Browns trade down, up and get run stopper in draft
BEREA, Ohio – On the phone from New York moments after Cleveland made him its first-round pick, Baylor's Phil Taylor was asked to describe himself.
"I stop the run, man," he said. "I'm a great run-stopping defensive tackle, and I can give you a good pass rush as well."
The Browns will take all of it.
After making two trades, the Browns plugged a monstrous hole in their new defensive front by drafting the 6-foot-3, 330-pound Taylor with the No. 27 overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Unable to turn down the chance to add multiple picks, Browns general manager Tom Heckert traded the No. 6 pick to Atlanta for the No. 27 and four others — including a first-rounder next season — before moving up six spots in a deal with Kansas City and picking Taylor.
Under new coach Pat Shurmur, the Browns are switching from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3 and they envision Taylor playing up front and alongside another wide-body, Ahtyba Rubin, who had a breakout season for the Browns in 2010.
"He's a big man and he can push the pocket," Heckert said of Taylor. "If your guards are undersized, he's going to run right over you."
Taylor was dismissed after two seasons at Penn State for off-the-field incidents, but Heckert said the Browns have no concerns about him being a character problem.
"We have no reservations whatsoever," Heckert said.
Taylor didn't go into details about his troubles at Penn State.
"I was young, I made a mistake and I've moved on from it," he said. "I went down to Baylor and made the best of a second chance and I'm happy to be here right now."
Taylor shifted over the ball as a senior at Baylor and recorded 62 tackles, 17 more than in his previous three seasons combined.
Cleveland was desperate for defensive linemen. They released nose tackle Shaun Rogers during the offseason, and several other veterans are still free agents. Because of the league's lockout, the club had been unable to address one of its' biggest needs before the draft.
In Taylor, they've begun addressing a major shortcoming.
Browns running back Peyton Hillis announced Taylor's selection from the stage of Radio City Music Hall. Hillis was in New York after being selected as the cover for the Madden '12 video game. He was scheduled to appear on David Letterman's TV show.
Taylor's selection is considered a bit of a surprise. He was not listed in many mock drafts as going to Cleveland, but after the Browns dropped 21 spots in the first round, it became apparent Shurmur, Heckert and president Mike Holmgren did not like what was left when it was the team's turn to pick at No. 6.
Heckert said that was not necessarily true. The team had Taylor rated very high on their board, and fearing he might get taken before they had a chance, the Browns made the deal with the Chiefs to get their man.
Shurmur, who was St. Louis' offensive coordinator last season, joked that it wasn't hard for him to use his first pick on a defender.
"I have a little broader view as the head coach," he said, laughing.
Heckert said he had been talking about trading his top pick with Atlanta for two weeks. He and Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff are good friends, and it was that trust that allowed Heckert to go forward with the deal.
With needs across the board, the Browns decided to trade their pick to the Falcons, who used it on Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones — a player believed to be high on Cleveland's board.
However, Heckert was able to extract plenty from the Falcons. In addition to the No. 27 pick, the Browns got Atlanta's second-rounder (No. 59), fourth-rounder (No. 124) and the Falcons' first- and fourth-round picks in 2012. In making the major swap, the Browns are somewhat conceding they are still in rebuilding mode and it could take awhile before they become legitimate contenders.
"We're not saying we're one player away," Heckert said.
When the Browns took Taylor, several other high-profile players were still available, including Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, who was once considered a possible No. 1 pick, but slipped because of questions about a knee injury.
Taylor has had weight trouble, once ballooning to 385 pounds. But Heckert said he's got it under control and recalled how the massive lineman ordered salmon when he went to dinner with the Browns recently. In fact, Taylor has been dropping weight.
"We don't want him too light," Heckert said.
Shurmur doesn't seem worried about that.
"If you haven't seen him, he's a big guy," he said. "That's a good thing."