With several new faces expected to be joining the Browns in 2013, rest assured, there will be new faces in the defensive backfield. With the need definitely high, this is a superb year to be in the market for a CB or a S. Free agency is deep at both positions and the draft looks very promising through about Round 4.
Keenan Lewis, CB Pittsburgh Steelers /Unrestricted Free Agent
Lewis is a player, per Lane Adkins, that is on the Browns radar, and I for one am glad. I watched him closely in 2009 during Senior Bowl week as well as his combine performances. I had Lewis listed as a Rd 2 talent, but nobody else had him anywhere close, with most sites ranking him in the lower Rd 4 to Rd 5 availability. The Steelers stole the former Beaver in the 3rd, stating they had him compared to the likes of Ike Taylor. Lewis has not disappointed. Fluid hips, nice transition from backpedal to drive, excellent closing ability, does nice job getting his head turned & making a play on the ball, is a very big/strong corner with 4.45 speed.
Sam Shields, CB Green Bay Packers /Restricted Free Agent
I will keep this short, GB will tender him high, match if necessary and sign him long term in the 2013 season or 2014 offseason.
Aqib Talib, CB New England Patriots /Unrestricted Free Agent
One of the most talented corners in the league, yet overshadowed by off the field issues. Like Keenan Lewis, Talib has S size with shutdown corner ability. I see the Pats likely hanging onto Talib, considering New England head coach Bill Belichick spent a draft selection on him and his on field attributes to the Patriots defense.
Sean Smith, CB Miami Dolphins /Unrestricted Free Agent
Smith is a solid young CB that has just recently come into his own. Like the corners above, Smith is a big, strong, physical guy that actually projected to be a better S in the NFL. Better field speed than timed, Smith does a very good job in short area coverage & finishing moving forward. Still does not have the best technique in closing, but makes up for that with excellent instincts that keeps him from getting sucked in on play-action.
D. Rodgers Cromartie, CB Philadelphia Eagles /Unrestricted Free Agent
DRC is an interesting guy that could make a little wave on the Browns radar. He is a talented young man that Joe Banner helped to steal from the Cardinals, in a move that sent a second round pick and DRC to Philadelphia for an underachieving Kevin Kolb. Fits the Horton scheme as he is a physical and aggressive corner that likes to take chances, yet those chances sometimes get him burned. I am of the opinion that the Eagles will lock DRC up before his hitting free agency on Monday.
Dashon Goldson, FS San Francisco 49ers /Unrestricted Free Agent
Goldson has been a big contributor to the 49ers recent success under 2nd year HC Jim Harbaugh. Goldson is a very physical presence in the 49ers secondary. Where he may be most valuable though, is his leadership on the defense. He gets a lot of positive press due to his leadership of a young 49ers defense. His weakness is what makes me see him as a lesser fit on the Browns defense, which is in coverage. Goldson has a tendency to try and do too much, then ends up getting beat deep. To me, I see him as a better actual fit as a SS, but I don’t believe the 49ers really differentiate the S position between free and strong, as the position really has evolved throughout the league.
Ed Reed, FS Baltimore Ravens /Unrestricted Free Agent
Reed is still playing at an unbelievably high level for his age and years of service to the Ravens. It is easy to list all of the strengths of Reed but the most important note to make that describes his effectiveness is simple: Opposing QB’s are mindful of where he is at all times and are extremely careful when throwing in his vicinity or throw away from him. At this time in his career, Reed will stick with the Ravens, follow a former coach, or go somewhere to help a team like the Patriots or Texans, for example, back on top or over the top, respectively.
Louis Delmas, FS Detroit Lions /Unrestricted Free Agent
Delmas is a player that has had his ups & downs thus far in his NFL Career. Drafted in the 2nd Rd of the 09’ Draft, Delmas is clearly one of the top pure FS’s on the market. He is excellent in coverage, run support, a good tackler, and a physical presence in the defensive backfield. Unfortunately, Delmas fits the story of the Detroit Lions: Much Talent; More Injuries. In 4 NFL Seasons, Delmas has yet to play 1 in full. 15 as a rookie, 15 as a Sophomore, 11 in year 3, 8 in 2012, & the knee injury that sidelined him in 12’ seems to still be of concern. The good news: the Lions may cut their losses now & allow Delmas to hit the market. With the facts at hand, a team like Cleveland could bring in Delmas at a discounted rate. Granted, you’re taking a risk, but are the potential rewards greater? That needs to be answered by Lombardi, Farmer, HC Rob Chudzinski and DC Ray Horton.
