The 2012 NFL draft is less than a week away and the Cleveland Browns have already made it clear that they have reached a decision on who to draft in the first round on Thursday, April 26. Cleveland has significant needs at multiple positions on the offensive side of the ball, and it is expected that the Browns will address those issues early in the draft.
However, the Browns' front office has made it clear that they value certain positions on the defensive side as well. The cornerback, defensive end and outside linebacker positions could all use an upgrade heading into the 2012 season, and it is believed that the Browns will be looking at each spot over the second and third days of picks.
Chase Minnifield could be a cornerback the Browns may consider targeting to build some depth. Minnifield is the son of former Cleveland Browns great Frank Minnifield, and is considered to be one of the biggest high-upside players in the entire draft class.
Many draft experts currently label Minnifield as a fourth or fifth-round prospect largely because of a knee injury that sidelined him at the end of the 2011 season. Minnifield underwent arthroscopic surgery at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine to clear out torn cartilage that hindered him for most of the season. That injury forced Chase to sit out at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine and is believed to be a big reason why Minnifield underperformed at Virginia's pro day.
Scouts say that Minnifield has excellent ball skills and plays his best in man coverage. This would work well in the Browns system because Minnifield would likely be placed on man coverage with third-string receivers in extended packages for the early part of his career. Minnifield recorded 13 interceptions over his career with Virginia and most of those picks came in man coverage.
According to his scouting report on CBS Sports:
He is a quality run-support cornerback whose physicality and instincts might cause some teams to view him as a potential safety convert. Quickly reads run, slipping past receivers and attacking the line of scrimmage. Not afraid to mix it up with the big boys at the point of attack. Good effort laterally and in pursuit downfield.
Those qualities could be perfect for the Browns, who will be looking to improve their rush defense in the secondary. Cleveland finished near the bottom of the league against the run in 2011 and could use help at every layer of the defense in 2012.
Cleveland missed out on their chance to honor their history when they passed on drafting the sons of former Browns great, Clay Matthews Jr. Matthews Jr. was a four-time Pro Bowl selection with Cleveland and played 18 years in the NFL before finally retiring in 1996.
Now, Clay Matthews III has become one of the biggest defensive stars in the NFL and has been an instrumental piece in helping the Green Bay Packers return to one of the best franchises in football. Casey Matthews is an up-and-coming linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles and should develop into a starting linebacker if the team gives him more opportunities.
The Browns are likely looking at many options for the secondary in the middle-or-late rounds of the draft. However, Minnifield seems to separate from the pack because of his potential and the history his name carries with the Browns organization.