Pros and Cons of Potential Cleveland Browns 1st-Round Draft Prospects
The Cleveland Browns have the sixth-overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Such an early pick gives the Browns a number of options for what to do with their selection, but also the added pressure of being expected to take a guaranteed playmaker, regardless of who he is.
Nearly all of the higher-tier draft prospects have been linked to the Browns in the months leading up to this week's draft. Let's take a look at five of them and break down the pros and cons of the Browns using their first-round pick on each of these players.
LB Dion Jordan, Oregon
Though the Browns added outside linebacker Paul Kruger and pass-rushing defensive tackle Desmond Bryant in free agency, that doesn't mean they are done building their defensive front seven. A switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 means both a need for added depth as well as ready-to-go playmakers who can make the transition much easier.
Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan would certainly ease the transition. Jordan had 44 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and five sacks in 2012 and is considered one of the top—if not the No. 1—outside linebacker in this year's draft class and could very well still be on the board when the Browns make their sixth-overall selection.
Jordan is fast, athletic and explosive—all three being ideal traits of a 3-4 outside linebacking prospect.
He's excellent as a pass-rusher, a run defender and in coverage, making him a versatile option for the Browns who can be plugged in all along the defensive front, not just on the outside. His ceiling is very high, with his production at Oregon a mere hint of what he can accomplish in the NFL.
The Browns aren't the only team picking early in this year's draft that would welcome a versatile defensive weapon like Jordan, and that makes the likelihood that he's still on the board when they make their sixth-overall selection very low.
Jordan had shoulder surgery in February. Though he's nearly 100 percent recovered from it, it is still a mild concern. Ultimately, though, there are few drawbacks to Jordan aside from the Browns' dwindling chances to land him.
LB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Perhaps if a pass-rusher is in the Browns' first-round plans but Dion Jordan is already spoken for, they could use the pick on LSU's Barkevious Mingo. Mingo had 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks in 2012.
Mingo is very athletic and relies on primarily his speed, rather than strength, to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. That speed aspect would be an excellent addition to the Browns' front seven which is certainly already quite good but not known for being fast.
Though Mingo does struggle when double-teamed, the presence of Paul Kruger also on the outside should draw attention away from Mingo, allowing him to be more successful.
Mingo lacks size and strength, which could be a liability against large NFL offensive linemen.
There have also been some concerns that Mingo's work ethic could use improvement and he's admitted to taking plays off. He'll need a coaching staff to light a fire under him nearly constantly to get the kind of production needed from a top-10 pick, whether on the field, in meetings and in the weight room.
CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
The Cleveland Browns opted not to pick up one of the more expensive, starter-capable free-agent cornerbacks this year, which means they still need to find someone to pair with Joe Haden.
For some time, the Browns have been heavily linked to Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner in the first round, and if the reported interest is accurate it's also mutual. Milliner believes that a secondary featuring him and Haden would produce the league's best cornerback tandem.
Milliner had 54 tackles, 22 passes defensed, 20 passes broken up and two interceptions in 2012.
Milliner has all the makings of a shutdown corner. He's fast enough to run with his receivers but also big enough to keep them from catching passes. He's certainly the best man-coverage corner in this draft, which would make for an impressive one-two punch for the Browns with Haden. He's NFL-ready, simply put.
Milliner underwent shoulder surgery in March and is apparently behind on his rehabilitation (via The Inquirer), which may mean he misses at least the first part of training camp, which could result in a slow start to his season.
NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said last week that he doesn't see any cornerback in this year's draft class worthy of a top-10 pick, Milliner included. Milliner might be an elite NFL corner someday, but there's the potential that if the Browns take him at six, it's a slight reach. However, he meets an immediate need and is immensely talented.
QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
To quarterback or not to quarterback: That is the question for the Cleveland Browns in this year's draft.
Yes, 2012 first-rounder Brandon Weeden took all the first-team reps in last week's voluntary minicamp, and yes, the team also brought on free-agent Jason Campbell last month, but that hasn't stopped certain draft experts and NFL insider-types from linking the Browns to top-rated 2013 quarterback prospect Geno Smith of West Virginia.
Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository cites two sources—Sports Illustrated's Peter King and former Browns general manager Phil Savage—who believe that the Browns could trade down with the San Diego Chargers and use that pick, the 11th-overall, to draft Smith. Okay then.
Smith completed 71 percent of his passes in 2012, for 4,205 total yards and 42 touchdowns to six interceptions. Yes—42-to-six.
Smith is considered by many to be this draft's best quarterback. He's certainly in possession of a strong arm, has good accuracy and a great deal of speed and mobility. To add to that, he's also quite calm in the pocket when under pressure, but his elusiveness further helps his ability to react to pressure—he was thus sacked only 19 times in 2012.
When Smith is on, he's on, but when he's off, he can be maddeningly inaccurate. While he's the best quarterback of this class, it's not an impressive overall group of quarterbacks, which may have inflated his value.
In a perfect world, he'd marinate for a season, but whomever snags him in this draft will likely make him their starter. That puts the Browns in a strange situation with Weeden and makes the Smith-to-Cleveland speculation not incredibly grounded in reality.
LB Ziggy Ansah, Brigham Young
Back to the pass-rushers. The Cleveland Browns may have the pick of the outside linebacker litter with Dion Jordan at sixth overall or they may not. They may also trade down depending on what they're offered from an interested team. Either way, it's hard to imagine that BYU's Ziggy Ansah isn't somewhere high on Cleveland's draft board.
Ansah had 62 tackles and 13 tackles for a loss in 2012, along with 4.5 sacks, nine pass breakups, a forced fumble and an interception.
Though Ansah has little football experience, his breakout 2012 senior season seems to indicate that his ceiling is incredibly high in the NFL. He's a fantastic athlete who also has plus speed and power, making him a perfect edge-rusher in the Browns' 3-4 front.
With just 10 combined tackles in his sophomore and junior years, it's clear that Ansah lacks experience and that he may be a bit of a slow starter.
He's still learning the ropes of being a complete-package edge-rusher, meaning that he needs to figure out how to get his hands and legs going effectively at the same time. The rawness may be too much for the Browns to use such a high pick on him, regardless of his long-term upside.