The football season is quickly approaching, and I don’t just mean the NFL. College football is gearing up for Week One, and with college football inevitably comes draft talk. It is never too early to identify areas on the Browns that will need new players and youth, and with that in mind here are some top college players to watch this season. These are players that, for one reason or another, have a very solid chance of playing in brown and orange in 2012.
- Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State – Burfict is the top linebacking prospect in college football right now, and would be the perfect addition to the Browns’ thin and aging corps. D’Qwell Jackson has trouble staying healthy, Scott Fujita is long in the tooth, and Chris Gocong is serviceable at best. Burfict posted 90 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss in his sophomore season, and I see him going to the Browns at the mid-first round area. Other linebackers in the mid-first range that make sense for the Browns are Luke Kuechly of Boston College and Manti Te’o of Notre Dame.
- Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama – Jenkins had a fairly publicized drug problem that led to his dismissal from Florida’s squad. While no one would ever say that sort of thing is a good thing, it could lead to him falling to the Browns when it’s time to use the Falcons’ first-rounder. There was talk of Mike Holmgren being intrigued by the possibility of pairing Joe Haden with Patrick Peterson through the 2011 Draft, so if Holmgren wants to continue to invest in the secondary, Jenkins would be a great pick at the end of the first round.
- Chase Minnifield, CB/KR, Virginia – I think we’d all like to see this pick happen. The son of former Browns Pro Bowl player Frank Minnifield, he had six interceptions for Virginia last season, stepping nicely into Ras-I Dowling’s absence. It looks like he’ll go somewhere towards the end of the first round, and if he’s there for the Browns when it’s their turn to make their second pick of the first round, they’ll probably jump at the chance to bring on a legacy player.
- Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina – He’ll combine with Quinton Coples to form an unstoppable pass rush this season, and each of the two defensive ends figures to be a top ten pick in the next draft. Paige-Moss is a straight athlete, and had seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss last season. If the Browns are picking in the early-middle of the first round, they could look to create a youthful yet productive defensive line, about which the fans would certainly have no complaint.
- Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina – This pick is locked and at the podium already if the Browns have another lost season and are forced to pick in the top five. Despite spending a second rounder on Greg Little in the last draft, the Browns’ group of receivers is extremely young and uncertain. Jeffery is a preseason All-American who caught 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. Jeffery is huge, strong, and has big-catch and big-play ability. He is my top-rated player after Andrew Luck, and he could team up with Greg Little to torture secondaries.
What players would you like to see the Browns draft come 2012? Leave a comment with your two preseason first-round picks for the Browns!