Cleveland Browns 2013 NFL Draft: Recap of Joe Banner, Michael Lombardi, and Rob Chudzinski's Weekend

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With the 2013 NFL Draft coming to a finish Saturday night, it is time to do some quick reflections on how CEO Joe Banner, GM Michael Lombardi, and head coach Rob Chudzinski did during their first collective draft as members of the Cleveland Browns (I have to say collective because Lombardi and Chudzinski have both been here before in different capacities).

There were definitely fans who were concerned that the Browns were going to really botch things this year, particularly on Day 1, with the Browns in desperate need of some additional contributors on the defensive side of the ball. I'm sure Matt Wood won't mind me sharing this, but prior to the opening round, he told our staff, "I am 90% sure that Banslam will shit the bed. Hope I am wrong."

As it turned out, things did not go terribly wrong. In fact, I think the overall impression was that things went much better than expected, even if the bar was set pretty low in the first place. Here is a recap of sorts, along with my opinion, on how things went down this weekend:

Bullet_mediumFirst-Round Jitters: I was pretty stunned when the Miami Dolphins traded up to No. 3 overall to take OLB Dion Jordan, who was the No. 1 player on my big board (as well as most of our staffs' big boards). Pre-draft speculation was that the Dolphins wanted a left tackle, and with Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel going 1-2, it looked like Miami was trading up to take Lane Johnson. With Jordan gone, the pressure was on for Cleveland: were they going to trade out of No. 6? Would they dare take a quarterback, which would have been the only thing that could have really irritated me during draft weekend?

Bullet_mediumHe Knew It Was Coming: When the Browns were on the clock, they ended up staying put so they could draft OLB Barkevious Mingo, which I did not have a problem with. Mingo was the No. 2 rated player on my big board, which was in agreement with two other staff members. Some of my other colleagues would have preferred DL Sheldon Richardson or OLB Jarvis Jones at that point based on their big boards, but Mingo was not a reach by any stretch of the imagination. Also, even though he will continuously deny it, he had to know the Browns might take a flier on him, given the way he was dressed on draft day.

Bullet_mediumCould We Have Traded Down? For those people who grade drafts, this is the situation where one could have really questioned whether Joe Banner and company could have gotten a lot better value had they traded down. In his press conference after drafting Mingo, Banner said the team had deals in place that were ready if they wanted to move down, but that only would have happened if Mingo was not available any more. Presumably, he was ranked No. 2 on their overall board as well.

As for an example framework of a deal that Cleveland could have had, let's assume that it would have been with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams traded up to No. 8 overall with the Buffalo Bills. There were multiple picks involved on both sides of the deal, but let's assume that the same offer was made to Cleveland. In that case, the "meat-and-potatoes" of the deal would have been this:

  • The Browns would drop down to No. 16 overall in the first round.
  • The Browns would add a second-round pick at No. 46 overall.

Again, we are getting into hypothetical situations here, knowing full-well that the butterfly effect could have changed the way things turned out. For the sake of argument, here are a few scenarios the Browns could have ended up with instead (note: I assume our third-round pick changes too):

  • Option 1: OLB Jarvis Jones (1st), CB Jamar Taylor (2nd), OG Brian Winters (3rd)
  • Option 2: TE Tyler Eifert (1st), OLB Arthur Brown (2nd), CB Leon McFadden (3rd)
  • Option 3: S Johnathan Cyprien (1st), TE Travis Kelce (2nd), DE Damontre Moore (3rd)
  • Option 4: CB Desmond Trufant (1st), S D.J. Swearinger (2nd), DT Jesse Williams (3rd)

I could go on with other scenarios, and in the above, you could exchange each player in a particular round to form a new subset. Heading into the draft, I saw the team's top needs as: OLB, CB, S, TE, and OG. Most of the cases above could have addressed three of those positions. By not trading, Cleveland could only address two of them, but one of those two players is a third-round pick, not a second-round pick.

There is definitely a risk that you won't get your desired players when you trade down, but the talent was deep enough in the first three rounds that they likely could have found some compelling combination. On the same note, going back to my original statement, I don't fault the front office for sticking with Mingo, who has a lot of upside at No. 6 overall.

Mcfadden_mediumCertainly a Bullet_mediumDefensive Back: Since the Browns' new front office has come in, CB Dimitri Patterson, CB Sheldon Brown, S Usama Young, and S Ray Ventrone have all either been released or not re-signed. Three of those guys filled prominent roles in 2012 on defense. The only replacement added this offseason was the Falcons' Chris Owens, a cornerback who signed to a one-year deal. After going outside linebacker in the first round, all signs pointed to a defensive back going to the Browns in the third round. They chose CB Leon McFadden out of San Diego State.

