Browns improve OL, DL

Published 11:51 pm Thursday, April 30, 2015

BEREA (AP) — Danny Shelton walked onto the stage, and sized up his first target as a pro.

Overcome with emotion after being selected No. 12 overall by the Cleveland Browns, Shelton, dressed in a traditional sarong to honor his native Samoa, wrapped his arms around NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and lifted the league’s top boss off the ground.

No sack will ever mean as much.

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“It was a little bit planned,” said Shelton, who played at Washington. “But it was an exciting time, so I had to do it.”

One year after wheeling and dealing in the first round, the Browns didn’t mortgage their future for a quarterback, and selected two players to fortify their lines.

After selecting Shelton, Cleveland used the No. 19 pick on Florida State’s Cameron Erving, who began last season at left tackle and ended it snapping the ball to Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston.

The Browns beefed up, adding 650 pounds.

“I know these aren’t the two sexiest picks when you’re taking guys who aren’t skill players,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “We prefer to call them big-skill guys. But we’re thrilled because we know with a great degree of certainty that the Cleveland Browns got better today.”

Pettine smiled when asked about the 6-2, 339-pound Shelton’s technique when grabbed Goodell.

“I haven’t seen that before,” Pettine said. “The look of panic on Roger’s face was quite interesting.”

The Browns envision opposing quarterbacks having the same reaction, and Shelton should help a defense that ranked last in the league against the run in 2014.

Much of the pre-draft speculation centered on the Browns possibly moving up to take the franchise quarterback they’ve coveted since their expansion rebirth. Cleveland has started 22 quarterbacks since 1999, and the club’s inability to find an elite one has kept the Browns irrelevant. They selected Johnny Manziel in the first round a year ago, but he flopped as a rookie and recently spent 10 weeks in rehab.

Cleveland signed veteran Josh McCown during the winter, but it seemed almost inevitable the Browns would use their two top picks — and perhaps some of their other assets — to make a run at Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. But once the Titans took the Heisman Trophy winner at No. 2, it became clear the Browns were going to address some other big needs.

Farmer said he did not have any discussions with the Titans.

“I tried to tell you guys,” he said.

Pettine playfully added, “I didn’t either.”

Shelton’s journey to football’s highest level wasn’t without adversity. When he was 17, his older brother, Shennon, was tragically shot and killed when an argument in their hometown quickly escalated.

Friday is the four-year anniversary of his brother’s death.

“I know my brother is watching from up above,” Shelton said. “This means everything.”

The Browns allowed 226.5 rushing yards per game last season, “an obvious area of concern,” said Pettine. Cleveland can pair Shelton up front alongside mammoth nose tackle Phil Taylor, who played in just four games last season before injuring his knee. Not only will Shelton be the man in the middle, the Browns think he can get to the quarterback. He had nine sacks as a senior.

“Here’s a young man who played upwards of 90 to 100 snaps out there in the PAC-12,” Farmer said. “He showed some ability to rush the passer, can play lateral and down the line of scrimmage. He’s a guy who I like to refer to as a guy who requires four hands, where he’s going to require more than one guy to pay attention to him. I love how he played. I love that this kid is a smart kid, high GPA – high school and college.

“The guy is a football player.”

The Browns are equally excited about Erving, who began his college career as a defensive tackle before switching to offense. He brings immediate depth and could be a long-term answer at center if former Pro Bowler Alex Mack decides to opt out of his contract following next season.

“As a rule of thumb, teams find a lot of ways to win games,” Farmer said. “From my perspective, our competitive advantage right now is the offensive line and to bolster that group, we took the guy who had the most versatility and skill set for who we want to be.”


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