Browns draft packed with surprises

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - The Cleveland Browns did it all during NFL draft weekend.

They found an anchor for their offensive line, possibly uncovered a diamond in barren west Texas, took a chance on an injured running back and stunned a long snapper just by drafting him.

Coach Butch Davis said it adds up to an exceptional draft for the Browns.

"I think we did an excellent job of trying to address some of the needs of this football team," Davis said, "but more importantly things that move this team closer toward the Super Bowl."

After struggling to run the ball last season, the Browns spent their first-round pick, 21st overall, on Notre Dame center Jeff Faine, looking for him to open holes for last year's top pick, William Green.

Davis said the 6-foot-2, 303-pound Faine is a nasty, aggressive player that dominates defenders.

"He brings a Jeremy Shockey type of attitude to his position," said Davis, referring to the fiery New York Giants tight end.

Cleveland addressed the salary cap dump of linebackers Earl Holmes, Jamir Miller and Dwayne Rudd with the second-round pick of the speedy, but raw Chaun Thompson of West Texas A&M.

Projected as an outside linebacker, Thompson is in for an adjustment coming from a Division II program that didn't win a game last season.

The Browns got two quick defensive backs in third-rounder Chris Crocker of Marshall and fifth-rounder Michael Lehan of Minnesota, who will help out on special teams and pass defense.

Cleveland made a surprise choice by taking running back Lee Suggs of Virginia Tech in the fourth round. Davis said Suggs must undergo shoulder surgery and will likely miss the entire season.

"It's not too different than maybe what the Buffalo Bills did with Willis McGahee," Davis said of taking a risk on an injured player. "Certainly, two years ago, Lee Suggs was one of the premier running backs in the entire country."

The Browns surprised again in the fifth round by choosing a long snapper from Rice.

"I never really believed that I'd get drafted. Oh, my God," Ryan Pontbriand said shortly after he was selected.

Davis acknowledged that taking a long snapper that high was a bit of a stretch. But the Browns needed a replacement for Ryan Kuehl -- signed by the Giants after they lost the NFC wild-card game when a horrible snap on the final play prevented a field goal attempt.

"I think a lot of teams understand that it's a real skill and you can't just take a guy off the street and rely on them to get the job done," Pontbriand said.

The Browns closed the draft by selecting Boston College defensive end Antonio Garay. He adds speed, but also comes with question marks, not having played an entire season since 1999 because of various injuries.

Faine and Pontbriand are likely the only players drafted who will start immediately. Thompson will have a chance to compete for a starting job in the wide open linebacker position.

By taking Suggs, Davis has selected a running back in each of the last three drafts, taking Green with the 16th pick last year and James Jackson in the third round of 2001.

Suggs hoped to be the second or third running back taken in the draft, but injuries caused him to drop.

Despite drafting Suggs, Davis said the Browns are still trying to reach a long-term deal with backup Jamel White.

"This has no bearing whatsoever on any of the running backs on this team," he said of the pick.

And even though the Browns added Thompson at linebacker, Davis said they will still try to sign Miller, who missed last season with a torn Achilles' tendon.

Browns president Carmen Policy said he expects to be on the phone this week with Miller agent's, Leigh Steinberg.

"It would seem to me, if Jamir Miller wishes to return to the Cleveland Browns he should do so shortly," Policy said.

Davis said all his 2003 draft choices have one thing in common -- a love for the game.

It's certainly true with Faine, who's favorite hobby seems to be leveling opponents.

"There's really no better feeling I think in this world then driving a guy five yards down the field and putting him on his back and then getting up and doing it again," Faine said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)