The Definitive Cleveland Browns Guide to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is somewhat underway but really hits full stride this weekend, when positional drills begin and we all get our first, extremely close look at over 300 draft-eligible prospects. The Cleveland Browns are there, of course, using the combine to help whittle down their meticulously crafted draft board in preparation for making their picks in April.
In the following slides, I detail what the Browns can and cannot learn from this year's combine as well as present three draft prospects they'll be paying attention to over the course of the next four days.
What the Browns Can Learn
The Browns are at the scouting combine to get the same information as the other 31 teams in the league—namely, a pile of numbers that serve to represent the talent level and NFL-readiness of the 334 invitees.
From 40-yard dash times to heights and weights and everything in between, the Browns will be scrutinizing prospects at every position to determine how well they may fit on their roster.
Considering that the Browns have major decisions to make this offseason at a number of key positions—they're switching to a 3-4 defense, which requires personnel changes, they aren't sure about who may be starting at quarterback and they'd be smart to bring on more talent at wide receiver and tight end, among other positions.
They'll have a lot to review when the combine comes to an end.
The Browns need to see which 3-4 defensive players may better fit their scheme than some of their old 4-3 veterans. They need to find a cornerback who displays traits worthy of starting beside Joe Haden.
While the scouting combine won't provide them with everything, they need to know who can take on these roles. It will help them further focus their draft board and determine who they'll want to look at more closely, come pro days and pre-draft visits.
The scouting combine will also help the Browns figure out if there's truly a quarterback to be had—whether with their sixth overall, first-round pick or elsewhere—who could adequately compete with Brandon Weeden for the starting job.
It could also turn the Browns' thoughts to trading down from sixth and trying to nab themselves a second-round pick—which they don't presently have after taking Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft—if they don't see someone who catches their eye enough to warrant being selected so highly.
What the Browns Can't Learn
While the Browns can learn much about specific prospects they are targeting this year, they can't learn everything.
First, there's the fact that not every player who will wind up drafted in April will be participating in the scouting combine. There are 334 players there, and it doesn't comprise the entirety of the 2013 draft-eligible class.
Second, the players running drills over the next four days won't be doing so in live-game situations. There will be no pads, no contact and no other players on the field. It's a laboratory setting, which has its plusses, but it also has its drawbacks when trying to translate performance in broad jumps and three-cone drills to on-field situations.
What the Browns cannot learn from the scouting combine, they can glean from the work of their scouting department over the past year or more in the field. Game film and notes need to round out what information the combine provides over the next few days, and it needs to be supplemented by pro days and pre-draft visits over the next two months.
There are no complete pictures that can be formed at the combine.
Prospect to Watch: Linebacker Jarvis Jones
Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is one of the more intriguing pass-rushers at this year's scouting combine. Though he's not going to participate in drills, preferring instead to do so at his pro day in March, the results of his thorough medical evaluation will be of major interest to the Browns.
The reason why Jones is a "prospect to watch," though there's little to watch about him, stems from what the Browns and other interested teams find out from his physical examination and what other high-ranking pass-rushers do when they actually work out.
It will determine if Jones is being overrated—he's been projected to the Browns by Mike Mayock (h/t Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal) as their first-round choice—or whether he's truly worthy of being selected in the top 10 come April.
Jones suffered from a groin injury in his 2012 season, but the biggest concern is about his diagnosis of spinal stenosis, which caused USC to not clear him to play, resulting in him transferring to Georgia.
While he played well for the Bulldogs—he had 85 tackles, 14.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and an interception in 2012—questions about his long-term health could shake up his draft stock.
The Browns will use the combine to try to find alternatives for Jones (and they're out there) in anticipation of Jones' pro-day workout; they'll need to have a few contingency plans up their sleeves when it comes to that sixth overall pick.
Prospect to Watch: Quarterback Mike Glennon
The Cleveland Browns haven't ruled out a complete overhaul of the quarterback position.
Head coach Rob Chudzinski said on Friday that trades of Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy aren't out of the question (per Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer). The more likely scenario is that they look for lower-level talent to provide a little competition for Weeden and a backup who better fits their new offense.
While it's not impossible that the Browns choose a quarterback—Geno Smith, maybe, or Matt Barkley—with their sixth overall first-round pick, the better bet is that they do so in a later round. And one of the quarterbacks in that mix may very well be North Carolina State's Mike Glennon.
Glennon has a lot in common with Weeden, such as a strong arm. His 6'6" height doesn't hurt matters either, and he's not often intimidated when standing in the pocket. However, his issues with consistency, accuracy and footwork don't make him appear to be an immediate starter without a lot of work.
Glennon fits the new Browns offensive scheme, would provide a push for Weeden and likely wouldn't come with a price tag higher than a third-round pick. Much depends on how comfortable he looks throwing at the combine this weekend, of course, and the Browns will be among the teams paying close attention.
Prospect to Watch: Cornerback Will Davis
The Browns need to upgrade many of their defensive positions this offseason, including cornerback. With Sheldon Brown an unrestricted free agent and not yet likely to return, they need to find someone worthy of starting on the outside alongside Joe Haden. Buster Skrine has been workable, yes, but he's still better off in the nickel.
The Browns may be reaching to take the draft's top corner, Dee Milliner, with their sixth overall first-round selection. The fact that they don't presently have a second-round pick complicates the matters some.
However, there is a lot of depth to be had at corner this year, and as long as the Browns do their homework, they could find someone worthy of a starting job in the middle rounds of the draft.
One good option is Will Davis of Utah State. Davis had a strong 2012 season but failed to shine at the Senior Bowl. He'll need a good showing at the scouting combine to raise his stock. If that doesn't happen, the Browns could find themselves a steal in the third or fourth rounds.
Davis is athletic with solid size and apparent speed. He led the college ranks with 22 passes defensed in 2012 and had five interceptions in a five-game span.
His footwork and 40-yard dash time will do a lot to affect his draft stock when the defensive backs take the field for drills on Tuesday. His fate on Cleveland's draft board hangs heavily on what he does at the combine.