The Cleveland Browns entered the 2013 NFL Draft under new management with Joe Banner running the front office with Mike Lombardi coming off an extended hiatus from the league and Ray Farmer as an assistant general manager coming from the Chiefs. They also have a high powered coaching staff with Rob Chudsinski and coordinators Norv Turner and Ray Horton. With all of these people in place, the Browns came into the draft after an active free agent period seeking to put in place an identity. They said what they wanted to do with the franchise but the uncertainty of the draft has a way of making people (the fans, the media, and analysts) wonder what is really true. This draft was as much about the front office and the team’s approach than it did the actual players involved as they ended up coming away from this year’s draft with five players drafted, one player acquired in trade and a couple of 2014 draft picks.
So many people assumed the Browns would go ahead and take Dee Milliner, the cornerback from Alabama if they stayed at the sixth pick in the draft. The Browns have a hole at the corner spot across from Joe Haden, Milliner was the highest guy on the board, so they put two and two together and figured it was an easy pick to project and move on. However, the people who really took a look at what was going on Cleveland were skeptical of this match for a few reasons.
When Jimmy Haslam bought the team, he came in and wanted to model his team after the Pittsburgh Steelers. After they hired Chudsinski to be the head coach, they spent a good amount of money on Ray Horton to run their defense; a disciple of Dick LeBeau. The Steelers never put that much emphasis on the corner position and especially not the second corner position. The Steelers let guys walk constantly and rarely ever put much money in the position. Perhaps only anecdotal evidence, when Horton was in Arizona, they drafted Patrick Peterson third overall and appeared to have a dynamic set of corners between Peterson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, then almost immediately traded Cromartie to the Eagles.
In addition, the Browns have Joe Haden and he is about to get a new contact, likely making him the highest paid corner in the league. Even under the new collective bargaining agreement for rookie contracts, that is a lot of cap room spent on the cornerback position, especially when the defensive coordinator does not put that much value there.
Horton puts his emphasis on the front seven and wants guys who can run and hit. As a result, the Browns selected Barkevious Mingo with the sixth overall pick in the draft because he subscribes to the idea a team can never have enough pass rushers. Mingo comes in as an outside linebacker to play in a scheme with Paul Kruger (whom they signed in free agency) and Jabaal Sheard. Now, they have the flexibility to develop Mingo at their own pace and put him in positions to succeed. Now, Horton has a terrific rotation of pass rushers to work with and there is little doubt he will find ways to have them all on the field at the same time to get after the opposing quarterback.
Mingo has incredible speed and explosiveness for the position. He immediately becomes the fastest player on this defense that does not play corner. He played left defensive end in the SEC 230lbs so he is accustomed to dealing with blocks and having to hold up against the run. With the ability to come off the edge as a linebacker, he will have more room to operate and use his speed. He needs to continue adding strength to his frame, but if he can get up to around 240-245lbs this year and ultimately aim to get around 250lbs overall, he can be a huge weapon for the Browns. This move gave the Browns an identity on defense. They have put a huge emphasis on the front seven and getting after the quarterback. This is who they have decided they want to be and if they cannot do that, they are going to be in a world of hurt this year and the next few years. Much is being mentioned about how he is going to have to adjust to outside linebacker and specifically in coverage. Yes, he is going to have to do these things but they brought in Mingo to get after the quarterback first and foremost, which is what he is going to be doing 90% of the time anyway. The pick and his career are not going to be judged on how well he covers anyone. Guys like DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews occasionally cover in their respective schemes, but they are there to get to the quarterback.
The Browns did not have a second round pick as they used it in the supplemental draft the previous year on wide receiver Josh Gordon. So far, that has been a great investment and big things are expected from Gordon. The Browns next pick was in the third round where they did attempt to address their need at corner when they selected Leon McFadden, a corner out of San Diego State. McFadden measures at 5’9 5/8” but has long arms and plays with toughness. He is not afraid to attack the run and take on blocks. He has shown the ability to play in both press and off man and has the ability to knock down passes and intercept them. He is also a guy who can be a threat after the interception and took two passes back to the end zone. While McFadden is not going to be penciled in as the starter, it would be shocking if he did not at least take the nickel job this year and will have plenty of opportunities to take the other outside corner spot across from Haden.
In the fourth and fifth rounds, the Browns made a series of moves that have been scrutinized by some. First, they traded with the Miami Dolphins to get Davonne Bess, their steady slot receiver. In doing so, they exchanged fourth round picks, moving down seven spots, and then exchanged the fifth round pick they received from San Francisco in the Colt McCoy deal for a seventh round pick. The Browns wanted Bess to play in the slot but also because of his leadership and work ethic for their young receivers. Bess is one of the hardest workers in the league and the Browns are hoping that attitude rubs off on their locker room. This move was largely applauded by critics around the league.
What has met mixed reaction was the move to then trade the fourth round pick to the Steelers for a third round pick in 2014. In round five, they traded that pick to the Indianapolis Colts for a fourth round pick in 2014. The most superficial and useless complaint was from those criticizing the trade with the Steelers because it was the Steelers. It was a simple currency exchange; the Browns traded four quarters for a dollar. That is all there was to it.
The move had some definite implications and some that are nothing but good sounding theories. First, the Browns front office did not feel pressure to win right this second. By not feeling pressured to take players right this second, they had the ability to add assets for next year. It is possible the Browns front office, who had stuck with the scouting department from Tom Heckert, could opt to replace a number of them for next year and want to have more of their guys in the draft process. That will be answered in the next month or close to it. The theories that cannot be proven with any certainty is that they were planning on picking a player like Ryan Nassib and bailed when he went ahead of them to the Giants. It sounds good, but there is no way to know for sure. They also ‘bailed’ under that theory when the Seahawks traded up and took Jesse Williams and Tharold Simon back to back.
