Browns nab Gators CB Joe Haden with No. 7 overall pick in first round of 2010 NFL Draft

Round 1 – No. 7
Joe Haden, CB
Cleveland Browns

Height: 5’11” – Weight: 193 lbs.
Age: 20 – Class: Junior

Months of speculation came to an end Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns selected former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In attendance at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY, Haden’s eyes swelled up when he received the phone call from Cleveland before he took the stage with gusto to take a picture with league commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Browns had been drooling over Haden since at least March 1, with general manager Tom Heckert making his intentions known rather publicly. “I think Haden is a heck of a football player,” Heckert said. “He’s probably one of the top corners, if not the top corner in the draft. He’s played at a big-time program, and they won a ton of games. He’s going to go early.”

Considering Haden has only been playing cornerback for three years (he set Maryland state high school records as a quarterback), his emergence as a shut-down corner in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference became the stuff of legends around the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which he completed with less than stellar reviews after posting slow 40-yard dash times.

Haden corrected his speed at Florida’s Pro Day, impressing those in attendance including almost the entire Cleveland front office. Team president Mike Holmgren and head coach Eric Mangini met with Haden shortly after his Pro Day for a private workout and invited him to visit the team facility on April 6.

If the team’s comments are any indication, Haden has a legitimate shot to start as a rookie in 2010 opposite CB Eric Wright with veteran Sheldon Brown moving to safety; should he not be ready right away, he could play in nickel and dime packages until he is able to step in to a starting role.

The fourth defensive player from the University of Florida to be drafted in the top 10, Haden is also the highest-selected Gators cornerback of all-time.

Press Conference Transcript
Press Conference Audio
“I am just trying to soak it all up. It’s crazy. Just a dream come true. I feel like this is like a blessing. I definitely had a good idea about that when I talked to [team president Mike] Holmgren. He definitely was telling me that they were really, really interested in taking me at No. 7. And once he told me that, it just made me have a sigh of relief. Then once I left my visit in Cleveland, I really didn’t have contact with anyone from Cleveland, so I didn’t know if they just stopped liking me or what happened so I just came in here didn’t know what was going on.”

Press Conference Transcript
General manager Tom Hickert: “Joe was a guy we spent a lot of time with and evaluating. He’s a bigger corner that can really play the run, good cover ability. He’s a smart kid and he’s tough. He’s a guy we liked all along.”

Head coach Eric Mangini: “He did a great job the day he visited. You could feel the intensity, feel the passion, how much he cared about playing football and continue to improve. It was real. I don’t think there was anybody that met him that didn’t feel that way.”

Head coach Urban Meyer: “I’m happy for Joe and his family. He is one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. He came to Florida as an offensive skill player who never played cornerback. He approached the coaching staff about changing positions because he wanted to get on the field. Despite not playing cornerback in high school he developed into one of the best ever to play his position at the University of Florida and is now a first-round draft pick in the NFL.”

– Haden Browns choice at No. 7
– Heckert, Mangini intrigued by Haden
– Cleveland Browns select Florida cornerback Joe Haden in 2010 NFL Draft
– Cleveland Browns don’t get their safety, so they go with the safe pick
– Joe Haden joins Cleveland Browns with strong endorsement from teammate Tim Tebow
– Cleveland Browns find a defensive playmaker, and that decision is hard to argue
– Browns don’t buy buzz, go ahead with Haden pick

Haden on stage at 2010 NFL Draft with Commissioner Roger Goodell

Heckert and Mangini talk about picking Haden

Cleveland Plain-Dealer writers discuss the Browns’ selection of Haden

OGGOA will continue updating this story.

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DE Jermaine Cunningham: “It’s overwhelming.”

Former Florida Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham is a busy man these days. After being evaluated and interviewed by dozens of NFL teams in preparation for the 2010 NFL Draft, he has been spending time working out, flying out for a private visit with the St. Louis Rams and spending time with his family back at home. OGGOA caught up with Cunningham as he was on his way to his cousin’s play. Lucky for us, he answered every question we had touching on a variety of subjects including his time with the Gators and his future in the NFL.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Thanks for giving us some time with you…how’s everything going?
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: “Everything is going good.”

