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Browns draft philosophy? Build up the offensive and defensive lines

Coach Mike Pettine knows most fans get more excited about skill players on Draft Day than they do linemen.

"I know these aren't the two sexiest picks," Pettine told reporters after the Browns made their picks Thursday. "We are thrilled because we know with a great degree of certainty that the Cleveland Browns got better tonight."

To Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, the biggest advantage a team can take into a game is controlling the line of scrimmage, and with draft picks Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving, Cleveland feels like it's beyond bolstered its offensive and defensive lines.

The thing about Shelton and Erving: They aren't cookie-cutter players. Both have exclusive skill sets that aren't really replicated by any other players in the 2015 draft. 

Shelton's the biggest player in the entire draft, weighing 339 pounds. Usually bigger defensive linemen aren't known as playmakers, but more as players who set up others. The opposite was true of Shelton at Washington, where he led his team with 93 tackles and nine sacks.

Those kind of numbers are extremely rare for an interior lineman.

"We liked the size," Farmer said. "We liked the fact that as an interior run-stopper, he had girth, quickness, agility, strength to clog up the middle and be an impact player and press the pocket from the interior."

Erving can play center, guard and tackle – the latter of which was his main position at Florida State. Farmer was intrigued from the get-go with the 313-pounder's footwork, the first thing Cleveland's general manager looks at when he evaluates offensive linemen.

The beauty of drafting Erving? The Browns aren't yet committing to what his position will be. They'll settle that out on the football field.

"The guy played left tackle last year at Florida State and then during the middle of the season got pushed and had never snapped the ball and went to offensive center and looked like he was an All-Pro center and had never played the position," Farmer said.

"The versatility that the guy provides is unique. I will say that it is a staple for us that we like players who are non-scheme dependent; they can play in anybody's scheme, whether it's a gap scheme, a power scheme or a zone. We like guys who can play in that capability, and he is one of those guys."

Last year, the argument could be made the Browns' five consecutive losses to end the season had to do with  the performance of both the offensive and defensive lines.

An injury to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack created a musical chair situation on the offensive line for a large chunk of the season, and it hindered Cleveland's ability to run the football. The addition of Erving creates even more competition between John Greco, Mitchell Schwartz and Michael Bowie on the right side of the line. 

The defensive line, on the other hand, was decimated by injuries to Phil Taylor, Armonty Bryant and John Hughes. Pettine was firm in saying Cleveland's issue with stopping the run (ranked 32nd last season) wasn't solely the defensive line's fault, but the unit could use more beef.

Enter Shelton.

"(Stopping the run) was an obvious area of concern during the times that it did happen when we gave up some big rushing games," Pettine said. "When the season ended, when we looked at us, we felt great where we were in the secondary but obviously needed to bolster the front."

The Browns might not be done adding to both the sides of the line. With eight picks still remaining, there are extremely high odds more big-bodied rookies will be added to the roster.

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