In 2010, one of Browns' GM Tom Heckert's first tasks was updating a broken down secondary. Improvements came in the form of cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward, but more work remains. It may not be the most popular pick, but the offensively challenged Browns could select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Despite the lack of weapons surrounding Colt McCoy, such a pick could prove to make a lot of sense for the rebuilding Browns. Assuming Claiborne is as NFL-ready as he appears, veteran corner Sheldon Brown could then fill a huge gap at free safety. Such moves would negate the need for Heckert to further address the secondary – at least this year, when the talent is a bit thin past the first round.
Claiborne comes as advertised – a year after his LSU teammate Patrick Peterson was taken with the 5th overall pick in 2011's draft. While not as fast as Peterson, Claiborne is probably a more complete cornerback in terms of coverage and tackling ability. Claiborne is not an overly physical player, but is reminiscent of the Browns' Joe Haden when it comes to technique and awareness.
While Claiborne is probably the best all-around cornerback in the draft, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is easily the most physical. Kirkpatrick's size (6'2) and natural aggressiveness are the keys to his game. In some respects, Kirkpatrick is a bit of a throwback corner – one from an era in which defenders could still fully engage with receivers. Of course, these attributes could also prove to be liabilities in a league where contact continues to be drastically legislated.
South Carolina's Gilmore and Virginia Tech's Hosley are more than consolation prizes. Assuming that the Browns don't take Claiborne at the top of the draft or perhaps Kilpatrick lower, either player would be a solid late first round pick. Gilmore is part of an impressive South Carolina defense that featured fast, aggressive talent. Gilmore showed the kind of toughness and leadership desired of an NFL level cornerback.
Jenkins is this year's cautionary draft tale – as the ultra-talented cornerback fell out of favor at Florida, only to land at tiny North Alabama. Jenkins' narrative is filled with drug arrests and multiple children – but also contains the kind of fluid talent reminiscent of the league's top cornerbacks. For a safer pick, Nebraska's Dennard could be a solid second or third choice. Dennard is a physical player and comes with Heckert's Cornhusker seal of approval.
Safeties – First Night Potential
Mark Barron – Alabama – SS
2012 doesn't appear to be a great year for high-end safety prospects. There are several mid-round prospects who could be worthy of a selection, but again the prospects of Sheldon Brown shifting to safety could become an offseason priority. It's also worth noting Jauron has preferred safety types who are versatile enough to play both free safety and strong safety in the past.
Safeties – Second Day Talent and Late Round Finds
Harrison Smith – Notre Dame – SS
Markelle Martin – Oklahoma State
George Iloka – Boise State
Brandon Taylor – LSU
Philip Thomas – Syracuse
Janzen Jackson – McNeese State
Trenton Robinson – Michigan State
Among other safety prospects, Boise State's Iloka represents more of the Heckert Philadelphia brand of ideal safety represented by Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis. Iloka is fast for his size and delivers a knockout punch. However, it would appear the Browns would be more likely to target a free safety such as Martin or Taylor.
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