be ironic,” Dareus said. “I know he’s a great competitor, he loves the game and that’s all that really matters. We’re all here to win.”
6-4, 275 (estimated)
Left after junior season. Had three sacks in 2009, 15½ in 2010. Called himself a good-character guy who excels as an off-the-edge pass rusher. Had surgery after the season to repair a tear in his meniscus and won’t work out at the combine. He said his training is three weeks behind everyone else and he wants to catch up.
Pro Football Weekly rates him the top end in the draft, and he could go as high as No. 1 to Carolina.
“It’s definitely a goal,” he said. “I don’t think anybody here doesn’t have the goal to be the No. 1 pick.”
Bowers said his game is similar to that of Bears Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers, but he isn’t cocky.
“I’m just a little, scrawny old defensive end attempting to be half as good,” Bowers said.
The huge jump in production as a junior has caused some experts to label him a one-year wonder. Bowers understands.
“I had one good year, the rest were considered busts,” he said.
He credited the improvement to playing full time, being healthy and getting comfortable in the system.
“This year I turned it up,” he said.
Was suspended for entire 2010 season after NCAA ruled he accepted improper benefits. Admitted Saturday to receiving jewelry, but not from an agent. Played for former Browns coach Butch Davis at North Carolina. Benign brain tumor discovered in high school after three blackouts and initially told he wouldn’t be able to play sports again. Said he hasn’t had a headache since.
Draft projections on him vary greatly. Could go as high as No. 1 overall, but Pro Football Weekly ranks as ninth-best end.
“I made a selfish mistake and me, my team, my family and my coaches paid the price for it,” he said of the suspension, adding he was in tears when the Tar Heels played LSU.
Quinn said he considers himself the top pass rusher in the draft.
“I think I’m the best, to be honest,” he said. “Not to sound cocky or conceited, but that’s just how I approach the game. I want to be the best, and I think I am.”
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