Scouting Combine – Some Defensive Athletes that should intrigue the Browns:
In continuing our look at upper-tier draft prospects (who will likely be invited to the Scouting Combine), we switch to defenders. The Browns must continue to build the side of the ball that lines up with their head coach’s specialty. Again, all three areas should be considered – personality, strength (bench press), and agility drills (sprints, cone drills, and training by positional groups). However, each phase can be evaluated much differently – depending on the athlete and corresponding positional group:
DT – Louis Nix (Notre Dame), Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh), Timmy Jernigan (Florida State), Will Sutton (Arizona State), DaQuan Jones (Pennsylvania State), Caraun Reid (Princeton)
Conclusion: An area of depth for the Cleveland Browns, I do not foresee the team utilizing an early selection with this group. However, Caraun Reid was solid in Mobile last month and might fly under the radar – due to the fact he was rarely in the national spotlight. Should that occur, he would be a great addition to this franchise. Nix and Donald are the headliners, with the latter possibly being valued higher as he is versatile enough to play multiple spots on the defensive line.
DE – Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame), Kareem Martin (North Carolina), Chris Smith (Arkansas), Dee Ford (Auburn)
Conclusion: Again, this is not a part of the roster that needs to be addressed in the early portion of the NFL Draft. Dee Ford was exceptional facing extraordinary talent last month and will soar up draft boards as a result (assuming he does not falter at the combine). I am intrigued by Tuitt and would like to see how he stacks up with other great players in this draft class. Murphy looks like a potentially great outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, but having Barkevious Mingo, Jabaal Sheard, and Paul Kruger already at that spot would likely prevent the Browns from selecting the prospect.
OLB – Anthony Barr (UCLA), Khalil Mack (Buffalo), Kyle Van Noy (Brigham Young), Ryan Shazier (Ohio State), Marcus Smith (Louisville), Adrian Hubbard (Alabama)
Conclusion: While the franchise loaded up at this position last offseason, the Browns may want to give their defensive-minded leader as much ammunition as possible to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Barr and Mack appear to be stalwarts who are every down linebackers at the NFL level. Noy and Shazier are destined to be drafted a few rounds later but are still perceived to be productive athletes, while this is an extremely important week for the final two (as to give scouts a positive impression).
ILB – C.J. Mosley (Alabama), Christian Jones (Florida State), Shane Skov (Stanford), Chris Borland (Wisconsin), Christian Kirksey (Iowa), Jordan Zumwalt (UCLA)
Conclusion: The Cleveland Browns would be wise to grade out these athletes in Indianapolis. They could sure use a run stuffer who is athletic enough to keep up with both running backs and tight ends in passing situations. Jones and Borland really impressed me (in different ways) at the Senior Bowl; the former was extremely fast and dominant in rushing drills while the latter showed great instincts and found the correct spot in a timely manner. Frankly, either would likely be day-one starters in this defense and could vastly improve the unit. Mosley may be gone by the middle part of the first round, and the other two should be examined whether they can be contributors down the road.
FS/SS – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama), Ahmad Dixon (Baylor), Calvin Pryor (Louisville), Dion Bailey (Southern California), Deone Bucannon (Washington State), Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)
Conclusion: One of these members may get plucked by the Browns in the middle rounds (assuming the front office believes they are of great value at that spot). A guy like Bucannon, Pryor, or Ward upgrades the special teams and possibly the defense (depending on the status of T.J. Ward) immediately. I love Dixon’s physicality and if he can mimic the Super Bowl champ’s secondary, then he is a no-brainer. Ward and Bucannon appear to phenomenal coverage guys and can begin their professional career in nickel and dime packages.
CB – Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska), Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State), Jason Verett (Texas Christian), Bradley Roby (Ohio State)
Conclusion: Four of these guys could vault into the first round of the draft in May. Gilbert has flashed his speed in special teams at the collegiate level (as a returner). I understand the Browns took a cornerback in the third round last season, but he has not cemented himself as the starter opposite Joe Haden. Jean-Baptiste possesses great size and ushers in the modern era of bigger cornerbacks. If the team can secure a bona-fide star early in the draft, I would support that over an offensive playmaker. They have to do their necessary homework and figure out who has that fire (and ability) to shut down NFL wide receivers.