6th Overall Selection by the Cleveland Browns
Overview: The Cleveland Browns have spent the entire 2013 off-season transitioning from the 4-3 defense under former defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, to the blitz heavy attacking 3-4 defense that former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton has begun installing. After adding high priced free agents such as Baltimore’s Paul Kruger at outside linebacker and Desmond Bryant an athletic defensive tackle from the Oakland Raiders, the Browns new brain trust added Barkevious Mingo to their linebacker rotation with the 6th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Mingo is an electric athlete who was poorly used as a strong side contain defensive end at Louisiana State University, he will move to outside linebacker under Horton and be unleashed to attack the quarterback. The Browns front 7 has the looks of a versatile and fairly deep unit, and could have a better balance of talent than any of Horton’s Cardinal defense’s which finished in the top half of the league statistically despite having dreadful offensive support. There is plenty of talk about the improving Browns offense and their young talents match with offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s scheme, but Ray Horton’s young and explosive 3-4 defense could steal the show in 2013.
Position Battles: The only “set in stone” starter at the outside linebacker position is free agent addition Paul Kruger on the strong side. The weakside rush linebacker will be decided between Mingo, and 3rd year defensive end Jabaal Sheard who has reportedly made excellent strides in his switch to outside linebacker. As it stands right now, Sheard is your opening day starter over Mingo. While Mingo has the athletic edge, the 24 year old Sheard has a terrific skillset which is NFL proven and can also be a force in the run game. Mingo will be a heavy factor in sub packages with a primary focus on pressuring the quarterback, with the Browns likely following the same blueprint which the San Francisco 49ers used to develop converted defensive end Aldon Smith at linebacker. While Sheard has the early edge, a strong pre-season for Mingo could change their roles very quickly. Entering training camp, Kruger will start opposite of Sheard, with Mingo and free agent addition Quinton Groves competing for snaps in the rotation. The most interesting dynamics will come in the sub packages, with the creative Horton finding ways to utilize Mingo, Sheard, and Kruger at the same time. There have been early rumblings of Mingo lining up in multiple positions and occasionally used similarly to the way Horton deployed Arizona’s sack leader and pro bowl inside linebacker Daryl Washington. Though in most passing situations Mingo will put his hand in the ground and rush from the defensive end position in a 4 man front. Within Horton’s defensive scheme and considering the talent around him, Mingo is a strong candidate for 7-10 sacks his rookie season.
Notable Match-Ups: The Browns are shaping up to have one of the fastest and most disruptive front 7′s in all of football and will have some formidable match ups in 2013. In what should develop into a perennial AFC North showdown, Mingo will battle Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth in weeks 4 and 11. Matt Kalil from the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriot Nate Solder, Brandon Albert from the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jet D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Jacksonville Jaguar Eugene Monroe will join Whitworth as the toughest competition during the regular season for Mingo and the Cleveland defensive front. Weeks 8 and 13 will pit Mingo against this years NFL Draft’s top 2 selections, the Kansas City Chiefs Eric Fisher and Jacksonville Jaguar Luke Joeckel. Mingo will kick off his career facing the Miami Dolphins and their bookend tackles Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo, a match-up which will tell a great deal about each teams hopes for the 2013 season.
2014 and Beyond
The Cleveland Browns have big plans for Barkevious Mingo for the 2013 season, and even bigger plans for 2014 and beyond. The Browns brass will not ask for too much in the beginning, as they let him use his athleticism at opportune times while developing further physically for an eventual every down role. Mingo played his final season at LSU at roughly 230 lbs., while using the majority of his off-season to bulk up to around 245. Ideally, Cleveland will look for Mingo to get around the 250-260 lb. range which is more than reasonable on his 6’5 frame. Mingo should eventually develop into an every down weak side rush backer with the versatility to both drop into coverage and pressure the quarterback. The trio of Kruger, Mingo, and Sheard is under contract through the 2014 season and depending on how Sheard produces in his new role, could be an emerging edge rush rotation in the AFC. Team President Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi have poured serious money into a front 7 that wants to attack and control the line of scrimmage. They inherited a talented but inexperienced roster and have reinforced it with the coaching and support needed to establish a consistent winner. There is a guarded optimism among Cleveland fans that respectability is finally on its way to the shores of Lake Erie.