AS: Let’s start at the end of last season and work forward. What was Senior Day like for you, playing your last game in The Swamp?
JC: “It was a great time. I had my family around me. It just being the last game in the Swamp – finishing my career on a good note.”

AS: When you look back on your time at Florida, does any one play you made stand out above the rest? Anything specific you will remember?
JC: “I would probably have to say the last play of the National Championship game. Watching the celebration, everyone be happy – us winning the National Championship.”

Read the rest of our interview with Jermaine Cunningham…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Jermaine Cunningham: “It’s overwhelming.”

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Ex-pro scout on Gators in 2010 NFL Draft (Part II)

With just under a week to go before the 2010 NFL Draft, OGGOA sat down with former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah of Move The Sticks for a second time pick his brain about departed Florida Gators players eligible to be selected from April 22-24. Jeremiah first spoke with us before the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 24 and was completely candid in our discussion, pointing out qualities he liked in each player while explaining why certain Gators might fall further than some may expect. In addition to his website, Jeremiah also offers comprehensive NFL scouting coverage on Twitter.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us. Things certainly seem to have been going fast for you over the last month or so. Tell us about what you will be doing with ESPN during the draft.
DANIEL JEREMIAH: I’m going to be in Bristol [ESPN’s headquarters] for the entire draft week. I will be helping provide analysis for both First Take and ESPNews.

AS: OK…let’s get into the Gators. In our first conversation, you had cornerback Joe Haden as a top ten pick who many would consider to be top three if he was 6’1” because of his speed, toughness and instincts. He ran slow at the combine but improved at Florida’s Pro Day. Some now see the Cleveland Browns passing on him at No. 7 overall (especially if they trade up) and him falling potentially as low as No. 14 to the Seattle Seahawks. What happened?
DJ: I think this is a very good draft class. When you have so many talented players to choose from, need becomes more of a factor. I can’t see him sliding past 14.

Read more of his thoughts the rest of the Florida Gators after the break!
Continue Reading » Ex-pro scout on Gators in 2010 NFL Draft (Part II)

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Spikes, Cunningham, James, DBs at Pro Day

Former Florida Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, kick returner Brandon James and defensive backs Wondy Pierre-Louis and Markihe Anderson all participated in the team’s second Pro Day on Wednesday as linebacker Brandon Spikes looked on and showed his support. The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu caught up with each player after their workout was completed though, as per usual, Spikes declined an interview request. Check out some notes and quotes (after the jump):
Continue Reading » Spikes, Cunningham, James, DBs at Pro Day

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Joe Haden has suitors lining up behind Browns

In all likelihood, the Cleveland Browns will have the first crack at selecting former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden in the 2010 NFL Draft. Positioned with the No. 7 overall pick, the Browns have been high on Haden for quite some time. The organization attended his Pro Day at Florida, met him afterward for a private workout and even flew up to Maryland to meet with him again in his home.

Haden, who is in Cleveland today visiting with the Browns according to the National Football Post, will likely have a few more trips to take before all is said and done on April 22.

Among his suitors are the Oakland Raiders (No. 8 overall), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 10 overall), San Francisco 49ers (No. 13 overall) and Tennessee Titans (No. 16 overall). “Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has talked at length with Haden and 49ers personnel had a meeting with Haden following the Gators’ Pro Day workout,” Aaron Wilson wrote.

Since running a lackluster 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, some league scouts and draft analysts have questioned whether or not Haden will be selected as high as initially projected. However, Haden proved that his slow times were a fluke at Pro Day, sending his stock back up.

Haden will be in attendance at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY for the NFL Draft.

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FOUR BITS: Cunningham, Pouncey, Wright, Tebow

1 » As OGGOA has reported twice previously, former Florida Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham hopes to turn some heads at the team’s second Pro Scout Day on Wed., April 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Speaking with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cunningham said he feels “100 percent” and is optimistic about his future. “To me, [playing DE or linebacker] is all the same,” Cunningham said. “I see myself as a football player. As long as I get on the field, when the ball is snapped, I’m going for the person with the ball. I’m very comfortable with both [positions].” As far as his decision to attend Florida (being a Georgia native)? “I felt it went pretty good,” he said. “Coming out with two National Championship rings, two SEC championship rings and a college degree. It was more than I expected.” He has received interest from nearly 20 teams in the league and has a private workout scheduled with the St. Louis Rams.

