April 25, 2014

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Browns’ draft pick is still anybody’s guess

The NFL Draft is three weeks from today. While the options for the Browns with the No. 6 pick should be narrowing, plenty remains unsettled at the top of the draft.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the Browns will select Alabama receiver Julio Jones in his latest mock draft released Wednesday. ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Browns taking North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn. And Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki gives them Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

Don’t forget about LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Georgia receiver A.J. Green, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, all of whom have been mentioned in connection with the Browns since the end of the season.

However, Nawrocki said Wednesday in a conference call that Bowers may not be in play. He said two teams failed him medically at the scouting combine after surgery to repair a torn meniscus following the season.

“The big concern is whether he’ll need microfracture surgery,” Nawrocki said, referring to the complex knee surgery in which holes are drilled into the cartilage in an attempt to stimulate growth. “It wouldn’t be a shocker if he ended up lasting until late in the first round.”

That would be quite a fall for someone who had 15&#frac12; sacks as a junior in 2010 and is the prototype 4-3 defensive end at 6-foot-33/8 and 280 pounds.

He struggled running and in drills in his pro day last week, adding to the doubt.

“He would’ve been the first or second pick if he didn’t have the knee concern,” Kiper said Wednesday on a conference call. “He had a great year. He did everything on the field he could do.

“If Bowers were healthy, we would be asking how can Carolina pass (with the No. 1 pick)?”

Cleveland’s biggest needs are defensive line and receiver. In the past, Kiper had the Browns picking Green. But in the latest mock draft, he has Green going to the Bengals at No. 4 and the Browns taking Jones. Nawrocki has Green going No. 1 to the Panthers and Jones to the Bengals.

Green once appeared to be in a class by himself at receiver, but Jones seems to have closed the gap on some teams’ draft boards after running a blazing 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the combine, despite a stress fracture in his foot.

“Not everybody has Green over Jones like I thought it would be,” Kiper said.

Nawrocki gives the edge to Green, in a tight race.

“He’s just so safe all the way around,” Nawrocki said. “It’s hard to find receivers with his combination of traits.

“But, to me, it’s very close. A.J. is more difficult to cover. You can do more things with him. But Julio’s a big, physical player who can create after the catch.”

Would general manager Tom Heckert assume the risk of Bowers after running back Montario Hardesty, last year’s second-round pick, missed his entire rookie season following knee surgery? It seems unlikely, which could bring Quinn back into play at No. 6. He’s extremely talented and had 11 sacks in 2009 but was suspended for 2010 after receiving improper benefits.

“He’s going from No. 1, 2 or 3 on the board, where he would’ve been, all the way down to No. 11 because he didn’t play,” Kiper said of his mock draft. “He had a phenomenal year two years ago.”

Nawrocki said Quinn could be in the mix before No. 6, but acknowledged he’d be a risky pick that high.

“Obviously he hasn’t played in a year. You’re really projecting forward,” he said. “He’s a guy on paper who’s got everything you want. He has prototype numbers and the ability to come off the corner and pressure the quarterback. That’s what teams are looking for.”

Notes

  • Kiper said he sees Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor as a tight end in the NFL. He also thinks Pryor’s chance to play quarterback in the NFL will be hurt by the five-game suspension to start 2011.
    “Did he need to play those five games to prove he can play quarterback? Yeah, he did,” Kiper said. “He’s got to show he can be precise with the football. I’ve said all along I think he’s a tight end.”
  • Browns tackle Tony Pashos will participate in a Zoo Walk for Autism in Jacksonville, Fla.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.