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Help up front

March 29, 2010 - Mike McLain

When handicapping what the Browns might do with their first-round draft pick, don't forget the offensive line.

The only sure starters up front are left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack. Thomas has played in three Pro Bowls in three seasons and is clearly among the best. Mack shook off a slow start as a rookie last season and played extremely well down the stretch. He's a keeper.

The right side of the line was a mess last season with Floyd Womack and John St. Clair. Hank Fraley and Rex Hadnot weren't re-signed, which has created a depth problem.

Then there's left guard Eric Steinbach, who signed a seven-year, $49.5 million contract in 2007. Coach Eric Mangini wasn't a big Steinbach fan entering last season, which is why he asked Steinbach to add weight.

Steinbach has been near the top of a bad statistical category the last two seasons -- lost assignments. Steinbach gets beat too much for someone of his salary level.

If Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung is available at number seven overall, I'd be surprised if the Browns wouldn't select him. He'd be a perfect fit opposite Thomas and would give the Browns one of the best tackle tandems in the NFL.

Most draft projections have Okung going off the board before number seven, which means the Browns would have to trade up. It's doubtful that would happen, but, then again, no one knows exactly how GM Tom Heckert and team president Mike Holmgren will approach their first draft in Cleveland.





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