Cleveland Browns: Position-by-Position 2013 NFL Draft Big Board
It is time to enter the "War Room" Cleveland Browns fans.
The 2013 NFL entry draft may be a few months away, but at 3-8 it is never too early to look ahead.
I will be taking you through a position-by-position breakdown of what Cleveland's big board should look like if the draft was held today.
In case you are not familiar, a draft big board is a team's ranking of who they feel are the top players at each position. These ratings are determined by a variety of factors including overall skill, character and fit to scheme.
This will not be a mock draft of who the Browns will take based on availability, and does not take into account the probable decisions of any other club.
My draft big board will rank the best eligible players for the most urgent positions that Cleveland needs to address this offseason.
The reliance on Joe Haden by the Cleveland Browns can not be ignored.
As seen in the Browns' overtime loss to Dallas on November 18, and in the four games earlier this season when Haden was suspended, there is a dramatic drop off in cornerback performance when No. 23 is out of the lineup.
Possessing a standout CB is great. Having the secondary collapse when he is out, isn't.
The aging Sheldon Brown is a step behind the NFL's top receivers, and next man up Buster Skrine is consistently overmatched when playing on the outside.
There is no doubt that addressing the spot opposite Haden has to be the Browns' number one priority.
1. Dee Milliner
Rated as the best corner in the draft and steadily rising in the overall rankings, Dee Milliner instantly would give Cleveland its answer for a second outside corner.
This Alabama standout leads the SEC with 14 pass breakups to go along with 45 tackles, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks this season.
At 6'1" Milliner possesses the size and athleticism to hang with the league's best wide receivers.
2. Johnthan Banks
Another 6'1" corner, Banks has the size NFL scouts are looking for. He demonstrates excellent field vision and instincts, which has allowed him to be a ball hawk over his college career.
The only problem with this Mississippi State senior is his lack of elite speed if caught off guard and forced to recover.
Banks can still be a day one starter, however, he may be a better fit at free safety once he settles into the NFL.
3. Xavier Rhodes
Utilizing a large frame at 217 pounds and over six feet tall makes Xavier Rhodes an attractive prospect.
From Miami, Florida he has been bitten by the injury bug on multiple occasions, but is definitely NFL material.
Rhodes is fast, physical, a great tackler and can knock receivers off course at the line of scrimmage. If this junior can stay disciplined he could move up to the first round or be a steal in the second.
4. David Amerson
The tallest of the top-five ranked corners, David Amerson has shown steady progression in his first two seasons of college ball. He is a student of the game, with a competitive drive that coaches and scouts are constantly impressed with.
Opposing quarterbacks have learned to stay away from the North Carolina State CB as his rare combination of size and quickness dominates No. 1 wideouts.
Amerson earned All-American status in 2011 and is no stranger to multi-intercepton games. Starting the year marked to go 40th in CBS Sports prospect ratings, there is now speculation that he could jump up and be taken in the opening round's first half.
5. Jordan Poyer
An arrest for an alleged bar fight back in May, could cause teams to pause in making Jordan Poyer a first round choice. Based on the talent above him, a second pick is most likely where he will end up.
What has made 2012 impressive for the senior is that he was able to rise to the occasion when cornerback partner, Brandon Hardin, was sidelined from a broken shoulder.
In only his second year as a CB he amassed career highs in interceptions, tackles and broken up passes. A bonus is that Poyer is a superb kick/punt returner
2. Defensive End
Next up in Cleveland's needs category is a stud defensive end that can lock down the D-line opposite Jabaal Sheard.
Free-agent additions Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker have been nice surprises overall, but an elite pass-rusher is still on the to-do list. A hungry young gun at DE and rotating in Rucker will really solidify the Browns' edges.
1. Bjoern Werner
If describing Bjoern Werner had to be done solely on Twitter it would be entered in as #beastmode.
The German exchange student is an explosive end rusher that sheds blocks at will and gobbles up quarterbacks.
At 6'4 and 256 pounds, Werner is the total package. In addition to his premier pass rush abilities, he is able to effectively recognize and stop the run as well as knock down passes at the line.
2. Damontre Moore
Damontre Moore is a versatile player that has performed both as a defensive end in Texas A&M's 4-3 and as an outside linebacker the previous year in a 3-4 scheme. Being able to deliver at two positions will certainly peak the interest of potential NFL suitors.
Offensive linemen consistently have trouble blocking Moore who has ripped through the SEC as a sack leader. The pride of Rowlett, Texas is league-ready and should go in the draft's first 10 picks.
