Like many of you, I had a ton of questions about the upcoming NFL draft. I had questions what the Browns were going to do, who would be drafted where, and many many more. Luckily I was able to speak with Yahoo! Sports NFL columnist Jason Cole on the phone yesterday, and he helped me out with some of the questions I had.
Check out the transcript of my Q&A session that I had with Jason:
Zach Miller (ZM): If you had to make a prediction today, would you say Jimmy Haslam is the Cleveland Browns owner in 2 years?
Jason Cole (JC): No.
ZM: You think the NFL will have a say in that, or does he step aside?
JC: Well can I say both? I think the NFL will privately advise him that he should not be an owner. And to do that voluntarily to avoid embarrassment. Either sell the team or give it up to somebody else in the family.
ZM: Is the NFL doing an internal investigation?
JC: Let me put it to you this way. The FBI doesn't cooperate with anybody. So the NFL can call the FBI and say "please please please tell us what's going on", and the FBI will say "click". That's how it works, even with the NFL. The NFL never has that kind of power to get behind an investigation. And really nobody does, cause the FBI never ever wants to have it's investigation compromised. The FBI prides itself, and the IRS as well, they pride themselves on making sure that they win cases, that's the way that they scare most people into obeying the law.
ZM: When it comes to Thursday, do you think the Browns stay at # 6?
JC: Probably, because there's not a lot of interest from teams wanting to move up. So, it'll be difficult for them to trade back. I also don't think that there's anybody in the top-4 who is so compelling that they'd want to move up. I think they're going to find a player at 6 who they think is worthy of the spot, that they are going to be happy to get at 6, and deal with. Whether they take [Dee] Milliner, or whether they take [Ezekiel] Ansah, or whoever else is there, they're going to find a good player, probably on the defensive side.
ZM: I know you said there weren't a lot of options, but there's been reports that the Dolphins may be interested, does the Branden Albert situation need to deal out first before they can get into a conversation like that?
JC: I think the Dolphins are interested because they think that they have to move up to get an OT. So what you're talking about is if they get Branden Albert done, that crosses the Dolphins off of the list. Unless there's some specific defensive player that they really have to have, which I don't think is in the offing for them. If the Dolphins are moving it's because basically they have to jump up to go get a guy like a Lane Johnson, because they know the offensive tackles have started really early. And I expect that to happen. I think OTs are going to go #1 and #2 overall and will confirm what everyone believes that this is an OT draft first, D-lineman draft 2nd.
ZM: Say the Browns don't work a deal out, they stay at 6. Who do you think would be the best fit for what the Browns need?
JC: If Ansah has the grades, Ansah's the guy. I always believe that you work front to back on your defense unless you have a corner who is absolutely top shelf, outstanding, no doubt is going to be a premier guy. Cornerbacks generally don't turn out that way. They got Haden obviously, but when they drafted Haden, they had Eric Mangini picking and I will say this off all the things, and Eric Mangini may be a lot of things, but the one thing he can do is he can pick out corners, that he's above anybody else. He picked out Darrelle Revis when he was with the Jets, he picked out Joe Haden. If you look at the success rate at picking corners in the 1st round, that's an extraordinary thing to say. If they're convinced on Milliner, fine, otherwise my preference would be go get the guy at the front side of defense who has the chance to be an explosive pass rusher and change the game. I would lean towards Ansah, but that's just a personal preference.
ZM: Past 24 hours there's been a lot reporting regarding Dee Milliner's injuries. Do you think that will play a part in where the Browns go?
JC: You're going to pick him for 5 years. You're not drafting him for the first four games of the season. I think that is a creation of people saying and trying to drive down Milliner's value. There's a lot of people that think he's going to go somewhere in the top-4, certainly in the top-5, and somebody sitting at 7, 8 or 9 is trying to drive down his value. I get that. That makes sense. Scare people with "Milliner's not going to be ready". As long as you know what the medical looks like and that the kid is eventually going to heal, as long as you're comfortable with that, again you're picking for 5 years, are you really that worried about the first 10 months of his career? Yeah you'd like to have him in training camps, you'd like to have him in offseason programs and all those things. He's still going to be around. He's learned from a really good coach. The kid knows how to play.
ZM: Relative to the Browns position, you mentioned Ansah makes a lot of sense for the Browns. The Browns are switching to a 3-4, do you think he fits that 3-4 scheme?
