The Browns recent draft class has been described as disappointing. Others have claimed the team's new brass "punted" during this year's draft. Conspiracy theorists even proclaim the Browns weren't comfortable with the scouting staff's evaluations, hence the need to move picks for future selections.
All of those views are shortsighted and don't take the entire picture into consideration.
Cleveland made five selections in the draft. Two wide receivers were acquired with draft assets from this year's class. And two future picks were added as well.
The Browns' actual draft is as follows:
Round 1 - Barkevious Mingo, defensive end, LSU
Round 2 - Josh Gordon, wide receiver (used in last year's supplemental draft)
Round 3 - Leon McFadden, cornerback, San Diego State
Round 4 - Traded for future pick
Round 5 - Davone Best, wide receiver (productive veteran obtained from Miami)
Round 5 - Traded for future pick
Round 6 - Jamoris Slaughter, safety, Notre Dame
Round 7 - Armonty Bryant, defensive end, East Central Oklahoma
Round 7 - Garett Gilkey, guard, Chadron State
(Running back Dion Lewis could even be added to the equation since he was acquired for another recent seventh round selection.)
Cleveland Browns president Joe Banner spoke often about the team's acquisition of assets after the fact. Multiple assets were added courtesy of this draft. Some will contribute immediately. Others will impact the future of the team -- both players and draft picks.
The Browns' roster also dictated such moves in this year's draft class.
The Browns are the youngest team in the NFL. A quick look at the composition of the roster shows 73 of the 88 players with the team -- or 83-percent of the roster -- are currently 26 years old or younger. Eight of the 15 players older than 26 were recently acquired in free agency or trade. The team will have 36 new faces in the locker room at the start of camp.
One difference between the current regime in Cleveland as opposed to previous incarnations is a willingness to see how prior talent on the roster can develop. Banner and Lombardi want to see how players like quarterback Brandon Weeden, safety Tashaun Gipson, etc. develop under the team's new and experienced coaching staff.
Banner and Lombardi also saw value in acquiring future picks for a class which under initial view is considered much stronger than the past class. Elite talents were lacking this year. Those same assertions won't be made next year.
With preparation already beginning for 2014's class, one prominent analyst believes the Top 15 next year is absolutely loaded. Names such as Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater, Cyrus Kouandjio, Taylor Lewan, Marqise Lee, Marcus Mariota, Anthony Barr, etc. will be household names in April -- if they're not already.
But the afterglow of the 2013 class is still the main topic. Let's take a look at the team's acquisitions:
Barkevious Mingo - The Browns got their man. As the draft approached, the OBR was led to believe the team was either going to trade out of the No. 6 spot or select a defensive lineman. A potential trade was in place with St. Louis, but the Browns felt the value of selecting Mingo trumped added extra pieces later in the draft.
Even if the Browns did trade down, they were looking at a very similar talent to Mingo. Southern Mississippi's Jaime Collins is believed to have been Cleveland's target, not fellow outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. For those that want to compare as these talents develop, it will be wise to watch Collins in New England more so than Jones in Pittsburgh.
The selection of Mingo and the interest in Collins, a former safety, displays the team's preference to add a highly athletic edge rusher to the team's front seven. These talents have the ability to do more within the scheme than simply get to the quarterback.
Mingo's speed will be used as an asset first and foremost in getting to the quarterback and also in coverage responsibilities. His talent allows defensive coordinator Ray Horton to do more. Mingo can cover tight ends, running backs or even drop deep in Cover 2 looks if asked. He has the ability to do so, and he showed some of that ability at LSU.
Mingo's speed also creates problems for pass protection. His ability to get up field and beat an offensive tackle off the snap with his quickness can dictate what offense can do with their schemes. They'll try to slide protection Mingo's way, keep a tight end in to block or have a running back chip on him. This will open things up for the Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger on the frontside.
But Mingo isn't without his deficiencies. He's still rather raw as a football player. Many accept the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson was Mingo's his best game this past season. Mingo had four tackles for loss and multiple pressures.
When watching the game, there are areas to Mingo's game which are of some concern:
- Played consistently high
- Didn't display violent hands
- Didn't disengage from blocks
- Overran plays
- Never bent the edge to get to the QB
- Never finished plays when he got close to the QB
- Didn't sell the swim move
- Three biggest plays, he came unblocked
- Dove at the feet of a trap blocker
No one is denying Mingo's natural talent. He has Top 10 overall talent. There are simply concerns about his game when breaking his down with a more critical eye.
Leon McFadden - Why did the Browns' pass on Tyrann Mathieu? This was the immediate question posed when McFadden was chosen, and Mathieu came off the board with the next pick to Arizona. The fact of the matter is Mathieu isn't an ideal fit in the Browns' defensive scheme, while McFadden is. Mathieu will be asked to play nickel corner or free safety in the desert. McFadden has the opportunity to start immediately as the Browns' outside cornerback opposite Joe Haden.
The OBR had the opportunity to discuss San Diego State's defense with head coach Rocky Long before last season. Long explained how his 3-3-5 front is predicated on constant pressure created by multiple blitz packages. This, more often than not, places the team's cornerbacks on an island in man-to-man coverage. McFadden excelled in these situations. He also proved himself capable of reading quarterbacks when in zone with multiple interceptions in those situations.
Concerns have arisen about McFadden's height and speed. He makes up for both with length and fluid hips. McFadden is a hair under 5-10, but his arm length is 32 3/8 -- which is very good for a cornerback and nearly the same as Haden's (and a full inch longer than Mathieu). In fact, McFadden and Haden are built very similarly and were almost identical when they both tested at the Combine.
McFadden will get an opportunity to claim the No. 2 corner spot during training camp, and it won't be a surprise if he claims the position as the opening day starter.
Jamoris Slaughter - Another pick chastised more for who the Browns' passed rather than who they selected.
Slaughter was one of the Browns' top targets as early as round four when they initially traded. The did so again in round five. The team took a calculated risk Slaughter's injury would cause him to slide. He did. And they were able to get one of their top targets earlier in the draft in round six.
The complaints started when the Browns essentially passed on fellow safety Shamarko Thomas and instead allowed arch rival Pittsburgh to select him. Again, another instance where one was a better scheme fit for one team as opposed to the other.
The Browns preferred a safety which can be an interchangeable piece within the scheme. Slaughter has the ability to play free and strong safety as well as cover in the slot. Thomas is predominately an in-the-box safety who will have time to develop behind Troy Polamalu.
If Slaughter is fully healthy for training camp -- and he says he will be -- then it's another instance of a rookie can push to immediately start or provide early playing time.
Armonty Bryant and Garrett Gilkey - The final two selections were all about upside and potential.
Bryant was believed to have early round ability which was spoiled due to off-the-field issues. His height and length make the Browns believe he'll grow into a 3-4 defensive end. He only weighed 263 pounds at the Combine. He will eventually have to add 20-25 pounds of bulk to truly contribute at the position. This may be a "redshirt" season for Bryant as a result.
Gilkey is another matter altogether. He is physically ready to play, but he has to work on his technique while adjusting to a much higher level of play -- which is always difficult for small school offensive linemen. Gilkey was a target the OBR discussed prior to his drafting, because of the front office's demand for more physical play along the offensive line. Gilkey is one of the nastiest linemen among his draft class. The Browns clearly want to become bigger and more physical along their offensive interior.