3. Alex Okafor
This is the most well-rounded defensive end senior in the USA. Alex Okafor's power overwhelms opposing linemen as he guns for the quarterback while also containing the edge as a run defender.
Being moved to defensive tackle as a sophomore helped develop his hand-to-hand technique and foot movement. When the Texas senior returned to his natural DE position as a junior he was even more dangerous.
4. Sam Montgomery
If not for a torn ACL in his right knee back in 2010, Sam Montgomery would be second on the Browns' draft big board.
The LSU Tiger is lightening fast off the snap. Montgomery leaves opponents in his dust and possesses the speed to hunt down scampering quarterbacks.
However, one down side has been the difficulty to shake blockers if his initial bull rush is stuffed.
5. Dion Jordan
Listed between 6'6" and 6'7" Dion Jordan is a special athlete who is surprisingly smooth moving for a man of his size.
At 243 pounds, putting on weight and adding power to his attack is essential for success at the next level.
The Oregon Duck is tremendously quick with his hands and Jordan's length makes it difficult to contain him at the line.
The Browns are already quite deep at linebacker, with season ending injuries to Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita included.
Undrafted LB Craig Robertson has shone all year and rookie James-Michael Johnson is developing nicely off of that oblique strain. Of course D'Qwell Jackson and Kaluka Maiava have been rocks throughout 2012.
That is why it is first round or bust for Cleveland at linebacker. If they can not select an immediate star then the orange and brown are better off drafting elsewhere and sticking with what they have.
1. Manti Te'o
Manti Te'o is a natural leader with tremendous field vision who chose to return for his senior year with the Fighting Irish. That extra season to mature makes him even more NFL-ready and would instantly upgrade the Browns' linebacker corps.
The 6'2", 255-pound Hawaiian can impact a game in several ways. Te'o can rush for sacks, force turnovers, pile on interceptions and deliver tackles for loss.
2. Jarvis Jones
If not for the injury woes, Jarvis Jones would have the No. 1 LB ranking on Cleveland's big board.
Neck and ankle ailments have plagued this outside linebacker that has experience playing in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.
2011 was the Georgia Bulldog's first full season as a starter and showed the world this year that he was no fluke. On a per game average he leads the NCAA in tackles for loss and is second in sacks.
Jones' football instincts and crushing hits allow him to play equally well in attacking the run and dropping into coverage. Let's not forget that he is arguably the most dangerous pass-rusher in the entire 2013 entry draft.
3. Barkevious Mingo
Barkevious Mingo is the best pure athlete among all college linebackers eligible to be selected this spring.
However, it is the LSU junior's inconsistent output that is problematic and has seen his stock gradually dip throughout the season.
Mingo's explosive speed and ability to change direction on a dime allows him to close in on any target in a hurry.The OLB's long arms makes him a constant threat to swat down passes and outmanoeuvre defenders.
To better develop his strength Mingo may be better off staying and playing as a senior, but of course that won't happen. He will be a bit of a project that is well worth the minimal risk because of his phenomenal upside.
4. Free Safety
Cleveland's current free safety situation involves the slightly above average Usama Young and an inexperienced Eric Hagg.
The aging cornerback, Sheldon Brown, is a candidate to make the move over to FS if a suitable second corner can be acquired in the offseason. These are three serviceable names, but none are stars at the position.
This makes free safety more of a nice to have need, rather than an essential requirement in 2013.
1. Eric Reid
This LSU Tiger has future Pro Bowl star written all over him...provided he can reign in his fierce aggressiveness.
Eric Reid is used almost as an extra linebacker at times to stuff the run, however, he can equally stay back and cover the deep threat.
The junior FS is often considered the nastiest hitter in the SEC. While this does make Reid a feared defender it also gets him into undisciplined penalty trouble. Offenses have been able to use his over eagerness against him by getting creative with misdirection and fake outs.
The 6'2" Reid will be a first round pick. The question is whether his emotions can be harnessed enough to be a consistent playmaker at the next level.
2. T.J. McDonald
Eric Reid may be getting all the attention, but T.J. McDonald could turn out to be the better pro. Where Reid is high-risk, high-reward with his intensity, McDonald is a more consistent and complete player.
The Pac-12 free safety from Southern California University is best known as a physical run defender with exceptional downhill acceleration.
His naturally long 6'2", 205-pound frame also enables for effective breaking up of passes and interfering with receivers routes. Don't be surprised to see McDonald creep up to the first round.
