The expectations are set, the new coaching staff is in place, and free agency bid us well. One more big step before rookie camp, OTAs and training camp, and that is the NFL draft.
Before we get to draft talk, bad news Browns fans: Our deal with Osi Umenyiora fell through. Jennings and Levitre are both on board, Cribbs is back, and cap space is a little more sparse than it has been. But that’s fine by me. Unless Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck (sorry, Weeden) is walking through the doors in Berea, it’s going to cost a few bucks to piece together a championship contender.
In the 2013 draft, we hold the ninth overall pick. We raddled off four wins in our last six games beginning with a physical beating of Pittsburgh in Cleveland and ending with another physical beating of Pittsburgh in Week 17, only in Week 17, the Steelers were at full strength – predator QB and all.
We finished out at 6-10 while the Cardinals, Chargers, Eagles and Jets continued their freefalls to jump us in draft order. That makes the draft order as follows:
Kansas City Chiefs
New York Jets
San Diego Chargers
(I did this because I do believe that Cleveland will finish 6-10 [which means they’ll most likely not win another game] and also I didn’t want to walk into this fictional draft in position to take a no-brainer of a pick. At pick #9, the top players should be off the board leaving Haslam, Banner, and me with a tougher decision.)
Going into the offseason, the team’s needs were cornerback, defensive end, outside linebacker, wide receiver, and offensive guard, in that order. We found very good players (Jennings, Cribbs, Levitre) to fill the offensive voids, which means going into the draft either CB, DE, or OLB are all but guaranteed to be our first selection.
In a perfect world, we’d love to trade back a few slots (not a lot, just a few, no more than to pick 16 or 17) in order to acquire a second round pick as well considering we forfeited ours for rights to Josh Gordon. Unfortunately, no team is interested.
That leaves us with pick #9.
Jarvis Jones is #1 on our big board followed by Damontre Moore. After those two we really like Dee Milliner from Alabama. We have some players ranked higher than those players (i.e. Star Lotulelei and Luke Joekel) but they aren’t a position of need with us.
In other words, we want Jones then Moore then Milliner or any cornerback. Our philosophy is that DE and CB at high draft picks are a luxury. Their success rate is pretty solid and you get them on a rookie contract while free agent DE and CB cost a whole lot of money.
The first eight picks go as follows:
Kansas City Chiefs – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Jacksonville Jaguars – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Carolina Panthers – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Oakland Raiders – Matt Barkley, QB, USC
New York Jets – Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Arizona Cardinals – Luke Joekel, OT, Texas A&M
San Diego Chargers – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Philadelphia Eagles – Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
All three of our targets are gone (Jones, Moore, Milliner) and rightfully so. We figured Jones and Moore would be off the board but we were hoping Milliner would fall to pair him up with Joe Haden. Our cornerback situation was bad in 2012. It was bad, real bad, Michael Jackson (Kanye Voice). Shurmur’s team was 0-5 without Haden in ’12 and 6-4 with him and that’s no coincidence. The Ravens and Cowboys games were evident of our secondary problems as they had drives compiled of exclusively PI penalties.
But enough about 2012. We are on the clock, our top targets are gone, and our phone is not ringing with any trade offers.
The next six guys on our list (in no particular order) are Sam Montgomery, Barkaveous Mingo, Bjoern Werner (all defensive ends), Manti Teo (ILB who can play 4-3 OLB), Xavier Rhodes, and Jonathan Banks (both cornerbacks).
We weigh which players ability translates best/smoothest into the NFL, who has the highest ceiling, character, workout numbers, game film, and team need.
Montgomery, Teo, and Banks all have games that should seamlessly translate to the pro level while Mingo, Werner and Rhodes are all potential guys. Werner, Teo, and Banks fall into both categories to some extent more than Montgomery (will probably never be an All-Pro but should be an eight-to-ten year starter [like Justin Tuck]), Mingo (all potential, but plenty of it as either a hand down defensive end or a 3-4 OLB [like Aldon Smith]), and Rhodes (covers more like an athlete than a technique guy, so it may take him a year or two to get down sound coverage [like Janoris Jenkins but not as good]).
We rule out Rhodes because it is just too early for his not-enough-value-too-much-based-on-potential status. Werner is out because we never see him being a defensive end who will beat left tackles and we already have a B+ pass rusher who covers the right tackle in Jabaal Sheard and we need an A pass-rusher.
We painfully rule out Mingo for a similar reason as Rhodes. Mingo could end up being the most productive player in this draft, but we want a guy who will contribute right away.
That leaves Montgomery, Teo, and Banks.
Montgomery is the next man out. We just figure we have a deep defensive line and they are all under contract for a few more years. Montgomery would be a luxury, but we can get by without him. As the 2012 season went on, or defensive line became our strength. We need a sack artist, but we believe next year Sheard can be that.
That leaves Teo and Banks. Both are four-year starters. Both are high character guys. Both All-Americans their senior seasons.
Teo would be the popular pick. His 2012 season and story were historic and euphoric. He is a culture-changer and a hard-nosed linebacker who would fit in perfectly in Coach Jauron’s physical 4-3 front seven.
Banks can be a #1 shutdown corner in the NFL. If we take him, he won’t have to be that, he’ll be covering #2 WR while Joe Haden takes care of the oppositions’ main targets.
We’ve concluded that each player is a contributor from their first hour at the facility. It comes down to which player we need more.
With the ninth pick of the 2012 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select Jonathan Banks, cornerback from Mississippi State.
While Teo has all the making of being the heart and soul of a top defense for years to come, his game is a dime a dozen in this league. He is not as good as Jarvis Jones, Von Miller, Patrick Willis, or Luke Keuchly (all high picks for LBs). It’s his heart and leadership that made him the player he was in college.
Banks on the other hand is a true first round corner. First round corners (true ones, not reaches) generally do very well in the NFL. With Banks now as our second corner, we believe our defense will contend to be one of the best.
OTHER PICKS WORTH NOTING:
In the third round we take 6-foot-8 defensive end, Devin Taylor from South Carolina. Taylor reminds me a lot of Chris Canty with more athleticism. Canty was a big defensive end from Virginia who has turned his game into a guy capable of playing wide-9, strong side DE, three-technique, and nose tackle. There were whispers of Taylor being a first round pick early in the 2011 season before Melvin Ingram and Jedaveon Clowney stole the spotlight from him. Taylor could be our starting DE of the near future.
And in the seventh round, we select Corey O’Patchen a little 5-foot-8 receiver from DIII Geneva College. O’Patchen’s highlight tape shows that he was not a DIII player. A lot of scouts question his motor and addiction to chew, but aside from that we think we can work with Patch. He has a Wes Welker-type game. He is also addicted to video games.
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