Put yourself in Michael Lombardi’s shoes (or should I say Banner?) for a second, you have the 6th overall pick in the 2013 draft. You have now filled some gaping holes on your defense through free agency. What position do you pick in the first round?
The additions of LB Paul Kruger, LB Quentin Groves have made the OLB spots in this 3-4 scheme solid. There’s a lot LBs on this roster now; D’Qwell Jackson, Chris Gocong, Emmanuel Acho, Jabaal Sheard, James-Michael Johnson, Tank Carder, LJ Fort and Craig Robertson. The question is how will they all fit? I believe Gocong and Johnson will be fighting for that second MLB spot next to Jackson. Then Sheard and Groves will battle for the opposite side of Kruger.
Now you look at the Defensive Line, They are stacked at DT with Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Huges and Billy Winn. Defensive End became thin after they released Frostee Rucker, but just as they did at LB; the Browns signed DL Desmond Bryant who is said to play DE. It would be my guess that they might try to fit Taylor and Rubin on the line next to Bryant somehow. It should be noted that Billy Winn played some DE in a 3-4 system at Boise State.
There are some intriguing options at DE/OLB for the 6th pick in the draft:
Ziggy Ansah (BYU) is a guy, who has only played football for two years now. His junior year only had 10 tackles (mainly on special teams). Coming into his senior year he didn’t even have a scholarship, but that didn’t stop him from destroying the offense. He recorded 62 total tackles, 13 going for a loss, including 4.5 sacks. This is a guy who is extremely versatile and has played every spot on the DL and OLB. He’s very raw and needs some good coaching to improve, you’re not going to get a lot of fancy swim moves out of this guy but he has shown great improvement and physical ability.
Dion Jordan (Oregon) is a physical specimen, he came to Oregon as a WR then switched to TE and finally to the OLB/DE position. He has said that he wants to be on an NFL team that has a 3-4 defensive system as an OLB. The guy can cover a RB in the flat, and has some skill in man coverage. No one can question his toughness when you have guys not doing the combine drills because of a bruised hip, Jordan put off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder so he could do the drills at the combine. Even with the injury he amazed scouts during each position drill.
There really isn’t a OLB/DE guy in this range that stand out. Jordan and Ansah seem to fit DC Ray Horton’s system a little better than others, but there is not clear favorite to separate them from the top 10 picks. Another quick guy to mention is: Jarvis Jones (Georgia) He’s a bit of a risk at this position, with questions about his spinal stenosis condition (narrowing of the spinal canal at the neck) it’s hard to love the guy. He did quite well at Georgia though and may be a possibility.
Browns CEO Joe Banner did his best to shoot down any transaction rumors. When asked about possibly trading Taylor or Rubin, Banner said, “Our purpose has been to put together a really strong unit, have some depth so we can rotate and so if we have any injuries the line will still be one of the primary assets of the team. That’s what we feel like we’re achieving. We’re not looking to be trading anybody.”
The position with most need that the Browns have yet to improve on in Free Agency is CB. After Joe Haden who’s on the roster? Well, that would be: Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade, Johnson Bademosi, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Miller and Kent Richardson.
Your first reaction to reading the list is probably: “oh god Buster Skrine is our #2 CB” mine sure as hell is. An interesting transaction is former Arena Football League star Kent Richardson; he was named the AFL Defensive Back of the Year with the Philadelphia Soul. I don’t see him as any kind of starter but adds some depth in multiple DB formations.
There’s only one CB that is worthy at pick #6 and that’s if he drops past the top 5:
Dee Milliner (Alabama) this is a guy who I could see become better than Joe Haden later in his career. At Alabama they would let him control a side of the field by himself most of the time and he didn’t disappoint having 20 passes defended second most in FBS. Milliner can flat out fly getting the second best 40-yd dash time out of all CBs with a 4.37. He has the speed and awareness to not get beat deep. His ability in zone coverage is phenomenal, he is a true shutdown corner back and has been compared to Bears Charles Tillman. Milliner is the best player in this draft and if I’m Lombardi, I not only pick him at six I think about trading up for a guy who is number one on my board.
Just picture Joe Haden and Dee Milliner as you’re starting cornerbacks, it would be like the old days with Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield (Browns 1980’s) and if you don’t know who they are look them up on youtube. While I believe pass rushing is an important priority for the Browns this just makes too much sense to me.
With the loss of Detroit’s Cliff Avril I would imagine the Lions might go for a pass rusher with their fifth overall pick, but if they see what I see in Dee Milliner than I see no way they him up. That’s if he even reaches it past the top four.
If I’m the Browns, I’m still looking to sign a Safety, Cornerback, Tightend, and Guard through free agency. Banner has stated that there will be no more “big name” signings but they still need to add depth.
If Dee Milliner is taken off the board before Cleveland’s pick I would strongly think about trading down a few spots and still being able to get one of the OLB/DE with the same value.