3. Kenny Vaccaro
The size and athleticism of Kenny Vaccaro gives interested teams the option to use him at either free or strong safety.
This Texas Longhorn is a clean tackler who always wraps up his man. Vaccaro decided to return for his senior year and the positive effects of that extra seasoning are shining through.
He is overshadowed by some of the flashier prospects, however, having that split second reaction time and ball hawk mentality will make him a welcome addition to any club.
5. Offensive Guard
Depth has been a concern on the Browns' offensive line, especially with losing Jason Pinkston to illness for half the season.
Right guard is definitely vulnerable, although John Greco is making a strong case to return in 2013 as the starter. The book is also still out on whether Shawn Lauvao can be a long-term solution at left guard.
Adding a veteran body to a young O-line is the most logical move to boost up the experience level. However, if one of the two big men below are available then Cleveland would have to take a long look.
1. Barrett Jones
One word to describe Barrett Jones would be "versatile." The Crimson Tide senior can play at a high level across the offensive line.
Listed at 305 pounds, Jones has excelled at right guard, left tackle and center. What he lacks in raw athletic talent the 6'4" lineman more than makes up for in effort.
Jones' knack for slamming back defenders in pass protection or rumbling through them in the running game gives any club a major asset. He has multiple Pro Bowl appearances written all over him.
2. Omoregie Uzzi
From the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Omoregie Uzzi is an All-American right guard who overcame a late season injury last year to bounce back strong in 2012.
Uzzi is a physical run blocker who can get to the second level. Trent Richardson would love racing behind him.
Using his 6'3", 302-pound frame to stay low and brick wall defenders off the snap, Uzzi could be a late round unsung hero.
The Browns have struggled at fullback since the departure of Lawrence Vickers.
Owen Marecic is clearly not the answer and tight end Alex Smith is a band-aid solution at best. A solid FB is needed in order to help maximize the potential of stud running back, Trent Richardson.
Brad Smelley was taken as a late round selection in last year's draft and could get a look come training camp. He is generally considered a tweener FB and TE, meaning that another option via the entry draft or more likely free agency is necessary.
1. Trey Millard
Trey Millard is a hard hitting back that seeks out contact and loves banging bodies.
The Oklahoma Sooner attack is primarily run out of the shotgun, which means that scouts have not gotten a great look on how he does as a lead blocker on power rushes.
Where Millard will look attractive to the Browns is his reliable hands when catching balls in the flat. That has been a problem in Cleveland's west coast offense and gives an opportunity for him to become an immediate contributor.
2. Lonnie Pryor
At 6'0" and 230 pound, Lonnie Pryor is built to clear out running lanes.
At Florida State he has also proven to be a decent power back if called upon, and knows how to score from a couple of yards out.
Returning from a 2011 season ending Achilles injury, Cleveland punter Reggie Hodges is anything but consistent this year.
However, the veteran kicker has been much more stable as of late and will need to continue to be, in order to save his job.
As with any punter or kicker, if one is chosen it will be in the seventh round.
1. Ryan Allen
More of your traditional punter type, Ryan Allen can bring the boom.
Averaging just over 46 yards per punt and incorporating lofty hang times, gives the Louisiana Tech senior a real chance to step into the NFL as a starter.
2. Quinn Sharp
The Oklahoma State leg man offers a solid skill set as a punter, field goal kicker and on kickoffs.
Quinn Sharp consistently pins opponents inside the 20-yard line, which is something the Browns have been missing on a regular basis from current punter, Reggie Hodges.
As an effective field-goal kicker, Sharp would also give the orange and brown an insurance policy if Phil Dawson ever went down.
Positions Not Worth Drafting for in 2013
Quarterback is one area that the Browns need to stay clear of in the 2013 NFL entry draft.
Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy may prove not to be the long-term saviours of this franchise, but they are adequate for another year.
There are far more pressing needs on defense that must to be taken care of before another QB is brought in.
This club is riddled with young wide receivers who possess loads of potential and need to come of age. The last thing Cleveland needs is another rookie at this position.
A veteran WR with good hands is what's required to help mentor this youthful group.
Trent Richardson has this role locked up for at least the next five years, if he remains healthy, so it is not necessary to use even a late round pick this spring.
In regards to backing him up, that can be resolved through Chris Ogbonnaya and free agency.
The combination of a healthy Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn and John Hughes gives Cleveland a formidable front line attack.
Defensive end needs some tweaking, but the heart of the Browns' defensive line is becoming one of the most feared in the AFC. No tinkering needed here.
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