2 » The Denver Post reports that former Gators center Maurkice Pouncey could very well end up a member of the Denver Broncos if head coach Josh McDaniels decides to address its shallow offensive line in the first round. “He’s one of the youngest players on the board – he won’t be 21 until July – so the upside is still plenty big,” Jeff Legwold writes. “It’s just a matter of whether the Broncos would want to use the 11th pick of the draft on a center, even one of Pouncey’s skill level.”

3 » Former Florida safety Major Wright has accepted an invitation to work out for the Miami Dolphins in South Florida on Friday. Wright, who has been steadily climbing draft boards after his respective performances at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Day, could be picked as high as the third round according to some scouts.

4 » Two more teams talking about quarterback Tim Tebow are the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, both of whom plan to take a closer look at the former Heisman Trophy winner. Mike Wobschall, on the Vikings’ official Web site, believes the team would draft him with their second-round pick if he was still available. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reports that the Eagles will “join the parade of teams working [Tebow] out and spending time with him” leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.

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Cunningham the focus at second Florida Pro Day

The Florida Gators will host their second Pro Scout Day for football players who have decided to enter the 2010 NFL Draft on Wed., April 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Though more than 15 players – including quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Brandon Spikes, cornerback Joe Haden, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Aaron Hernandez – participated in the first Pro Day on March 17, only a handful will be present to work out for NFL team representatives this time.

Among those who will make themselves available for evaluation are defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis, kick returner Brandon James and linebacker Ryan Stamper.

Cunningham was unable to participate the first time around due to an injured shoulder, but teams are interested in taking a look at him in order to determine whether he would fit best as a 4-3 DE or an outside linebacker in the 3-4. At 6’3″ and 266 lbs., most teams seem to be leaning toward the latter.

FOX Sports reports that the New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams (among others) will be in attendance specifically to watch Cunningham’s workout. Cunningham’s shoulder “hasn’t dimmed the enthusiasm of teams who have seen the three-year starter’s film,” the report states.

The Swamp will once again be open and fans can enter through Gate 2. However, unless the University of Florida states otherwise, do not expect concession stands (or perhaps even restrooms) to be open or any other special things to be done on-site.

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FOUR BITS: Transfers, Shelley, Haden, Thompson

1 » Over the weekend, Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel and OGGOA went back-and-forth about the potential transfers of Florida Gators basketball bench players guard Ray Shipman and center Kenny Kadji. Fowler caught up with their former AAU coach, Matt Ramker, who informed him that the duo is expected to remain with Florida. “They are happy at UF and are looking forward to next season,” Ramker said.

2 » Speaking with The Salt Lake Tribune, Shelley Meyer said her husband and Gators head coach Urban Meyer is “150 percent better.” Now that he is back at work, Meyer’s wife is keeping tabs on him in the same respect he stays on top of recruits. Sending him multiple texts ensuring that he is eating, exercising and resting, Shelley claims it is “part of my plan. I’m keeping an eye on him and I’m looking for signs. What happened to Urban was a huge wake-up call that he couldn’t go on like he was.”

3 » In a question-and-answer session with The Gainesville Sun, former Florida cornerback Joe Haden said he felt the pressure of running an improved 40-yard dash at Pro Day last week. Asked how important 40 times actually were, Haden agreed that they were overrated. “They don’t really measure how you run on the field during a game,” he said. “You may be running with someone who runs a 4.2, and you might not be able to run a 4.2, but if you can run with him and cover him, you’re OK. But it’s part of the process and I respect that.” Haden also admitted that he did not do much to help Meyer’s heart issues, playing an April Fool’s joke on him last season when he and former Gators safety Major Wright told their coach they planned to transfer.

4 » One of the biggest disappointments of the 2009 Florida football season was the lack of development of now-redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Though he failed to make much of an impact throughout the season, Thompson is confident he can turn it on in 2010 with new quarterback John Brantley. “I feel I had a good Sugar Bowl,” Thompson told the Sun. “I know now I’ve got to come out hard every day because I pretty much should be the No. 1 guy.”

Photo Credit: Willie J. Allen, Jr./St. Petersburg Times

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