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Browns to rebuild with Edwards

Cleveland selects Michigan WR with third overall pick

Posted: Saturday April 23, 2005 2:10PM; Updated: Saturday April 23, 2005 8:43PM

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Braylon Edwards wore No. 1 at Michigan, and he was second to none for the Cleveland Browns.

They picked the multitalented wide receiver with the third overall selection in the NFL draft on Saturday, selecting the highest rated player on their board -- a player the Browns hope reverses their embarrassing run of taking first-round flops.

"This is a no-brainer pick," Browns rookie general manager Phil Savage said. "It's the best player. You take your highlighter and say, 'We just got the No. 1 player in the draft."'

And, a new No. 17.

Although Edwards was unaware that 17 once belonged to Browns quarterback Brian Sipe, he wants to make it his.

"I want to make my own name," Edwards said after arriving from New York to meet Cleveland reporters. "I'll go with 1-7. It's new. It's not out there yet. I've seen it. You guys will like it."

The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Edwards, whose father, Stanley, was a running back for Houston and Detroit during the 1980s, will immediately help the Browns' anemic offense, which ranked last in the AFC and No. 28 overall last season.

Cleveland envisions a passing game built around Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who played in just two games as a rookie last season before breaking his leg. Edwards can stretch defenses, outjump and outrun cornerbacks, and has a knack for making the big catch in the big game.

"He adds another dimension to our offense," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "Having both guys puts more pressure on defenses. They can't load up on one particular guy now. If they double cover both guys, that gives us a chance to open up the running game."

Edwards had 97 receptions for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the Wolverines. He shattered all the receiving records at a school that has produced NFL wide receivers Anthony Carter, Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, Amani Toomer and David Terrell -- solid players but not stars.

Edwards, who has already purchased a Bentley before signing his rookie contract, thinks he can change that.

"I think I have a chance to be amongst those guys -- or better," he said. "If I put in the hard work and have the work ethic, I can be a superstar."

With their second-round pick, the Browns selected Oklahoma free safety Brodney Pool, a 6-foot-2, 208-pounder who skipped his senior season. Pool's versatility may allow Crennel to move him to cornerback.

"We felt like we needed to do something on defense in the second round," said Savage, who tried to trade back into Round 1 to get another defensive player. "This is a case where he was the best player available."

Pool was thrilled to be joining a team he's somewhat familiar with.

"When I was eight years old in Pee Wee ball, I played for the Cleveland Browns," Pool said. "I just want to help this team get over the hump."

Edwards saved his best games for the biggest games. He had one of his finest performances for Michigan with Savage in the stands. Against Michigan State, Edwards had 11 receptions for 189 yards and three TDs, two in the final seven minutes of regulation and the game-winner in triple overtime.

"His background, character, leadership, toughness, big-play ability in big games, all those things factored in for us," Savage said. "Another thing is that he played in cold weather and that's important to anybody that comes into Cleveland."

Edwards immediately upgrades a Browns receiving corps that has speed in Antonio Bryant, Dennis Northcutt and Andre' Davis, but not the go-to target they can count on.

The Browns have gone just 30-67 with one playoff appearance since 1999, and their draft picks, especially at the top of the first round (see Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren) have had little impact.

Edwards wants to change that, too.

"With me, you're going to get what is advertised," he said. "With me, you're going to get what I did in college."

His first draft in Cleveland couldn't have started better for Savage, who built his reputation as one of the league's top talent evaluators as Baltimore's director of player personnel. Savage helped the Ravens draft 10 Pro Bowl players from 1996-2003.

Shortly after making Edwards his first pick, Savage read from glowing reports submitted by Cleveland scouts. One of those endorsements came from Paul Warfield, the Hall of Famer who now evaluates wide receivers for the Browns.

One of Savage's goals this weekend is to earn back the trust of Cleveland fans, who have grown weary of the team's incompetence.

"We want the fans to walk around and say, 'You know what? That's a good pick instead of saying, who's that guy?"' Savage said. "If we didn't take him, I think everyone in Cleveland would have said, 'What are they doing?"'

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