JC: I think he fits either scheme. He's just a great athlete. My biggest concerns about Ansah, can his body handle the game? He's never played that much. This is a major concern. It's hard to answer, you can't look at the kid and answer. You can't evaluate that on paper. Can he take the grinding of this sport, because he's never done it over a long period of time? Neither the length of an NFL season, or even a college season. Nor has he done it year to year, so can the kid recover from all the things that you have to go through when playing football? That to me is a major, major question when it comes to Ansah. Which may make you lean towards a guy who has played a little bit more. The upside on Ansah is; he's incredibly bright, he's very serious, and I think he's got great instincts as an athlete. So you take a guy that's smart, dedicated and has great instincts, generally that means he's going to be successful.
ZM: There's been some rumblings that maybe some guys like Jabaal Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, etc could be moved. Do you see that maybe happening?
JC: Anybody that doesn't fit the 3-4, they're on the block. The only thing I'd say is I don't think anybody is a true anything any more, if that makes sense. Nobody in this league is only a 3-4, with the possible exception of the Steelers. Everybody plays some other type of defense. They don't stay in 3-4 all the time, they go to 4-3 depending on what they're playing, depending on game situations. So you have to have people that are multiples and can switch back and forth that can do different types of things. To me what you're talking about is, some of those guys may have value to keep if they have enough flexibility in their games to play enough 3-4, but they also play 4-3 that they can switch over in the middle of a game or from week to week that they can transition right into what you're trying to do.
ZM: Obviously the Browns don't' have a 2nd round pick, they used the supplemental pick on Josh Gordon. If you were to rate Gordon amongs this WR class, where would you rank him?
JC: Based off of what I saw, I think he'd be one of the top 2-3 WR in this class. The WRs probably aren't going to start going until the early to mid teens, I would say 13 [Jets] is as early as you're going to see a WR go. Most likely they're going to start to go off the board at 16 [Rams]. If Gordon were in this draft, I could see Gordon be one of those candidates, due to his size and speed. I think he showed enough last year that he can play at the NFL level. You compare him to Tavon Austin, he's a lot bigger, probably not as fast as Tavon Austin, but he's plenty fast, he's shown plenty of deep ability. I'd' rather have the bigger guy. Tavon Austin vs Josh Gordon? I'd take Gordon. Gordon against DeAndre Hopkins, I'd probably take Gordon. Against Cordarrelle Patterson? I think Gordon's a smarter kid, all history aside, I'd rather have Gordon. Gordon against [Justin] Hunter from Tennessee, I'd probably rather have Gordon. I don't scout that much, but having watched Gordon play last year and knowing what I'm reading and hearing from scouts about these guys, Gordon seems like he measures up against all of them.
ZM: I personally like Tyler Eifert the TE from Notre Dame, I don't necessarily like him at six. Any movement to get him?
JC: He won't be there in the second round. So say they wanted to trade up and move around or something like that. He'll be taken in the later part of the first round. The kid from San Diego St. [Gavin Escobar] and there's also Zach Ertz. I don't think they're that far removed from Eifert. So it's not like you're talking about Tony Gonzalez and dropping off to some no-name guy. There's a guy that's a very good player at the top and then you have a guy who is a really good player next down, who's going to be available ten spots later. It doesn't hurt you to wait a little while on that one.
ZM: Smokescreens aside, where do you think the real landing spot for Geno Smith is?
JC: Somewhere in the early twenties, 22, 23, 24, something like that. I think that's going to mean that someone is going to trade into that spot to get him.
ZM: You don't think anyone uses a top-15 pick straight away on him?
JC: Nope, I think if he passes the Buffalo Bills, he doesn't get picked until the 20's.
ZM: How many QBs go in the 1st round?
JC: 2 to 3. I think that once Smith goes, [Matt] Barkley will go pretty quickly. Then it becomes who's next on somebody's list. I think that because of the difference in contracts between the 1st and 2nd round and the fact that the 1st round gives you control of the guy for 5 years, as opposed to only 4 years in the 2nd. I think that's invaluable for QBs. I could be wrong on this. This is going to be a really good test year for my theory. I think the theory is that if you're sitting there in the 2nd round and you're a team looking for a QB, it is almost worth it to trade another pick like a 3rd or 4th round pick to move up 5 or 6 spots to get in the low 20s to get that guy. If you really believe in him and he becomes a great player, you've saved yourself an awful lot of money and given yourself an awful lot of leverage down the line.
ZM: There's a perception that there's not that much disparity in talent between say the top 5-15 or so. Do you think that is valid, is this a weak draft in terms of star power, or is this a deep draft?
JC: It's weak in terms of star power because you don't have any QBs. And you don't have WRs who are going to go in the top-10. There's no Andrew Luck, there's no RGIII. Take that out of the equation, it's a draft of big guys, lots of defensive linemen, and lots of offensive linemen. Yeah there's some pass rushers out there that make some things interesting. I think those guys can be great players, but they're not great players in the way that stokes fans imagination. They're just like "We got Luke Joeckel, OK great". Do you wear a Luke Joeckel jersey? Do you go out in the back yard and imagine yourself being Luke Joeckel? No.
