Rookie, Undrafted Free Agent Watch for Cleveland Browns' Training Camp
The Browns made a couple of draft-day trades, shipping away fourth- and fifth-round picks in moves that should set the team up to be major players in the 2014 draft.
That left the Browns with only five selections in the 2013 draft, but Cleveland was still able to make some noise, including the addition of a trio of players who could start on defense as rookies.
Here's a look at that trio, as well as the other players who will be making their NFL debut with the Cleveland Browns in 2013.
- College: LSU
- Draft Status: Round 1
- Height: 6'4''
- Weight: 241
- College Production: Three-year career, 119 total tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and four forced fumbles.
Analysis: The Browns' switch to a 3-4 defense in 2013 puts pass-rushing outside linebackers in high demand, which spurred the Browns to select the talented and ultra-athletic Mingo.
Mingo was a two-time All-SEC performer in Baton Rouge, and a player who the NFL Network's Mike Mayock called "an explosive presence off the edge."
However, Mingo's production never really matched his potential with the Tigers, and his numbers dropped in his junior year.
Still, his teammates at LSU believe that Mingo will be a star in the NFL, with Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu telling Jeff Schudel of The Morning Journal that "He’s definitely going to make some great plays in a Browns uniform."
Mingo's career will likely begin in a rotation with converted defensive end Jabaal Sheard opposite Paul Kruger at outside linebacker, but the quicker Mingo picks up the scheme, the heavier his snap count is going to get.
- College: San Diego State
- Draft Status: Round 3
- Height: 5'10"
- Weight: 193
- College Production: Four-year career, 188 total tackles, eight interceptions, 37 passes defended, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Analysis: McFadden switched to cornerback from receiver just before his freshman year. By the end of that season he was a starter, and McFadden went on to earn all-conference honors each of the next three years.
NFL.com writes that McFadden "possesses quick feet and good speed," and has "good awareness as a zone defender," while the NFL Network's Mike Mayock stated that "he's a playmaker and has some return skills."
The Browns are in need of a cornerback who can hold his own in coverage to pair with star corner Joe Haden. If McFadden can show in camp that his smallish size isn't a significant disadvantage, then there's a good chance that he will start out of the gate.
- College: Notre Dame
- Draft Status: Round 5
- Height: 6'0''
- Weight: 195
- College Production: Four-year career, 98 total tackles, two interceptions, six passes defended, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Analysis: Were it not for the torn Achilles' tendon that ended his senior season early, safety Jamoris Slaughter likely would have been selected before the fifth round of the 2013 draft.
Still, Mike Mayock of the NFL Network believes that Slaughter's injury may actually wind up being a blessing in disguise for the Browns, writing that "What I like about him is he can play free safety. When they played teams that ran option, they actually put him in as a sub linebacker. It's true value for me for the Cleveland Browns. He'll compete at special teams and ultimately as a free safety."
That time at free safety may come sooner than many think. The departure of Usama Young leaves a hole in the Browns lineup, and if Slaughter can show he's healthy, he has a real shot at winning the job.
For his part, Slaughter is ready to fight for the job, telling Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer that "It's one thing I think about every day is getting that starting position. I know it's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. As long I keep taking the right steps and staying positive, I think it will happen.''
- College: East Central Oklahoma
- Draft Status: Round 7
- Height: 6'0''
- Weight: 214
- College Production: Three-year career, 165 total tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 27 sacks and six forced fumbles.
Analysis: Bryant was a wildly productive player at East Central Oklahoma, but his senior season was marred by an arrest for allegedly selling marijuana to an undercover police officer.
It wasn't the first time that he'd been in trouble in school, and Bryant followed up that gaffe by being arrested for DUI a week after being selected by the Browns in the seventh round of April's draft.
However, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, Bryant is attempting to put past missteps behind him, stating that "It's a blessing that I'm even here playing this game and living out a dream of mine. So don't take advantage of this, and I feel that's exactly what I did."
If that's true then Bryant has a real shot at making the 53-man roster, with Mike Mayock of the NFL Network saying "That's one of my favorites. He's got an explosion to him. I thought he was worth the risk."
- College: Chadron State
- Draft Status: Round 7
- Height: 6'6''
- Weight: 318
- College Production: Four-year career, 38 games (34 starts)
Analysis: A massive offensive tackle from tiny Chadron State, Gilkey was a three-year starter, with the only two games he missed over that stretch being due to a burst appendix.
Gilkey was a left tackle for the Eagles, but as Rob Rang of CBS Sports pointed out before the draft, Gilkey lacks the quickness to effectively stop NFL edge rushers, which means a switch to guard is likely in his future.
That may be for the best. Gilkey played guard at the 2013 Senior Bowl and fared well, and given that guard is the Achilles' heel of the Cleveland offensive, a flip inside probably helps Gilkey's chances of making the club.
Undrafted Free Agents
Undrafted free-agent list (courtesy of NFL.com):
Eastern Kentucky OT Aaron Adams; Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin; Northern Illinois WR Perez Ashford; Stephan F Austin CB Josh Aubrey; Notre Dame C Braxston Cave; Youngstown State RB Jamaine Cook; Central Arkansas WR Dominique Croom; Iowa WR Keenan Davis; UTEP WR Michael Edwards; Hawaii DE Paipai Falemalu; LSU OT Chris Faulk; Florida International OG Caylin Hauptmann; Eastern Michigan FB Garrett Hoskins; Utah DT Dave Kruger; Wisconsin-Platteville SS Ryan McWethy; Stephen F. Austin WR Cordell Roberson; Illinois DE Justin Staples; Kansas State TE Travis Tannahill; Delaware SS Ricky Tunstall; Temple OT Martin Wallace; Stony Brook RB Miguel Maysonet
Analysis: The Cleveland Browns have had a fair amount of success with undrafted free agents making an impact for the team, and this year's crop is headed by a couple of offensive linemen who could end up being huge steals.
LSU's Chris Faulk entered the 2012 season with the hopes of cementing his status as a first-round pick, but a knee injury ended his year almost before it began. Surprisingly, Faulk chose not to return to LSU, instead declaring for the 2013 NFL draft.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, Faulk wasn't drafted. Sure, the knee is a concern, but with entrenched starters in Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz, the Browns will be in no rush to get Faulk on the field. Once healthy, having a lineman with his talent level as a third tackle is nearly unheard of in the NFL.
Similarly, the Browns have their starting center in Alex Mack, but with Mack heading into a contract year, the acquisition of Notre Dame's Braxston Cave could prove to have been very wise.
The 6'3", 303-pound Cave was named a third-team All-American after starting all 13 games for the Fighting Irish in 2013, and he's a player that NFL.com labeled a "Tough-as-nails center with good overall strength and the intelligence to lead an NFL line."
There's no such thing as too much depth up front in the NFL. Not only does that duo stand a good chance of making the team, but they could also end up making significant contributions for the Browns relatively quickly.