The Cleveland Browns may have to wait to see the fruits of their labor following the 2013 NFL draft. That might not be what you want to hear after another losing season, but it’s the reality of the situation.
Cleveland came into this year’s draft with multiple needs after another offseason of management shuffling. Not only did it need to address starting positions, it needed to find quality depth across the board.
The new Browns leadership group deferred in the fourth and fifth rounds in order to acquire third- and fourth-round selections in 2014. This may have been initially confusing for some. However, key players were added at positions of need throughout the draft and in the proceeding free-agency period.
A draft can never be fully evaluated until years later, but it doesn’t hurt to take a stab at projecting just how well these rookies are going to perform in the NFL.
The following pages will be just that—a projection of each of the five players whom the Browns drafted this year.
The Cleveland Browns could eventually replace guard Shawn Lauvao with Garrett Gilkey.
Former Division-II offensive tackle Garrett Gilkey dominated the line of scrimmage while playing at Chadron State. He earned a trip to the Senior Bowl as a result and more-or-less held his own against the nation’s top defensive prospects.
CBS Sports’ Pat Kirwan said that any team interested in “a power guard that can move a defensive tackle” should give the 6’7”, 320-pound lineman a look.
The Cleveland Browns have been yearning for a power interior guard who can consistently open up running lanes for Trent Richardson. If given time to develop, Gilkey could very well be that guy for the Browns.
It wouldn’t be a shocker, either. Competent linemen are often plucked from the lower half of the draft.
The safe bet on Gilkey is that he will gradually learn the team’s system and possibly earn a spot on the team’s 53-man opening day roster. Some time spent on the practice squad is also a possibility.
Armonty Bryant displayed exceptional athleticism at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
Imposing and athletic pass-rushers are what new Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton needs to anchor his attacking 3-4 defensive scheme.
The team found a potential diamond in the rough that fits that bill during the beginning of the seventh round. Former East Central Oklahoma defensive end Armonty Bryant stands at 6’4, weighs 264 pounds and performed well at the scouting combine.
Bryant may have slid in the draft after he was arrested during football practice for selling marijuana to an undercover policeman on campus.
He will undoubtedly come into camp as a raw prospect at the 3-4 outside linebacker position. However, his athleticism and size shouldn’t be discounted. His experience as a 3-4 defensive end could also increase his chances of cracking the roster if he can add mass during the offseason or after a year on the practice squad.
Bryant should find a way to make the team and contribute during his time in Cleveland on a team without much depth at the pass-rusher position. Don’t set your expectations too high, though, as he could just as likely flame out and fail to transition to the position at the NFL level.
The Cleveland Browns found a talented player to address their needs at safety by selecting former Notre Dame defensive back Jamoris Slaughter.
Slaughter is still recovering after tearing his Achilles tendon during his third game of the 2012 season.
The versatile five-year Fighting Irish DB played all over the field during his tenure in South Bend. He was primarily a safety but often lined up in the slot to cover receivers and blitzed from the linebacker position.
NFL.com’s scouting report on Slaughter lauded his instincts and pass defense skills. That makes him a viable eventual option at the free safety position. Don’t expect him to step in instantly and take Tashaun Gipson’s job, though.
It will take some time until he is 100 percent and back on the field. At best he will likely initially serve on the Browns’ special teams unit after missing out on some of the offseason while he heals.
The Cleveland Browns cut cornerback Dimitri Patterson last season and are apparently allowing veteran Sheldon Brown to walk in free agency.
Adding a competent corner in this draft to play opposite of Joe Haden was a necessary move for the team’s management team. With their third-round pick, the Browns selected former San Diego State CB Leon McFadden to be that guy.
McFadden is a feisty defensive back who plays much better in coverage than his 5’10”, 193-pound frame may suggest.
His athleticism, toughness, awareness and ability to make plays on the ball make up for what he lacks in size. While some NFL receivers will likely have the height advantage, don’t count McFadden out from earning the starting job in Cleveland.
According to NFL.com’s scouting report on McFadden, he doesn’t seem to be suited for the slot. He is a “bit gun shy in handling blocks” and “doesn’t wrap up” when tackling. The report also suggests he struggles to get a “good jam” on receivers at the line of scrimmage at times.
Expect McFadden to showcase his skills this offseason and beat out the likes of Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade and Chris Owens to eventually earn the starting No. 2 cornerback position.
Even if he doesn’t earn the job by opening day, he should still come down with multiple interceptions in his rookie season and be a long-term contributor for the team.
Cleveland Browns fans are skeptical when using high draft picks on pass-rushers after Kamerion Wimbley didn’t pan out. Athletically and physically gifted, former LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo became the newest top-10 pick for the Browns.
A true “boom-or-bust” pick, Mingo will have to transition quickly to the outside linebacker position if he hopes to make a significant impact in 2013.
Out of all of the players drafted early during the 2013 draft, Mingo has the opportunity to really shine. That potential may not be realized initially, though, as he may primarily be used in a rotation during the beginning stages of his career.
However, don’t be fooled—Mingo will eventually blossom. Jabaal Sheard will challenge the rookie for action at the primary pass-rushing right outside linebacker position. Remember Sheard, like Mingo, is also undergoing a transition from 4-3 defensive end.
Mingo’s athleticism and disruptive ability after getting past offensive tackles on the edge will, in time, help him become one of the dominant pass-rushers of the organization. It might not happen overnight, but we’ll look back at this pick and revere Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi for his selection.