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In the 2013 NFL Draft, The Cleveland Browns Should …

April 2, 2013

As March turns to April, NFL draft season approaches its climax. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I’ve become very familiar with the draft, the pre-draft process and (over the past few years) great scouts and analysts to follow on Twitter for draft information (a few that I recommend: Matt Miller also known as @nfldraftscout, @BrendenLeiseter of DraftBrowns.com, @ericstoner and @ryanlownes). So, I wanted to share my thoughts on what the some of the teams I am familiar with should do on draft day. With the Cleveland Browns being my favorite team, I’m going to focus on them.

Former GM Tom Heckert did a great job of giving the Browns a young core from his drafts (Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Greg Little, Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor and Mitchell Schwartz come to mind), the new front office led by Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi needs to continue to build on that core. The Browns are a team lacking in overall depth and needing several starters; their draft priorities should be adding a second cornerback, a free safety, depth at offensive guard and a pass rusher. However, the task here is made more difficult as the Browns currently do not have a second round pick. At the moment, the Browns have picks in every round but the 2nd, with two picks in the 7th and last round of the draft.

First and foremost on the Browns’ list of options should be trading down in the first round. The best case scenario would be receiving a later first round pick and a pick that gets them back into the second round (the Browns used their second round pick on Josh Gordon in last year’s Supplemental Draft). Typically, teams expect players drafted in the first three rounds of the draft to develop into starters, so getting another possible starter on a cheap contract is great for any team.

The reason I think this is a possible option for the Browns is primarily because of new GM (or whatever his title is??) Mike Lombardi. Lombardi spent the last few years on TV talking about his experience working with Bill Belichek while simultaneously fawning over him as much as possible. What is Bill Belichek known for where the draft is concerned? Trading back and acquiring more draft picks.

While every team is looking for value in the draft, teams lacking in depth need to find talented players in the draft that they can control on cheap contracts for 3 or 4 years. Outside of the Offensive and Defensive Lines, the Browns are lacking depth in every position group on the team. Trading down should be the first priority for the Browns unless there is a player the Browns are “Darius Heyward-Bey at #7” in-love with on their draft board.

If they trade down or not, a position the Browns need to strongly consider addressing is cornerback. If they stay at 6 and Dee Milliner from Alabama is still available, the Browns should run to the podium to draft him and be content to move to round (updated) 3 of the draft. If they trade back to the 20’s, Desmond Trufant from Washington (updated) and Xavier Rhodes from Florida State should be available.

I would love to see the Browns draft a rookie to pair with Joe Haden in the secondary. Currently, cornerback is a glaring hole on the team; drafting a first round cornerback would (hopefully) fill this hole with a talented player on a cheap contract moving forward. Additionally, Haden would play a large role with this pick, as he will be eligible for free agency in 2015. The Browns will probably try to lock Haden up to a long-term extension next offseason (they should, he’s a top 5 CB in the league in my opinion) and having another young, talented corner on the team would provide the team some leverage if Haden decides to play hardball. I hate to think this callously, especially about a player that has taken to Cleveland like Joe has, but this is the post-Decision world sports fans (especially Cleveland ones) live in.

Another reason the Browns drafting a corner in the first round might happen comes down to the stated preference of players of Ray Horton, the Browns new Defensive Coordinator, for his defense, who has stated that he wants “big players who can run, and little players who can hit.” This is why I think Rhodes is more likely if the Browns take a cornerback, as he is being touted as a more physical corner than even Milliner. Either way, adding one of these players would add to the athleticism and physicality of last year’s secondary.

Should the Browns decide to pass on strengthening their secondary, I would like to see them add to their pass rush. Should they stay at #6, Barkevious Mingo from LSU and Dion Jordan from Oregon are two players who jumped on the screen for me and come highly rated from my resources.

Both of these players can be the vital “hybrid” pass rusher that is moved around defenses to create pass rushing mismatches. Creativity and flexibility are key parts of the 3-4 pressure-based defense that Ray Horton runs and adding Mingo, Jordan or another young pass rusher would give him another tool in his chest for his first year with the Browns. When added to Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor, newly signed Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant, the Browns pass rush could be very formidable next year.