Some people already questioned the selection based on his height at 5'10". Height can definitely be an issue when you are playing cornerback against taller receivers in the NFL, but it doesn't mean you are infinitely screwed. Sheldon Brown was 5'10" and had a pretty damn good career. Joe Haden is only 5'11". Their careers are defined by how well they tackle, play the ball, or recognize patterns. McFadden's scouting reports say that he is an aggressive player who has good ball skills and is willing to take chances. This is where you can set up a training camp competition between McFadden, Buster Skrine, and Owens, and let the best man win.

Bullet_medium37328396_mediumTrade, Trade, ANOTHER TRADE! After the first couple of trades went through on Saturday, the graphic on the right (h/t troy145) summarized the Browns' plans on Day 3 of the draft: trade the rest of our picks away for value in 2014.

In total, the Browns completed three trades on Saturday, which means they ended up losing their 4th round pick and both of their 5th round picks in 2013. Instead of coming away from the draft with eight drafted players, they came away with five drafted players.

You could ask, "why didn't the Browns continue fulfilling their other needs, particularly the safety position?" The Browns had the position to still take a guy like Josh Evans, Shamarko Thomas, or Bacarri Rambo -- why didn't they? Because the front office wants to improve the Browns over the long haul, and they believe the way to do that is to have more and higher picks when they are ready to make that next leap.

The first trade involved the Pittsburgh Steelers, which some fans really went overboard with in terms of their reactions. My thought is this: "Who cares that we just traded with a division rival? We also forced them to give up a third-round pick in 2014." I absolutely loved Banner's explanation when asked about trading within the division, especially the big-time burn toward Donovan McNabb:

(On if they have a philosophical problem trading within their division)- "I’m going to sound, I don’t know where this is going to lead, but I prefer to trade within the division. You don’t make a trade that you don’t think you’re winning. So if you’re winning a trade in your own division you’re even better than winning a trade in another division. Obviously, that can burn you from time to time. If you look in Philadelphia, we traded (Donovan) McNabb to the Redskins and everybody thought, ‘Oh my god. What are they doing? They are giving a quarterback to a team in the division.’ We thought we strengthened the Eagles, and in time we didn’t really do anything that helped the competitors. We try to make the best deal, it didn’t really matter who it was, but we’re also not afraid at all of making a trade within the division if we think it benefits us."

The second trade involved the Browns losing a 5th round pick this year to the Colts, but gaining their 4th round pick in 2014. In 2014, the Browns have all of their regular picks for each of the seven rounds, plus an extra 3rd- and 4th-rounder. Next year, the Browns could either use those picks as they are, or use them as ammunition to trade up for a player they really like in the first or second round.

Bullet_mediumThe Surprising Addition of Davone Bess: It's not often that players get traded as the draft is going on, but that's what happened with the Browns acquired WR Davone Bess from the Miami Dolphins. The teams swapped spots in the fourth round, Cleveland got a seventh-rounder from Miami, and Miami took Cleveland's other fifth-round pick (the one they had acquired from San Francisco in the trade for Colt McCoy).

In addition to coming to Cleveland, the Browns also signed Bess to a three-year extension, making his contract worth more than $11 million. That type of deal/trade makes it crystal clear: Bess is going to be the team's slot receiver in 2013. I didn't feel it was a necessity to add Bess to the mix; after Josh Gordon and Greg Little, I felt comfortable with Travis Benjamin, David Nelson, and Jordan Norwood filling out the rest of the spots. Now, one of those three guys' spots are in jeopardy, and it is likely Norwood's spot. The early plan can be to let Nelson be a very reliable fourth receiver, let Benjamin be the explosive return man and specialty end-around receiver, and [sadly] say goodbye to Norwood.

As for Bess, he's not explosive, but he is sure-handed and consistently good at the slot receiver role. His stats were better than I recalled from his days with the Dolphins:

Bess_medium

Bess went undrafted in 2008 and also has a lot of experience fielding punts.

Bullet_mediumThe Rest of the Draft: The Browns finished out the draft with one sixth-round pick (S Jamoris Slaughter) and two seventh-round picks (DE Anthony Bryant and OT Garrett Gilkey). Considering the Browns also signed about 22 undrafted free agents (as most teams do), I am always of the opinion that these late-round draft picks still have to fight for their roster spots in training camp: they will not have some walk-in-the-park.

The draft picks themselves seem to be good value picks, though. Slaughter's stock might have decreased due to a season-ending injury, which he should be recovered from by training camp. Mike Mayock said, "Ultimately he’ll compete for a starting free safety job...that’s an excellent pick for the Browns." Here was Chudzinski's evaluation on Slaughter:

(On Jamoris Slaughter)- "Just looking at Jamoris, we felt good looking at his film from the year before, not this past season. Obviously, he is coming off the injury. We felt good medically from the research that we had done and he’ll be back at full speed. That’s still going to take a little time in him getting back into it, but we saw a player who was extremely productive, and very versatile that played on the slot, been able to cover people man to man and also blitzed and played back deep. He’d been able to do a number of different things and we really liked the player we saw at that particular time, and projecting forward, that he we would be able to be in the mix and be able to compete for the safety positions."

