Ranking the Top 5 Players on the Cleveland Browns Draft Board
There are seven games remaining in the Cleveland Browns season, and barring a miracle of biblical proportions, the club will miss the playoffs for a 10th-straight year.
With disappointment comes the optimism of a fresh NFL entry draft and all the possibilities that could be for Cleveland going into 2013.
Plenty of holes remain for the league's youngest team. Offense was the primary concern a year ago, so GM Tom Heckert selected a running back, quarterback and right tackle with the Browns' first three picks.
Trent Richardson is proving that despite the injuries, he can be the dynamic rusher Cleveland was hoping for.
The report card is unfinished with rookie QB Brandon Weeden, who has shown flashes that he can be a productive starter.
Overcoming early growing pains, Mitchell Schwartz continues to develop into a steady right tackle.
Heckert delivered a successful draft class for the Browns and must do so again this spring. Assuming he is still employed as general manager at that time.
It will be the defense's turn to get first-round priority at the draft.
These next slides will rank the top five players that Cleveland should have on their draft board.
1. Cornerback: Dee Milliner
Dee Milliner: Cornerback from the University of Alabama
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Getting a high-octane cornerback opposite Joe Haden is essential in this draft, which is why it receives No. 1 ranking.
This move allows the aging, yet still useful, Sheldon Brown to move inside and or play some safety. Brown is excellent at dissecting an opposition's offense as well as being an effective veteran leader but simply can not be counted on to battle a top one or two receiver.
The generally agreed upon best corner available in the upcoming draft is Dee Milliner from Alabama.
At 6'1" and around 200 lbs., Milliner's size and speed matches him up well against the ever increasing physicality of star wide receivers. He is also versatile enough to play some free safety if called upon.
No. 28 of the Crimson Tide has been rising up the mock draft charts and has been placed as high as sixth. Milliner is more likely to go early to mid teens, which makes the Browns available to trade down assuming they secure another top-five draft spot.
In a trade, ideally Cleveland would regain a second-round choice to replace the one they gave up when selecting Josh Gordon in this year's supplemental draft.
All of a sudden the Browns have addressed a key need and receive another early pick.
That is why the selection of Dee Milliner is important.
2. Linebacker: Manti Te'o
Manti Te'o: Linebacker from Notre Dame
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The strong possibility of retirement for Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong recovering from an Achilles injury means that bringing in a monster at linebacker is a must.
Youngsters Craig Roberston and James-Michael Johnson have performed admirably; however, that nasty pass-rusher to strike fear in opposing quarterbacks is still missing.
Enter the pride of Notre Dame, Manti Te'o.
Choosing to return for his senior year with the Fighting Irish, Te'o is a natural leader with tremendous field vision. That extra season to mature makes him even more NFL ready and would instantly upgrade the Browns' linebacker corps.
The 6'2", 255 lb. Hawaiian can impact a game in a variety of ways. Te'o can force turnovers, rush for sacks, pile on interceptions and deliver tackles for loss.
If the Browns don't trade down for a cornerback, then Te'o needs to be their first pick.
3. Defensive End: Bjoern Werner
Bjoern Werner: DE from Florida State
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Jabaal Sheard has not looked as dominant in his sophomore season at defensive end. While still a threat, the Browns need a dynamic player at the position opposite Sheard to really tighten up the D-line.
Frostee Rucker has been a nice stop gap coming in as a free agent from Cincinnati, but Cleveland needs a long-term impactful solution.
No eligible DE fits that mold better than Bjoern Werner out of Florida State. The German native is a sensation that is ranked as the current premier defensive end and eighth-best player overall by CBS Sports.
This edge-rusher has no off switch as he incorporates natural athleticism with quick foot work and a whole lot of power.
Werner would give the Browns exactly what they are looking for on the line. He can stuff the run, pass rush and beat his man on the first move.
Adding Werner to a defensive front that includes a rotation of Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Sheard, Billy Winn, John Hughes and Rucker would give the Browns one of the youngest and fiercest units in all of football.
4. Offensive Guard: Chance Warmack
Chance Warmack: OG from the Alabama Crimson Tide
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In another possible trade down scenario, depending on where they sit on the draft board, Cleveland has a definite need for an upgrade at offensive guard.
Adding Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle last year to go alongside Alex Mack and Joe Thomas was the first step to solidify the O-line. However, more work needs to be done.
Guards John Greco, Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao are just not good enough when a stud running back like Trent Richardson is the centerpiece of your attack.
Gaining depth is on the Browns to-do list, and a big check mark could be ticked by selecting Chance Warmack at OG.
A stocky 6'2", 322 lbs., Warmack is surprisingly light on his feet and is able to take out linebackers at the second level. The Alabama guard has demonstrated equal ability to anchor himself against the bull rush and pop off the line to provide stable pass protection.
Warmack adds some extra seasoning to his overall package in experience. Playing five games as a true freshman and starting ever since, makes this member of the Crimson Tide the most NFL ready guard in the draft.
5. Linebacker: Jarvis Jones
Jarvis Jones: LB from the Georgia Bulldogs
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If Manti Te'o is unavailable, then Jarvis Jones should be next man up on the Browns' depth chart at linebacker.
Jones' neck surgery in his freshman year and an ankle injury back in October this season has some worried about how long he can last in the big time.
The Georgia Bulldogs LB certainly possesses all of the physical tools to make his presence felt. Jones is a versatile defender who can drop back into coverage or bring down the boom by rushing the pass.
Both of which the Browns need.
If health was not an issue, Jones would be the obvious choice as the best available linebacker in the 2013 entry draft.
The Wrap Up
Current head coach Pat Shurmur (left) and new Browns owner Jimmy Halslam (right)
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A combination of injuries and player performance through the remainder of this season will determine where the club focuses its draft interests.
The ability to trade down effectively or select an upper echelon talent also depends on whether this team's record spirals them into a top five position.
Despite the debates that will occur over what specific player to choose, the consensus is that defense will be the target of Cleveland's first round.
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