According to nearly every 2013 NFL mock draft (including my own) the Cleveland Browns are expected to target a pass-rusher to help ease the transition from Dick Jauron's 4-3 defense into Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme.
And in the few mock drafts that haven't linked the Browns to Jarvis Jones or Dion Jordan, cornerback Dee Milliner has been a popular selection.
But there is another prospect that could come into play.
Alabama's Chance Warmack is the first interior offensive lineman in a number of years to generate serious discussion about a possible spot in the Top 10, and could be in play for the Browns with the sixth overall selection.
Warmack would be the first interior offensive linemen selected in the Top 10 since the Saints took Chris Naeole 10th overall in 1997.
The Browns offensive line is currently anchored by Joe Thomas at left tackle and Alex Mack at center. Mitchell Schwartz—a second-round pick in 2012—is expected to return at right tackle.
The guard position, however, is a major question mark heading into the offseason.
Second-year pro Jason Pinkston started the first five games at left guard before being placed on injured reserve with a blood clot in his lung. Assuming he returns to full health, he will have the upper hand on returning to his starting role.
At right guard, the Browns started Shawn Lauvao—a 2011 third-round pick—who has been the weak link on the offensive line for the past two seasons.
According to Pro Football Focus, since Lauvao entered the league he leads all guards in both penalties (19) and sacks allowed (9), a combination that should surely put him on the hot seat entering 2013.
Warmack would offer the Browns an immediate upgrade over Lauvao in every aspect of the game, but his biggest impact would be on the Browns' ability to run the football.
When the Browns drafted Trent Richardson third overall last year, they committed to the power running game. Unfortunately, they lacked the personnel to make it work. Even Joe Thomas, who is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career, has been criticized for his struggles as a power run blocker.
For this reason, the addition of Warmack could have a ripple effect on the entire offense.
As an elite interior run blocker, he would help jump-start the Browns power running game. And once Richardson gets rolling, the passing game would begin to open up for Brandon Weeden (or whoever ends up at quarterback).
While guards have often been ignored by teams selecting in the Top 10, that could be changing due to the new collective bargaining agreement.
Morris Claiborne—the sixth overall selection in 2012—was given a four-year contract worth $16.26 million.
Compare that to Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks, who recently signed a five-year deal worth $47.5 million, with $31 million guaranteed; a deal that makes the price-tag for the sixth pick look like a bargain.
Admittedly, Warmack is still not the favorite to land in Cleveland due to the Browns' other needs. But it is a scenario Cleveland's front office will likely discuss this offseason.
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