2014 Draft Sleepers Who'd Fit Perfectly with the Cleveland Browns

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2014

2014 Draft Sleepers Who'd Fit Perfectly with the Cleveland Browns

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    USA TODAY Sports

    By now you've heard all about the biggest names the Cleveland Browns could go after during the 2014 NFL draft ad nauseam.

    But lost in all of the hyperbole and media coverage that the "top-tier" prospects receive are a host of guys lurking in the shadows waiting to make a name for themselves.

    Prospects who have been brandished with the label "sleepers" are usually quality players who are projected to fall into the latter rounds of the draft.

    Though we all want to find the next Tom Brady, a genuine sleeper is a guy who comes in and turns out to be a solid contributor for whatever team he lands with.

    Looking at the Browns' biggest positions of need heading into the draft, this guide of sleepers was constructed.

    From an edge-rusher who has shown flashes of brilliance on film to a late-round quarterback prospect who could help bring a level of stability to the position, here's an in-depth look at those names.

ILB Lamin Barrow, LSU

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    Earlier this offseason the Browns addressed the inside linebacker position by signing Karlos Dansby to a four-year, $24 million deal.

    Dansby comes to Cleveland at the perfect time.

    After anchoring the Arizona Cardinals 3-4 scheme in 2013, the 32-year-old linebacker will be able to fill the void D'Qwell Jackson left behind when he was released.

    Regardless of the Dansby signing, the Browns could still use an injection of youth into their linebacking corps.

    Without spending a high draft pick, LSU's Lamin Barrow is a player who makes a lot of sense for the Browns and head coach Mike Pettine.

    As it stands right now, Barrow should fall somewhere between the fifth and sixth rounds in May's draft.

    In his pro comparison segment featured above, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller labeled Barrow "one of the better run-stuffing guys you'll see in this year's class."

    Turn on the tape and you'll see right away what Miller is referring to.

    Barrow has the ability to penetrate through the line of scrimmage and quickly close lanes or redirect running backs.

    But for all of the great work he's put in on tape, he's still a player who enters the NFL with some flaws.

    Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) wrote in detail about some of the traits Barrow is going to have to clean up if he wants to sustain a long, successful career at the next level:

    "Barrow is a better athlete than football player, at this point, as he fails to wrap his arms securely too often. Barrow isn't the classic hit-lift-drive, violent tackler, but rather he prefers to grab ahold of the ballcarrier and wrestle them to the ground."

    Because of his raw physical attributes, Barrow is worth the risk. Having the ability to sit and learn the position behind a guy like Dansby will definitely help him refine his craft.

    It also doesn't hurt to have a defensive-minded coach like Pettine out there running things either. 

WR Kevin Norwood, Alabama

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    Compared to years past, the Browns actually have some impressive weapons at their disposal on offense.

    Jordan Cameron has emerged as a big-time target at the tight end position, while wide receiver Josh Gordon transcended reality in the span of just two seasons and became one of the league's best wide receivers.

    The good news is, there's always room to improve, and the wide receiver position seems to be one of the strongest ones in this year's draft.

    A plethora of talented pass-catchers scattered throughout the draft means the Browns will have plenty of chances to select one of these guys.

    When you check out some late-round sleepers, Alabama's Kevin Norwood stands out as a player worth taking another look at.

    Norwood may not possess game-breaking speed or outstanding leaping ability, but he's a solid route-runner with great hands who can win at the point of attack.

    During his extensive scouting report on the Crimson Tide wide receiver, Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) talked about some of the other positive elements Norwood is bringing with him to the next level:

    "Nice awareness to locate and pluck, working back to the ball and aggressively attacking it. Never quits on his quarterback. Smart with an alert sideline sense. Knows where the sticks are. Good football character and known as a reliable option on and off the field."

    The Browns could use a steady target like Norwood. 

    Coming out of Alabama's traditional "pro-style" offense, he will be able to help out working on the outside but will end up earning his money being a reliable option in the slot.

QB Keith Wenning, Ball State

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Cleveland's pursuit of a franchise quarterback likely won't last very long during the upcoming draft.