Glover Quin, FS Houston Texans /Unrestricted Free Agent
Here is another example of how good the 09’ Draft was for Defensive Backs. Quin is an overlooked part of a very good Texans Defensive Backfield. Is this the next Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu? No, but Quin is solid in the FS position. He is not a guy that QB’s aren’t going to test or that guy that QB’s will steer clear of. What he Quin will do is play at a high level at all times & keeps opposing QB’s from being successful in their downfield passing attack. Quin is more that fundamental player that does all the small things that a coach wants from the position. Takes good angles to the ball, has good speed allowing him to cover well over the top and does not have that young/bad habit of biting on play action. I like to think of Quin as a guy that is athletic, but it doesn’t define him as a player. His cerebral & athletic style is what makes him so good. This is not a guy that is going to get you 5+ INT’s a year, but he is a guy that is going to keep someone like Skrine from getting beat deep. He affords a team the opportunity to get a player like Jordan Poyer, for instance, who is very good in short area coverage, but a liability in deep coverage, closing, & getting his head around to make a play on the ball. Another positive is Quin should come at a relatively friendly price & may be viewed as replaceable in Houston, although his presence is one worthy of them making him a priority. I believe this is a player that should be on the Browns radar to shore up the FS spot.
DeMarcus Milliner CB Alabama Crimson /Tide Top 10
Milliner solidified his Top 10 (I have him at 5 to Detroit) draft stock by running a blazing 4.37 at the Scouting Combine. “Dee” is an aggressive & physical style corner with top tier speed & shutdown corner ability. Definitely a fit for the Browns, but likely will not be there at 6 & if he was, I’m not very confident he would be the Browns selection either.
Xavier Rhodes CB Florida State Seminoles /Top 25
I like Rhodes. He reminds me a lot of Keenan Lewis. Rhodes is a very good cover guy who plays fundamentally sound. Ran a low 4.4 at the Scouting Combine & showed fluid hips plus good hands. Depending on what route the Browns take in FA, Rhodes could be an option in a trade down scenario.
Desmond Trufant CB Washington Huskies /Top 25
Trufant really flew up the boards in the offseason activities. He showed shut down corner abilities at the Senior Bowl, but some still questioned his speed. At the Combine, “Dez” left no question unanswered in the speed department with a blistering 4.38, just under Milliner’s 4.37. Not big, but definitely physical & has NFL bloodlines as well. I don’t see Trufant moving out of the first & could be taken over Rhodes, depending on a team’s preference in style/scheme.
David Amerson, CB North Carolina State / Late 1st / Early 2nd
Early in the season, Amerson was considered the gem at the CB position. As time went on, many began to think that Amerson was not fast enough to be a corner at the next level & would likely projected best as a mid 2nd/early 3rd Round Safety. Following the Scouting Combine, Amerson seems to have renewed his stock as a CB, but not Top 10. Personally, I think he plays with tight hips which disrupts his transition on deep routes, & that throws out a straight line speed time. I think Amerson will be drafted by someone as a corner & after a year or two will be asked to transition to FS. Not a good fit for the Browns because they need immediate production players, not guys that need long term development in the higher rounds.
Robert Alford CB Southeastern Louisiana /Early 2nd
Alford was an interesting player coming in. After a strong Senior Bowl & running a 4.39 at the Combine, Alford has boosted his stock at least another round, moving him into the 2nd. I think he will go in the 32-45 range, good fit for the Browns if they can regain a Rd 2 selection. Very aggressive style player with a solid skill set & fundamentally sound. Anything past the 2nd & someone gets a steal!
Kenny Vaccaro S Texas Longhorns /Mid/Late 1st
Vaccaro has had an up & down stock throughout the offseason. I’ve seen him as high as Top 10 & now see him more in the bottom of the 1st. A 4.6 40 time did not help him, but his play on the field cannot be questioned. Physical Safety who wraps up well, takes good angles in coverage, & gives good help over top.
