Leon McFadden to Browns: How Does CB Fit with Cleveland?

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Leon McFadden to Browns: How Does CB Fit with Cleveland?

The Cleveland Browns entered the 2013 NFL draft with many needs. One, however, stood above the others.

Cornerback.

Cleveland chose value over need in the first round when the team selected Barkevious Mingo. In the third round, though, the Browns found their cornerback in Leon McFadden.

 

Role

Who Leon McFadden Compares to in the NFL

The Browns have a clear need for a cornerback to play on the outside opposite Joe Haden. Buster Skrine certainly isn't capable of filling that spot, as he is, at best, suited for the nickel role.

Some analysts feel like McFadden's best fit could also come on the inside, but there are at least as many who think he can play on the outside. The reason McFadden may end up having to move inside is simple: size and speed.

At 5'10", 193 pounds, McFadden is a bit on the short side, and he isn't a burner by any stretch—McFadden ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. However, McFadden's other skills compensate for these flaws.

McFadden is constantly attacking, and he plays with great violence.

Few cornerbacks are as physical as McFadden. The San Diego State product shows a strong, if someone what inconsistent, jam at the line of scrimmage and keeps it going, constantly bumping and fighting with the wide receiver. He refuses to be overpowered.

Often, McFadden will physically dominate much bigger receivers, going through them to the ball or stopping them from running their routes.

It's easy to be impressed by McFadden's attitude. He is constantly attacking and fighting. Whether it's against the run or pass, he will show great effort, and he makes plenty of plays moving forward. He is a force against the run.

McFadden also demonstrates extremely smooth hips. He is smooth in and out of his breaks, cleanly reacting to every twist and turn. He shows an excellent transition out of his back pedal, which benefits him greatly in press coverage.

Though he has good ball skills, McFadden probably won't haul in too many interceptions. He doesn't have the length, speed or overall physical ability to be a huge turnover machine. However, he will pick up plenty of deflections.

Cleveland will likely use McFadden in press coverage at the line of scrimmage. His physical play is best utilized in that capacity, and he's smooth enough to react with wide receivers if they beat the press.

McFadden needs to improve his technique in press, but he possesses the strength and mindset to excel there. 

Also, Ray Horton is a fan of blitzing his defensive backs. McFadden is an adept blitzer due to his tenacity and overall physical play. He could be extremely effective on Horton's many complex blitzes.

Assuming the best from McFadden, the Browns now have a pair of physical cornerbacks who can blitz and play the run. No defensive coordinator will complain about that combination.

 

Early Projections

Did the Browns reach for a cornerback?

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On the Browns, McFadden will compete to start as a rookie. He is more talented than Skrine is and shows better technique on the outside. Ray Horton prefers physical cornerbacks who can press, and Skrine simply isn't that guy. 

It's possible that McFadden could still start out as Cleveland's nickelback, though. He needs to improve his technique in press coverage, which is important in Horton's defense. Once he is adequate there, though, there is no reason McFadden shouldn't start over Skrine.

Even if McFadden does play from the slot, he will see plenty of playing time. Cleveland will probably use nickel defense on over 50 percent of plays. That is the worst-case scenario.

McFadden likely won't be a huge playmaker as a rookie. He wasn't a huge interception guy in college, and he probably won't be in the NFL either. McFadden will pick up a few interceptions a year, but he isn't dynamic there.

This is a pick that will immediately pay off for the Browns. McFadden fills a huge need at cornerback, and he is capable of playing well as a rookie. It's not often that teams find instant starters in the third round, but the Browns did exactly that.

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