Clark, Palmer expect Browns to improve

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 18, 2000

The Associated Press

Berea – A year from now, if commissioner Paul Tagliabue says, ‘Welcome to the NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock’, Dwight Clark and Chris Palmer won’t have to worry about who the No.

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

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Berea – A year from now, if commissioner Paul Tagliabue says, ‘Welcome to the NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock’, Dwight Clark and Chris Palmer won’t have to worry about who the No. 1 pick might be.

They’ll have other concerns. Like finding jobs.

”If it’s the No. 1 pick next year,” Clark, Cleveland’s director of football operations said looking at the Browns head coach, ”I’m not sure either one of us will be here.”

To which Palmer said with a laugh, ”I know at least one of us won’t be here.”

After using the first overall pick last year to take quarterback Tim Couch, the Browns stuck to a proven blueprint for success by getting their defensive cornerstone in 2000 and selected end Courtney Brown, Penn State’s gentle giant.

Brown’s size 16 feet, 86-inch arm span and ability to chase down running backs impressed the Browns as much as his impeccable character.

”If I were going to make a football player, this is the kind of guy I would like to make,” Palmer said. ”We eventually want a mom or dad to say to their kids, ‘Be like Courtney Brown.”’

The Browns entered this year’s draft trying to fill as many holes as possible, with an emphasis on improving their overall team speed. Cleveland didn’t have the luxury of being choosy in ’99 as an expansion team, there just wasn’t time.

But Cleveland could be more selective this year and thinks it found some players who can have an immediate impact.

”I feel better about this draft than I did last year,” Clark said. ”This year, we had some definite target positions and we went and got them. Last year, it was so wide open and we just selected the best players. We had a lot more fun this year.”

The Browns followed their Day 1 formula and used their second day picks to add quick, athletic players.

”Dwight asked me what we need, I said, ‘First we need speed, second we need speed and third we need speed,”’ Palmer said. ”It wasn’t a rich draft for speed. There was speed early, and then it fell off. But we improved our speed. There are more safeties and corners there in the 4.4-plus range, 4.5 range. We helped ourselves at wide receiver.”

With only three cornerbacks under contract, Cleveland put an emphasis on getting help for the defensive backfield and drafted Lewis Sanders of Maryland, Anthony Malbrough of Texas Tech, Lamar Chapman of Kansas State and Rashidi Barnes of Colorado on Sunday.

The Browns think Sanders, taken with the first pick of the fourth round, is a real find. Some draft gurus had him going as high as the late second round.

”I think he’ll help us,” Palmer said. ”From an athletic standpoint, he runs a 4.47 and he had 10 interceptions. We look at his size (6-0) and production, and we think we have a fine football player.”

Palmer said the picks were made with an eye on the competition in the AFC Central, where several talented receivers were selected Saturday.

”This division is pretty difficult,” Palmer said. ”There is no question that when you play teams like Jacksonville and Tennessee, you have to be able to shut down the pass.”

Cleveland dealt its final three picks of the seventh round, Nos. 223, 232 and 254 overall – Mr. Irrelevant – to Chicago for the Bears’ two picks in the round, Nos. 209 and 225. The Browns then drafted defensive end Eric Chandler of Jackson State and Barnes.

The Browns’ other second-day picks were fullback/tight end Aaron Shea of Michigan; quarterback Spergon Wynn of Southwest Texas State; guard Brade Bedell of Colorado; and guard Manuia Savea of Arizona.

Those picks plus the additions of Brown; wideout Dennis Northcutt, running back Travis Prentice, and wide receiver JaJuan Dawson from Saturday, gives the Browns some new blood and another batch of players to try and mold.

”There are a few projects on there,” Clark said. ”There are some late-round guys we think will need a little work before they can help us out on Sundays. But overall this is a good group of players.”