Jonathon Cyprien, SS/FS Florida International /Late 1st/ Early 2nd
Cyprien is an interesting character. What I like most about him are his football instincts as he seems very quick to acknowledge what the offense is doing. Top end speed is actually pretty good considering the S class. Uses his hands well, excellent tackler, but I did notice some troubles in coverage vs. opposing TE when watching him matched up with Jack Doyle, TE Western KY. Rd 2 is most likely, unless there is a late run on the S position. Not what the Browns need.
Matt Elam, FS/SS Florida Gators /Late 1st / Early 2nd
I really like Matt Elam of Florida. This kid is very active, both in coverage & setting the edge in run support. Elam does very well in coverage both defending TE’s & WR’s alike. At the next level, Matt May have some issues if used as a FS, especially if he is matched up against taller WR’s. I would say he fits perfectly for the Browns on the FS side & reminds me a lot of a blend in Eric Weddle & Troy Polamalu. (To be clear, I am not saying he is the next of either! Just stating that aspects in his game are similar & remind me of the two at times)
Phillip Thomas, FS Fresno State /Late 2nd / Early 3rd
When watching P. Thomas, he is very easy to write about in a Scouting aspect. Thomas is simply a do it all type FS. He can cover, can play CF, does a good job in support over top, tackles well, does a good job using his hands, is strong & does a really good job jamming his man in press coverage, can play zone or man, & does a good job in run support. So, most would say if he does all that, why is he only a Rd 2/3 prospect? Simple, he doesn’t do any of it to the extent of a Top 5 pick. He does it all well, just not great. Thomas is what I would call fundamentally advanced, a player most coaches would want in their defensive backfield.
Shamarko Thomas, SS/FS Syracuse /Late 2nd / Early 3rd
Thomas is a guy that has a lot of heart is tough as nails. When you lose your parents at a young age, you have to be tough, like Thomas. Thomas is a player that excels in the box & stuffing the run. On the same note, with Corner experience, Thomas will likely be a guy very similar to former Cleveland Brown Mike Adams. Fast, good instincts, versatile, & well rounded. A team will get a very good NFL player with this pick; unfortunately, the Browns aren’t a team in a spot to take chances on a guy like Thomas who might be a good FS. Projecting best at SS, this pick will need to be for another NFL. In my opinion, would fit nicely next to Eric Weddle in SD.
Bacarri Rambo, FS Georgia Bulldogs /3rd Round
Rambo is a guy with all tools necessary for the next level. Aggressive style, good anticipation skills, very smooth DB, physical against the run, nice transition from backpedal to drive, excellent closing ability, fluid hips, & nice size. Of the best available prospects for the Browns, Rambo is on top of the list. Unfortunately, Rambo has some “Flash” in him as he has had more than 1 positive marijuana test. As well, Rambo has 1st round ability, but shows some inconsistencies on the field. Those issues separate him from a late 1 talent to a likely 3rd Round pick. As for the Browns, Rambo is a good fit. This team has enough positive influences to keep Rambo on the straight & narrow as well as a good defensive coaching staff that will push Rambo to display that Round 1 talent more consistently!
What is best for the Browns?
As simply a personal opinion from someone who follows the Browns, I think there are two specific ways this team can & should go to upgrade the Defensive Backfield as a whole:
1) Add Keenan Lewis via FA to play opposite Joe Haden. Add another FA Corner, like Darius Butler or Carey Williams to play the Nickel. Draft a FS, like Bacarri Rambo, in the 3rd round or beyond. In this scenario, I believe the better coverage coming from the Corner position will make it easier on younger developmental FS types. Rambo is someone that could start in year one, & should, provided he has good help in front of him so that he can learn on the field without being caught with his pants down too often. T. Gipson, current Browns FS, is another player that would benefit from having better CB2 & Nickel coverage in front of him.
2) Add Keenan Lewis via FA to play opposite Haden. Rather than adding a more proven Nickel in FA, stick with Buster Skrine. Skrine is not terrible in short area coverage, but his transitions from backpedal to close is a weakness for him. A FS, specifically like Glover Quin, would definitely help the over top coverage, giving the Browns much better deep passing defense. If they do not want to stick with Skrine, they can always pick up a better option in the draft.
With free agency very strong in the defensive backfield as well as deep within the draft, the Browns should have no problem at all solidifying this position and getting much better play there too, in the upcoming 2013 Season!