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Browns hoping to find draft diamonds among college hopefuls

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Michael Conroy/Associated PressThere's no brightly colored uniforms or iconic helmets, but the field at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Field will carry a lot of NFL aspirations when the annual scouting combine gets underway this weekend.

Michael Conroy/Associated PressTwo years ago, Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas impressed NFL scouts, coaches and front office personnel with his agility and strength. The Browns have benefited with consecutive Pro Bowl seasons from Thomas since drafting him.

INDIANAPOLIS Nobody has accused the Browns' new management team of being warm and fuzzy. Coach Eric Mangini and General Manager George Kokinis haven't even met most of their own players in roughly one month on the job.

But they intend to get personal here at the NFL scouting combine with the handful of college players they may be considering to select with the No. 5 pick in the April draft.

While a lot of attention is devoted to the benchpress reps and 40 time clockings of those players who agree to work out, the Browns are hoping to gain their edge in making judgments based on facetoface interviews.

"Yeah, I think the interviews are a big part of it," Kokinis said. "You want to get at least a preliminary feel of what that kid is all about. Sometimes first impressions are the lasting ones. So you get a chance to look a guy in the eye, get a good handshake, let him tell you what he knows about the game of football.

"From here going forward, I think that's extremely important for this football team. We want to get players that really love the game of football, not just what it brings but what it Mitchell And Ness Lyle Alzado Jersey is.

"I think you get that by meeting somebody face to face and then matching it with how they play on the field. So if their words match their actions, you get a little bit of a marriage and you feel good about picking that player."

Every NFL team here is allotted 15minute interviews with as many as 60 players. Kokinis said he and Mangini will sit in on most of them. Kokinis did the same with the Baltimore Ravens in his role as that team's pro personnel director. Now he will be the guy pulling the trigger on draft day.

"I think it's really important to get to know these players," Kokinis said. "It's important for the coaching staff to start learning about these players. The big thing, too, is the medical [exam] part of it.

"In terms of the college draft, besides the draft this is probably the biggest event."

Here's a primer on the NFL combine, which runs through Tuesday.

Jason DeCrow/Associated PressA year ago, Eric Mangini and the Jets hoped firstround pick Vernon Gholston from Ohio State would answer their passrush needs. It didn't happen, however.

Everyone agrees the Browns have to upgrade their pass rush. In their scheme, Lyle Alzado Jersey it has to come from the outside linebacker spot. Mangini tried to grab one for the Jets last year by taking Ohio State's Vernon Gholston with the No. 6 pick. Gholston didn't do Lyle Alzado Throwback Jersey much as a rookie.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network said this draft contains "the deepest group of 34 outside linebackers I've seen in the last five or six years."

The best prospects in the rush linebacker role are Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, USC linebacker Brian Cushing, Northern Illinois linebacker Larry English, Penn State linebacker Aaron Maybin and Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim.

None, however, currently is rated among the top five overall players in the draft.

"He's smart, tough, aggressive. He's a guy who's played at a high level in the ACC and won't cause you any problems. Worst case scenario he'd be a very, very solid player," Mayock said.

Counters ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., "He's got great character, is versatile. Maybe not a boon, but certainly not a bust."

Other than Curry, the player most frequently mentioned as the best in the draft is Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree, who is benefiting from comparisons to Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. Crabtree's 40 times are secondary to his physical toughness and superlative hands.


Tracy Boulian/The Plain DealerOhio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, once considered a sure top10 candidate for the draft, has seen his stock tumble, according to some analysts entering the combine.


What: A fourday job interview for approximately 335 college players spread over Thursday through Tuesday, Feb. 24.

Who: The list of invited players includes 46 underclassmen who applied for and were granted eligibility for the 2009 NFL draft.

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

Purpose: Players are examined by multiple team doctors, given psychological testing, personally interviewed by every team and are tested in a series of strength, running and position drills. Most of the toprated players may opt to not participate in the physical drills and postpone that portion of evaluation until personal workouts on their college campuses. Players are outnumbered by more than 600 NFL coaches, scouts and team executives.

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