There were some character concerns with Bryant, who sold marijuana to an undercover cop twice. He is expected to add weight so that he can be a defensive end, but he has a lot of quickness and could have had a higher draft stock had it not been for his issues. Here is Chudzinski talking about him:

(On Armonty Bryant)- "As you looked at Armonty on tape and we’ve had a chance to study him - actually Joe Cullen went out and worked him out as well. So we got to know him a little bit better than the cursory glance at a guy. He’s an explosive, speed off the edge, good sized defensive end who can apply pressure to the quarterback. He’d be that type of player in our scheme. He can put weight on. I think he is 265 or somewhere in that range. He has a big frame and is real raw. He’s a guy that you look at that you are excited about what he can be if he develops and works at it. Through the course of looking into his background with Coach Cullen out there, as well as our scouting staff, we felt like he is passed the mistakes that he has made and ready to move on. He has matured."

Lastly, Gilkey also had the potential to be drafted a round or two earlier than he was, and could be in position to compete with Ryan Miller, last year's 5th-round pick, for a roster spot. Chudzinski talked about Gilkey:

(On if Garrett Gilkey is a guard or tackle- "He has played tackle and then played guard in the Senior Bowl. He has played some of both so we’ll see when he gets in. He has played primarily on the left side and we’ll see if he can play on the right side. We’ll see when he gets in."

(On what he liked about Gilkey)- "Big guy, good size, has really good feet for a big man and can bend very well. He went into the Senior Bowl and played very well against those guys and competed. Coming from Chadron State and competed against those guys. He has lined up against guys from Florida State, North Carolina and everywhere else and looked like he fit right in. It didn’t faze him one bit. He’s a tough guy and has the kind of attitude that we want."

We'll see how things turn out for the three of these guys.

Bullet_mediumRemaining Needs: Not including any players taken after the first two picks, the Browns were not able to address safety, tight end, or offensive guard any further after free agency. It is a definite now that they will enter the season with Jordan Cameron having the opportunity to be "the guy." If Cameron doesn't work out and they want a upgrade at the position, they'll have to wait until next year. At offensive guard, it's not like it was critical that we had an upgrade. Jason Pinkston is very stable if he is able to return from injury. John Greco did quite well in place of Pinkston last year and can compete with Shawn Lauvao in camp.

The big question mark remains at safety. When the dust settles from the draft, Ray Horton can still call up Kerry Rhodes and see if he wants to fill in for a year. We have the cap space to do a one-year deal with him if we feel it will help develop our younger prospects in the mean time. Sheldon Brown is also still available as a free agent.

Bullet_mediumIn Conclusion: The draft weekend ended up being a bit underwhelming in terms of excitement. For all intents and purposes, we came away with two new draft picks who are expected to make a contribution this year. That is far less than the norm, although not quite as low as the year in which Beau Bell was our first pick in the fourth round.

One big thing that fans need to remember is that the work of Tom Heckert last year allowed us to use our 2013 draft pick on Josh Gordon, who could be a star at the receiver position. Heckert also addressed offense heavily last year in Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, and Mitchell Schwartz, which allowed the new regime to focus on defense in both the draft and free agency, and then stockpile picks in 2014 to fill whatever holes remain after evaluations take place following the 2013 season. Everything seems to be going in a positive direction for Cleveland, although it was a little discouraging to see the Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers each come away with some pretty good talent in the draft as well.

UPDATE: Thanks to DBN member Aviate for pointing out these tweets from the NFL Network's Albert Breer:

Bullet_mediumBy the Numbers: I want to thank everyone who tuned in to Dawgs By Nature over the past few days, and I hope you continue to check-in for our continued post-draft coverage this week! For the three days of the draft, we had 22 posts with a total of about 6,855 comments! We were not quite able to break our numbers from 2012, but that is understandable, given the fact that we had two first-round picks and a high second-round pick in 2012. It's not every year that your community gets to react to three high draft picks, although I guess the Minnesota Vikings got that unique feeling this year with three first-round picks!

Fortunately, we did break draft-records in terms of traffic.

  • 2012: 142,533 pageviews, 96,991 unique visitors, avg time on page of 20:12
  • 2013: 188,009 pageviews, 128,397 unique visitors, avg time on page 35:25

We had more viewers overall and readers were engaged for a longer period of time, showing the increased quality we've added to the site over the past year! In addition to all of our readers, I'd like to give a big thanks to Jon Stinchcomb, Matt Wood, rufio, Mike Krupka, Josh Finney, and Zach Miller for all of the assistance they provided, both behind-the-scenes and in terms of coverage.

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