The Cleveland Browns enter the draft with a huge opportunity to make a move in the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens appear to be in a situation where they are reloading and may not be as competitive as they have been for the past decade which leaves the Cincinnati Bengals in a great spot to take over, but the Browns could make a play to be the second best team. Despite the change in ownership and the changes in the front office, the Browns are in fantastic position to add talent to a young core thanks to former general manager Tom Heckert. Preisdent Joe Banner, general manager Mike Lombardi, and assistant general manager Ray Farmer are tasked with trying to maintain the momentum in talent gained under Heckert, but still have some major question marks. The Browns may be a team hoping to trade down to acquire more picks as they used their second-round pick on wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft.
6. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB LSU – The Browns have put a significant amount of emphasis on their front seven and continue to do so with the first pick of the draft. With the signings of Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves along with the up and coming Jabaal Sheard, the Browns and specifically defensive coordinator Ray Horton are in position to take a tremendous athlete and hard worker Barkevious Mingo and develop him in the same way the Giants and 49ers developed Jason Pierre-Paul and Aldon Smith respectively, starting them mostly as a situational pass rusher and then growing the role from there. And with Horton running the defense, he could easily find ways to get all of these pass rushers on the field at the same time.
Dion Jordan, DE/OLB Oregon – Jordan offers many of the same things as Mingo does but he has more size and length and has shown he is perhaps a more versatile player, showing some skill in his ability to cover tight ends. He is not quite the pass rusher Mingo is but his potential and athleticism are just as incredible for the game of football. The other issue that could hurt Jordan slightly is the fact he is currently rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
Dee Milliner, CB Alabama – Many onlookers see the Browns depth chart and how much it screams getting a cornerback to play opposite Joe Haden. They certainly do, but there are questions about whether or not Milliner warrants a Top 10 pick, such as his ball skills, lack of a back pedal, and his inconsistency tackling. In addition, Horton’s background with Arizona and Pittsburgh has never put a ton of emphasis on the cornerback position and while Milliner has incredible physical tools and potential, the amount of cap dedicated to the secondary would be extremely high with this pick. Still, none of the issues Milliner has are beyond fixing and while it could take a little time, he could be a franchise corner in the NFL, but like Jordan, he is also rehabbing from a shoulder injury.
Geno Smith, QB West Virginia – The possibility of the Browns taking a quarterback cannot be ignored and Smith is the best of the bunch. However, the Browns do have Weeden coming back who was picked in the first round last year, albeit by a different front office, so they are not in a position where they do not have to force a quarterback pick if they do not deem them worth the pick or a good fit. Smith may not fit either category as he might not be well suited to run new head coach Rob Chudsinski’s offense and he still has a lot of developing to do.
68. Bacarri Rambo, S Georgia – There is a gaping hole at free safety for the Browns and no one appears poised to take over the position. Rambo would be a great player and tremendous fit at this spot as Horton has liked having a true center fielding type of safety that can protect his corners on the back end and can make plays on the ball. Rambo has tremendous ball skills and tracks the ball as well as anyone in this class with a knack for causing turnovers. If he is the pick, he should step in and start almost immediately. It could make for an outstanding pairing with T.J. Ward as the strong safety.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB Connecticut – If and when the Browns do address the corner position, they seem to like tall corners who can press and play man. Wilson is a solid man cover corner with incredible length to break up passes, but needs to develop his ability to play press. One area where Wilson stands out is his willingness to support the run and giving up his body to create opportunities for teammates. He could easily end up playing strong side corner for someone.
Brian Winters, OT Kent State – The Browns have some questions at guard, specifically right guard they need to answer. Jason Pinkston had shown some promise at left guard but a blood clot ended his season and it is not entirely clear where he goes from here. John Greco came in and actually played better than Pinkston. On the right side, Shawn Lauvao has shown some ability as a run blocker, but he struggles against the pass, especially when it comes to lateral agility at right guard. The Browns could try to move Greco to right guard or hope second year Ryan Miller can come in and take the job, but more than likely, the long term answer is not on the roster. Winters played left tackle for the Golden Flashes and plays with a mean streak that could fit nicely at the right guard spot if the Browns choose to go that route.
Travis Kelce, TE Cincinnati - Rob Chudsinski loves talented tight ends and while Jordan Cameron has shown some flashes, not enough to be counted on yet and there would be no shame in having another one. Kelce has some character concerns to be vetted as he was suspended his entire sophomore year stemming from a still publicly unknown incident that occurred at their bowl game the previous year. On the field, Kelce is a great blocker and a solid receiver with the potential to improve and would be an excellent fit in this offense as an inline tight end.
104. Tharold Simon, CB LSU – Simon seems to possess all of the qualities the Browns want in a cornerback, but he is not quite a finished product. He would have benefited with another year at LSU working on his coverage technique and improving his efficiency with his movement, but he his 6’2” 200lb size, his intensity against the run, and his long term potential make him a great fit for the Browns. He has tremendous athleticism for his size and while the Browns would be paying the freight for a year of teaching him, he likely would have been a first or second-round pick had he played well his senior year.
Tony Jefferson, S Oklahoma – If they do not get a free safety in round three, Jefferson could be a good candidate in round four because he is another great coverage safety in the making, but he needs to improve his tackling and consistency against the run. He possesses the footwork and skill set of a corner playing safety so he could man up in coverage against three receiver sets.
