Browns Hit All Targets In 2002 NFL Draft

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Before he was even asked, Dwight Clark offered his biased critique.

Clark doesn't think the Cleveland Browns could have done any better in this year's NFL draft.

"I'm fairly realistic about grading drafts," Cleveland's director of football operations said after his fourth draft with the Browns. "But I think this one's an 'A'. It remains to be seen how these guys play."

By all accounts, the Browns accomplished everything they wanted to in picking eight new players in a two-day span.

"In targeting positions and taking guys who can actually play rather than taking a guy just because he's at that position, I think this was one heck of a draft for the Browns, our fans and our future," Clark said.

On paper, it's hard to find much to criticize about Cleveland's selections. There's little doubt that the Browns are better than they were a few days ago.

Cleveland, which had the NFL's worst running game from last season, used its top pick to get Boston College's William Green, the top-rated back in the draft.

Green's questionable background -- he was twice suspended for marijuana use in college -- and a colitis condition didn't turn off the Browns, who now have their own big back to counter Jerome Bettis, Corey Dillon and Jamal Lewis in the AFC North.

"The fact he was 220-plus pounds, we felt that would add a big dimension to our offense," Browns coach Butch Davis said.

Cleveland added some beef up front, too, picking a pair of 300-pound offensive linemen, Miami's Joaquin Gonzalez and Maryland's Melvin Fowler, who can both play two positions.

The Browns never expected Fowler to be available in the third round, and they traded linebacker Wali Rainer to Jacksonville, just so they could move up and get him.

Speed and a deep threat for quarterback Tim Couch was taken care of with Virginia Tech wide receiver Andre Davis, a burner who should open up the passing game and can return kicks. Davis ran back four punts for TDs in college. Cleveland hasn't returned one for a score in three seasons.

Ohio State tight end Darnell Sanders was a surprising pick in the fourth round after dazzling the Browns with his workouts. He, too, will give Couch another option.

A lack of depth at linebacker was also addressed when the Browns took three on Sunday. Northwestern's Keith Bentley, Virginia Tech's Ben Taylor and Florida's Andra Davis are all versatile enough to play inside or outside as well as special teams.

By the time the Browns grabbed Davis, who just so happens to be Cleveland defensive tackle Gerard Warren's best friend, Clark said he could finally relax.

"When the three linebackers and the tight end came into play, that's when the big picture started to look pretty good," Clark said. "We had positions targeted and we were able to hit every one of them with players who should contribute fast. Maybe not start, but big-time special teams players and a big part of the future."

In two days, the Browns paid more attention to Sanders than Ohio State quarterbacks did in three years.

By trading two late-round picks to Oakland, the Browns moved up into the fourth round to select Sanders, who had just 42 receptions in three years with the Buckeyes.

"We didn't know if Darnell would be there later," Davis said. "We felt like the value of going up and getting a player we think has great potential and good upside was worth the risk."

Cleveland traded one of its fifth-round picks and a sixth-rounder for Oakland's fourth-rounder -- No. 122 overall -- to make sure no one else beat them to Sanders.

The 6-foot-5, 267-pound Sanders, from Warrensville, Ohio, is thrilled to be joining the team he grew up watching.

"That's all we did," Sanders said. "This couldn't have worked out any better."

The Browns feel the same way.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)