The other moving part in this whole deal is the idea that the Browns would allow Brandon Weeden to be the quarterback for this coming year and then reevaluate the situation. Weeden was not this regime’s first round pick but he actually fits the offense they want to run now better than he did in the offense he was drafted to run under Pat Shurmur. They have the opportunity to give him a year and see if he can become the quarterback that warranted a first round pick according to the previous regime. If not, they now have more assets in 2014 to acquire the guy they think can be. The answer to that one will not be answered for another year, but a worthwhile storyline to keep an eye on over the next year.
In the sixth round, the Browns opted to address another one of their bigger holes, the free safety position, by selecting Jamoris Slaughter from Notre Dame. This was a small surprise as Slaughter missed almost the entire season with an Achilles injury and admitted he was surprised to be drafted. Slaughter is a talented safety prospect that has a skill set that could fill what the Browns are looking for in their defense. Slaughter started his career in the star position for the Irish and got accustomed to playing in the box near the line of scrimmage and was comfortable attacking the run, in coverage, and blitzing off the edge. He shows good movement skills and fluidity to be able to cover in man to man should it be asked of him. Before the injury, Slaughter was playing a truer center fielding style of safety in Cover-1 and Cover-2. The Browns did not have anyone that could really protect their corners over the top this past year and it resulted in a number of big plays. Slaughter will have the opportunity come in and compete immediately for the starting job, but the question is when he will be 100% to compete. Slaughter had actually applied for another year of eligibility but was denied and forced to come out and into the draft. The Browns hope they got a great value with Slaughter and say he is around 90-95% recovered now and should be 100% by the time they get to camp. Slaughter will be competing with Tashaun Gipson, an undrafted free agent brought in to compete last year, but they could opt to sign a free agent to start and Kerry Rhodes is a possibility because of his familiarity with Ray Horton. If Slaughter can be the player the Browns hope, they have a secondary that could show some Cover-0 with full on man to man with people coming after the quarterback.
In the seventh round, the Browns opted to attack the small school ranks, first selecting Garrett Gilkey, an offensive tackle from Chadron State. Gilkey dominated lower level competition but was invited to the Senior Bowl where he appeared as someone who fit in despite the increased level of competition. He is an impressive athlete who excels in run blocking with power as well as effort. Gilkey played through the echo of the whistle and worked to drive opponents into the bleachers or into the ground whenever possible. There are examples of him dropping into pass pro and pancaking the guy attacking his teammate next to him. He plays with a mean streak and has a lot to offer for Browns offensive line coach George Warhop if he can soak up the coaching. Gilkey should have be able to adapt to the run quickly, likely moving inside to guard, but needs to improve his technique as a pass blocker, especially when it comes to staying low and re-anchoring. Still, the attitude, effort, and physical tools are there to develop into a quality player and that is a worthwhile choice in the seventh round.
With their other seventh round pick, the Browns adopted to bring in more competition and depth with Armonty Bryant, the defensive end out of East Central Oklahoma. Bryant is an impressive athlete, regardless of where he played, but he dominated an inferior level of competition. He shows explosion, agility, quickness, and power. The Browns are going to develop him as a 5-tech defensive end and he will have to prove he can be counted on as a person before they are terribly concerned with what he can bring to the field. Bryant has some serious questions in his past, which is why he was available in the seventh round. Reportedly, Bryant could end up in the football arrest hall of fame for being arrested for trying to sell drugs to an undercover cop. On its face, not all that infamous; the kicker is that it was during football practice. On the field, Bryant has a great deal of potential and has some technique combined with physical tools that make him an intriguing prospect. The Browns have a lot of depth along the defensive line and he will have to compete to make the roster and then to make the rotation. If he can, it likely figures to be as a pass rush specialist initially in a package that could just feature a bunch of guys to come and go get the quarterback. He also has utility on special teams as he has shown a knack for blocking kicks during his career. If he can keep his focus on football and learn from his past mistakes, he could find a future with the Browns and develop into a good player. The Browns have little invested with Bryant and he has acknowledged that fact, so If he proves to be trouble, they can cut the cord easily.
My Thoughts: I like the pick of Barkevious Mingo because it establishes an identity on defense by having weapons to attack to attack the opposing quarterback. In addition to being a quarterback league, the teams that succeed consistently are able to protect their quarterback and pressure the opposing quarterback. The Browns opted to bring in more weapons to rush the opposing quarterback. They did make attempts to improve the secondary but that could still be an issue moving forward and into the next draft. At least the Browns appear to have a verifiable strength on this defense now in the front seven with depth along the defensive line and with pass rushers. I like the upside of Garrett Gilkey and his fit within the offense and I understand the move to bring in a player like Armonty Bryant. Jamoris Slaughter could be a great addition if he is healthy. They also came away with extra assets for next year and it will be interesting to see what they do with those picks. It should not be forgotten that the Browns also brought in Davonne Bess and his potential impact on this team. It would have been nice to bring in another tight end and inside linebacker for depth. Still, because of the second round pick being used on Gordon, the Browns draft this year all comes down to Barkevious Mingo and whether or not he is a dynamic pass rusher.
Tags: 2013 Nfl Draft Armonty Bryant Barkevious Mingo Chadron State Cleveland Browns Davonne Bess East Central Oklahoma University Featured Garrett Gilkey Jamoris Slaughter Leon McFadden LSU Tigers Football Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Popular San Diego State Aztecs Football