    With a new regime now in charge, the team once again has decided to hit the reset button as it looks toward the future.

    However, even if the Browns do select a signal-caller early on, adding a second option later in the draft wouldn't be a bad idea.

    Think Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III down in Washington.

    Sometimes adding value later at the quarterback position can not only serve as an insurance policy to your starter, but eventually those guys can be traded for more draft picks.

    Ball State's Keith Wenning is a late-round quarterback who makes a lot of sense for the Browns.

    B/R's Ryan Lownes wrote about Wenning making the leap to the NFL: "A sleeper in this year's quarterback class, Keith Wenning earned NFL consideration as a productive four-year starter in the Mid-American Conference. Equipped with adequate size, arm strength and accuracy, he possesses the tools to develop into a solid backup at the next level."

    On film, you can pick up on Wenning's strengths almost immediately.

    He's a guy who is able to scan the field and put great touch on just about every throw he makes.

    Wenning doesn't have blistering arm strength, but he can put some good zip on the ball and push it downfield with confidence.

    If the Browns want to build for the future and fill this roster out the right way, spending a late-round pick on a developmental quarterback like Wenning makes all the sense in the world.

RB Storm Johnson, UCF

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Browns' decision to ship Trent Richardson off to the Indianapolis Colts last season was a sign of the times.

    You've heard the notion countless times before: Running backs in the National Football League have become "devalued."

    Not devalued in the sense of what they can provide an offense with, but devalued in the sense that you can essentially find "plug-and-play" guys instead of having to spend first-round draft picks on them.

    Richardson's fall from grace, followed by the team inking Ben Tate to a contract this offseason, puts a spotlight on that theory.

    Even with Tate expected to handle the bulk of the work in 2014, the Browns offense could use another workhorse halfback in their backfield.

    That's where a guy like UCF's Storm Johnson comes into play.

    This year's class of running backs as a whole could probably be considered sleepers.

    Because of the position losing steam in certain draft circles, the conversation this offseason has mainly been focused on quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive players.

    Johnson is a guy who Nick O'Malley of MassLive.com described as "a rare combination of talents."

    At 6'0", 209 pounds, the UCF tailback boasts good size and adequate speed. 

    He's more of a punishing, between-the-tackles runner on film, who can wear a defense down with his aggressive style.

    Not to be overlooked, Johnson is a fantastic pass-catcher coming out of the backfield.

    Talking about that in further detail, B/R's Scott Carasik notes:

    "On top of his rushing ability, the Central Florida back is one of the best receivers out of the backfield in this year’s class. He is good on screens, but he understands how to run other routes effectively as well and has great hands."

    Even though Tate is slated to be the "guy" next year, Johnson is a young man who has all the tools needed to become a three-down player right away.

OLB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama

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    St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said it best when talking at the NFL owners meeting, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

    "I’ve learned over the years that you never have enough pass rushers," Fisher said.

    The Browns' foray into a deep draft class will allow management to go after quality players on both sides of the football—adding edge-rushers is just a part of that process.

    Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard is a sleeper worth watching during the upcoming draft.

    At 6'6", 257 pounds, Hubbard is a guy who uses his great length to slip past opposing offensive linemen.

    But balance is the real key to his game.

    As B/R's Matt Miller highlighted in his pro comparison segment, Hubbard was often used to contain the run while under head coach Nick Saban's guidance in Tuscaloosa.

    That combination of great size and speed led Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) to compare him to Miami Dolphins linebacker Dion Jordan:

    Hubbard's combination of length, flexibility and power could earn him comparisons to former Oregon star Dion Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 by the Miami Dolphins. Hubbard isn't as explosive off the snap as Jordan (in fact, Hubbard is often slow off the ball) but his long gait does help him build speed quickly and he has some bend to avoid blocks. 

    The best part about Hubbard is that he possesses a ton of potential.

    Projected right now to fall between the fourth and fifth rounds, Coach Pettine could work wonders with an athletic competitor like the former Crimson Tide pass-rusher.

     

    All NFL free-agency information and stats courtesy of NFL.com, unless noted otherwise.

    All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com), unless noted otherwise.