With 13 picks in the 2012 NFL draft, Cleveland Browns fans rightfully have high expectations that the top of the draft will provide several plug-n-play starters to bolster one of the league’s worst offenses. While the defense isn’t nearly as needy, an OLB and depth players shouldn’t be ignored either.
In Rounds 1-4, the Browns have six picks. These are premium picks in the draft that should, at the very least, stick on the roster.
But what about those seven picks the Browns own in Rounds 5-7? It’s the bottom dwellers of the draft that define the acuity of an NFL front office and scouting staff. They will spend the bulk of their time scouring these lesser-knowns for value in positions of need. Here, unlike those premium picks at the top of the draft, it is common to “reach” a little deeper for talent that might provide quality depth. Some may actually challenge for a starting role. Others will take the slower, developmental path: Practice squad to backup role (or, special teams) to starting role over several seasons.
Using DraftTek.com’s seven-round mock draft (including compensatory picks), I’ll present some interesting prospects that we could be watching on Sundays, if only in a supporting role: the sleepers and slippers.
Slipper Pick: OLB Nigel Bradham, 6’2”, 241 lbs. (Florida State)
I put a “grab” on Bradham, DraftTek’s 11th-ranked OLB43 at this spot. Bradham led the Seminoles in tackles in 2010 and 2011. He’s my slipper pick, as most draftniks see Bradham as a third-round talent.
Bradham is a talented athlete who projects as a WILL LB in the 4-3. Bradham had a nice combine and Pro Day, showcasing his ball skills. He could challenge for a starting role immediately and has the versatility to play any LB position.
Sleeper Pick: OT Tom Compton. 6’5”, 314 lbs. (South Dakota)
Compton was a reliable four-year starter at left tackle who dominated defenders, albeit of lesser quality in the Great West Conference. His game tape shows a very polished technician who plays with better balance and agility than explosiveness. Compton has played right tackle early in his career. Compton is a road grading run-blocker who has the chops to be a nice pass blocker as well.
Compton has lined up a visit with the Vikings, but I expect other NFL teams to express an interest as well. A nice developmental prospect who could crack the Browns roster.
Matt Reynolds No. 70
Sleeper Pick: OT Matt Reynolds, 6’5”, 302 lbs. (BYU)
Like Bradham at pick 139, I put a “grab” on Reynolds at pick 160. Reynolds is a tackle prospect that will probably be moved inside until he gets up to speed as a tackle in the NFL. He’s older, having taken a year to serve on an LDS mission in Germany, but the two-time team captain is no secret among draftniks.
Reynolds displays one of the strongest anchors against the pass-rush of any prospect in this class, but needs work on his footwork technique in order to play tackle. The once freshman All American is getting some buzz of late as a prospect who has a high enough floor to make it in the NFL.
Slipper Pick: DT/DE Matt Conrath, 6’7”, 281 lbs. (Virginia)
Conrath, the first-team All-ACC DT, notched 64 tackles in 2011 but also blocked three field-goal attempts. Conrath would be a nice depth addition who can play the DE position as well. That versatility could come in handy on a Browns front-four in need of depth. Conrath should be an immediate impact player on special teams who can develop the size, strength and skills to challenge for a greater role for the Browns down the line.
DraftTek’s Draft Simulator chose QB Russell Wilson (Pick 204) of Wisconsin and TE James Hanna (Pick 205) of Oklahoma here. Let’s see who might be the slippers and sleepers in this round who could influence these picks.
Sleeper Pick: RB Edwin Baker, 5’9”, 210 lbs (Michigan State)
Baker, the red-shirt junior, was a workhorse RB for the Spartans in 2010, amassing 1,201 yards and 13 TDs. In 2011, Baker shared the load with Le’Veon Bell and rushed for only 665 yards and only five TDs.
Bell has a nice skill set: good explosion off the snap, nice top-end speed and the ability to get those tough yards between the tackles. Bell projects as a nice rotational back who could push Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya for a roster spot.
Slipper Pick: DT/DE Ryan Van Bergen, 6’6”, 283 lbs. (Michigan)
As Michigan changed coaches and schemes, Van Bergen was productive at DE and later, at DT. He’s got sub-4.5 speed despite nursing a right foot injured in the Sugar Bowl. Van Bergen is another of those DT/DE flex players who add value with their versatility. Van Bergen is another prospect who could shine as a situational run-stuffer and should garner some interest from several NFL teams.
Slipper Pick: QB Austin Davis, 6’1”, 212 lbs. (Southern Miss.)
Davis is another player nursing a foot injury but managed to put up some nice numbers in Conference USA: 278-of-422 passing (62.9 percent) and 20 TDs versus six interceptions. Davis also rushed for 452 yards and 10 TDs. Davis is rated by most draftniks as a sixth-round prospect who has slipped into the Browns' neighborhood. Could Davis be a steal?
Sleeper Pick: TE Josh Chichester, 6’6”, 233 lbs. (Louisville)
Chichester is a converted WR who played as the second (receiving) TE on the Cardinals run-heavy offense. He’s not the blocking nightmare of a TE that the NFL covets but is a big target in a two-TE set.
Chichester is coming off a down season where he had only 28 receptions for 393 yards and two TDs. His 4.63 speed is pretty average too.
Chichester could be a player whose ceiling we haven’t approached yet, and he’s certain to be drafted for a shot at the NFL.
Sleeper Pick: FS Christian Thompson, 6’0", 211 lbs. (So. Carolina St.)
With pick-245, the DRAFTSIM spit out FS Christian Thompson, the FS from South Carolina State who sat out a year after transferring from Auburn in 2008. Thompson was a tackling machine in the MEAC, racking up six tackles for a loss and one sack in 2010.
In 2011, Thompson played SS and recorded 46 tackles (one for a loss), one interception and seven passes broken up. Only two HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) prospects were invited to the combine, and Thompson was one of them. Thompson’s size, along with 4.5 speed, will make him a nice training camp competitor to watch.
Slipper Pick: OLB Nathan Stupar, 6’1”, 238 lbs. (Penn State)
After an outstanding 2010 season, Stupar was projected by most draftniks to be as high as a late third-round pick. Stupar’s stock plummeted in 2011, when he had to move from WOLB to SOLB after Michael Mauti’s injury. Stupar is a nice cover OLB who specializes in blitzing the QB.
Stupar, if given a shot at the weak-side, could be a pleasant surprise in camp. Who knows; Stupar could be "Mr. Irrelevant" of 2012.