Finally, from left field, I think the Browns should consider taking Tavon Austin, the receiver from West Virginia. While this would be a bit of a reach (though could be a perfect fit if the rumored deal with the Dolphins for the #12 pick mentioned by Dawgs by Nature  goes down), Austin thoroughly impressed scouts during his senior year and at the combine (4.34 40 anyone?). His name is one that has been showing up more frequently than any other offensive player in positive reviews in my Twitter feed over the last few weeks, and after watching some clips of him, he certainly has my attention.

A comparison I have seen for Austin is that he would be a stronger Desean Jackson, who was drafted by new Browns President Joe Banner when he was in Philadelphia. I am a big believer in Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin, but I don’t think any Browns fan would be opposed to adding to our repertoire of offensive weapons. Austin could also be a replacement for fan favorite and departed return man Josh Cribbs that fans could get excited about.

If any of above options are close to what happens for the Browns in this year’s draft, I will be excited about the team’s progress and continue to be optimistic that the team is improving. While I believe trading down would be the best long-term option, making sure they add talent that fits their coaches’ philosophies wherever they draft is what will enable them to continue progressing.

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4 Comments
  1. They definitely need help on defense. They aren’t very good against the run so i’d say defensive line. Good read.

  2. Matt Sweeney permalink

    I wansn’t a huge fan of Austin until late in the CF season last year. I think the stronger Desean Jackson comparison is spot on. Mingo would be a solid pick up as well. Looking forward to this draft.

    ps- VEGAS baby. 9 days.

  3. chrisweston10 permalink

    Two nitpicky points before I go further: Trufant went to UDub, not Washington State (my huskies-fan roommate would destroy you for that mistake), and the Browns still have a draft pick on day 2 (in the Third Round).

    That being said, was quite impressed by your analysis. This is a tough year to be at the top of the draft, especially after last years trade-a-palooza, as there aren’t the same number of top tier prospects as there has been in the past (Joeckel and Fisher may be the only sure-fire picks).

    If they are able to find a trading partner, they should absolutely do it and enjoy the extra first and/or second next year from it. Assuming they do and it’s in the twenties, I’d be hesitant to draft a CB. With talent like Blidi Wreh-Wilson (DB – UConn) most likely available in the early third, they can address their dline in the first round where the talent is richest. Guys like Datone Jones (UCLA), Tank Carradine (Fl. St.) or Margus Hunt (SMU) all seem like good fits (But don’t take Hunt. Leave him for the Pats at 29. Please oh please). Also, with your potential 2nd rounder from the trade you could conceivably target Justin Pugh (G – Syracuse) to shore up the offensive line.

    As far as Tavon Austin, I am in the camp that there are no elite receivers in this year’s draft, so a first-rounder shouldn’t be wasted on one. Wait until the later rounds for a guy like Markus Wheaton (WR – Oregon St.) who has great hands and will go up to grab anything Weeden puts out there.

    These are just my thoughts.

    ALSO – I really hope they don’t go after another QB…

    • Both edits have been made, thanks for the notes! I agree, the top of the draft is weak, so a lot of teams will be looking to trade down (I originally wrote this on April 2nd and there weren’t as many trade rumors then). With that said, I think with Joeckel and Fisher going before the Browns, it’s possible a team looking to add an LT (Lane Johnson) still trades with the Browns letting them get back into the 2nd round (not 2nd day, as you astutely pointed out).

      Defensive Line would be the only position I would be disappointed to see them go, given that is one of our strengths and we signed Bryant from Oakland already. So, I hope your wrong there but do see the appeal of that option (and would confirm the rumors that they may look to trade Rubin and/or Sheard).

      I think Austin would be worth it, but it sounds like there are also plenty of teams who agree with you. I will be very unhappy and quickly thereafter drunk if they draft a QB in round 1, I could see one in Round 2 or 3.

      You know the Pats are going to draft a CB, they always do …

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