Nick Kasa, TE Colorado – If the Browns like Cameron, they could still be in search of an inline tight end who can help them impose their will in the running game and open up holes for Trent Richardson. Kasa is a converted defensive end who moved to tight end as a senior and showed promise at the position. He still has a ways to go as a receiver, but he is a physical blocker that can come in and contribute immediately.
Kevin Reddick, ILB North Carolina – It seems unlikely he will be available at this point, but if he is, the Browns could grab Reddick to compete with James Michael-Johnson for the inside linebacker job next to D’Qwell Jackson with the loser providing great depth for both spots. Reddick has the ability to attack downhill and play the run, but needs to try to take on and shed blocks more often than try to go around them. He needs to develop more as a contributor in coverage but also brings leadership to the locker room.
139. Ryan Otten, TE San Jose State – One of the most underrated tight ends in the country; Otten had a great season for the Spartans before having a run of terrible luck in the draft process. First, he got the flu during the Senior Bowl, but he gutted through it and then received a cut on his arm during the practices that weak that got a staph infection. So, at the combine Otten measured in at 230lbs leaving people to doubt him. He rebounded at his Pro Day where he ran in the 4.6 range and was up to 242lbs getting closer to 100% health. On the field, Otten appears to have the ability to be a threat as a receiver in the passing game, but while he needs to get stronger, shows good technique in the running game.
Joseph Fauria, TE UCLA – Fauria may have as much talent as any tight end in this draft when all is said and done. For a player his size, he has remarkable athleticism as a runner after the catch and has overwhelming size for the position, allowing him to box out opponents, especially in the end zone. The issue with Fauria is his willingness to block. When he gives effort, he is a little sloppy with his technique but effective, but the problem is he does not always give effort and gives the impression he does not like doing the dirty work the position demands. If that is the case, Fauria still has value as a joker tight end, but would still be disappointing considering how good he could be.
Ty Powell, OLB Harding – Powell is a popular prospect among draftniks because is a freakish athlete who was able to produce at three different positions in college. Still, he was playing at a lower level and while he is an incredible athlete, he is a ball of clay to a certain extent. Horton could take Powell to play effectively as a wild card as depth for multiple linebacker spots, both inside and outside while he develops him as a longer term project.
Terry Hawthorne, CB Illinois – Another taller, tough corner who can play press on the outside and fits the profile of players the Browns seem to prefer to play corner. Hawthorne has a ton of experience battling against tough competition and has flown under the radar playing at Illinois.
173. Ray Graham, RB Pittsburgh - Drafting a running back every year is a smart move for every team in the league because every year, at least one but more likely a few have a big impact for a team. And even if that impact is only short term, it was a late round pick. The Browns have Trent Richardson, who played hurt all year and should be a franchise back. Montario Hardesty struggled with injuries early in his career, but showed he could be a valuable asset last year, though not a receiving threat. The Browns also have Chris Ogbannaya who is not much of a running threat, but has been a quality utility player. Joe Banner came from Philadelphia where they have LeSean McCoy out of Pittsburgh. They also had Bryant Westbrook before McCoy. Also from the University of Pittsburgh, Ray Graham has battled injuries but has the talent to be a dynamic running back and receiver out of the backfield like McCoy and Westbrook with little or no risk in the backfield. Get him healthy and let him run as a platoon guy.
175. Vince Williams, ILB Florida State – James Michael-Johnson had some flashes as a rookie year and could be primed to be the starter at the strong inside linebacker position in the Browns 3-4, but they could use another hammer type linebacker for depth. Williams is an impressive athlete in short areas who has surprising range and just loves to hit people. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl but has been largely an afterthought since then and was not invited to participate in the Scouting Combine. Williams could round out a really talented front seven with depth.
Dustin Hopkins, K Florida State – After the 2012 season ended, Phil Dawson thanked the fans for their support signaling his end to his long and distinguished career kicking in Cleveland. He would have left last year but the Browns used their franchise tag to keep him , so he stayed for another year but his family moved back to Texas. Dawson wanted to kick for a Super Bowl contender or failing that, kick closer to home and his family. He made it official when he signed with San Francisco and the Browns are now in need of a new kicker. It is not entirely clear if any of the kickers in this draft warrant a draftable grade, but whether it is in the draft or free agency, the Browns will need a new kicker, so drafting one is certainly a possibility.
Brad Wing, P LSU – Instead of having a great kicker for over a decade, the Browns have moved from punters year to year recently and really struggled in that area this past year. Again, the Browns could opt to sign one in free agency, but it is nevertheless a possibility they will draft one. Wing did two things uncharacteristic of punters going to the NFL. He comes in with character concerns as he was suspended for the LSU bowl game and he then decided to declare early for the NFL. Wing is a solid punter but brings an added element of athleticism for teams looking to run fakes.
Kyle Juszczyk, TE Harvard – Although the Browns would probably hope Juszcyzyk goes undrafted and try go to convince him to come up on an undrafted free agent contract from nearby Medina, if the Browns want to add a fullback, this could be their guy. He played the H-back position for Harvard, but showed up and performed extremely well for the Senior Bowl, looking a natural fullback and not only proving he was worthy of the invite, but looking the best of the group.
Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE Notre Dame – The Browns have a lot of young players looking to make their mark in the league along the defensive line. However, it is not clear if they all fit yet and they could still use another pure 3-4 defensive end. Moore suffered an unfortunate ACL injury in the National Title Game and the Browns could opt to draft him and stash him for a year while they figure out what all they have. Moore comes back next year and tries to grab himself a spot.
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