ZM: A lot of Browns fans buy Joe Thomas jerseys though.
JC: They wear Joe Thomas jerseys because he's the best guy you have. But they don't go in the back yard and imagine you're blocking people. They go out in the yard and imagine themselves being Josh Gordon, or Trent Richardson, or for a few sad souls maybe Brandon Weeden.
ZM: I don't think this QB class is anything to write home about. Who do you think has the highest ceiling in terms of QBs for this draft?
JC: It's Geno Smith. He's got the best arm and his accuracy. The problem with Geno Smith is decision making issues. Does he make a decision in the pocket fast enough to avoid getting into trouble? If you remember watching Drew Bledsoe, you hold the ball too long and get sacked from behind and get stripped for a big fumble. That's the story of Drew Bledsoe's career. If you go back to the  playoffs at Pittsburgh, Mike Vrabel strip sack, game over. That encapsulates Bledsoe, as talented as he was, he didn't have the internal clock to be able to know "Okay, I'm under pressure I've got to get rid of this ball". It just didn't exist, not the way the great ones have. Especially like a Dan Marino, he's the best I've ever seen. That to me is the problem with Geno Smith. I think he's still got the highest upside. The next guy, Matt Barkley has all of the decision making qualities and leadership qualities, he just doesn't have a big enough arm. I think his arm is just going to hold him back. In the same way it did Chad Pennington. Great decision making, great understanding of the offense, great anticipation. But if you've got to fit a throw 20 yards downfield between defenders, that ain't gonna happen.
ZM: Who do you think has the largest draft day fall?
JC: We talked about Geno Smith, because I think most people anticipate QBs to go top-10. We haven't had a QB go outside the top-16 since 2000, that was the Chad Pennington draft, where I think he went 18 overall [correct]. Yeah, it's Geno Smith. Anybody else, when I hear people talk about Eddie Lacy who's a possible 1st round draft pick. I just don't see it. He ain't Trent Richardson, let's not fool ourselves. He's a lot closer to Mark Ingram, who is a fine NFL RB, but not a game changer. Then there's Manti [Te'o]. I think Manti ends up being a 1st round draft pick, either the Vikings or the Rams. But if they don't take him, middle of the 2nd round, late in the 2nd round. That could happen.
ZM: He's already done a good chunk of his falling to begin with, yeah?
JC: That's not his fault. He was overrated to begin with. You got a kid who is overrated and inevitably they fall. There's also a level of, is he really a good ILB? He was never going to be a top-5 pick. ILBs never get drafted in the top-5. It just doesn't happen. Patrick Willis as great as he was coming out, was drafted 13 or something like that [11th]. You just don't take guys that high, as high as they go is 7, 8 or 9. They're never top-5 picks. That was a figment of the Notre Dame imagination, that' he'd come in a top-5 pick. That's not what he was. He was always going to be much, much lower and that's not his fault. There's other stuff. Poor performance against Alabama, the whole Lennay Kekua stuff, not being prepared for the Combine. That to me has dropped him into the 20's.
ZM: Do you see anyone flying up the boards, or see any sleepers in the Draft?
JC: We talked about Ansah, I think he's the biggest boom or bust guy. Cordarrelle Patterson, the WR from Tennessee is a huge boom or bust pick. He was up the board a little bit, but I think he'll settle in the 20s. To me he's a sleeper kind of guy. He can either be an absolutely stunning fantastic player, or he could be a complete slop. It's one end of the spectrum or another. To me he's both a sleeper and a huge boom or bust candidate, that's how I look at Patterson.
ZM: Is there anybody being talked about too much, that you see maybe overrated or gets drafted too high?
JC: I think there's a great comparison between Barkevious Mingo and Jarvis Jones. There's a fantastic debate. You can throw Ansah in there as well. Jarvis Jones is a really, really good football player. He's played really great football in a really great conference. But you've got Barkevious Mingo who looks the part, looks like the next Jevon Kearse. Then you have Ansah who is another athlete, that kind of mold. To me how do you measure guys who look the part, look like they could be the next Jason Pierre-Paul? Versus a guy like Jarvis Jones, who you know is a good player, that had a bad workout and has some medical red flags. That to me is a fascinating draft quandary to go through.
ZM: In regards to a couple players you just mentioned, where do you think Mingo, and Jones shake out?
JC: The worst Jones does is he goes at 17, if he gets to Pittsburgh at 17, that's as far as he's going to fall. They love pass rushers like that. He could as high as 8, 9, 10, somewhere in that range. Mingo to me is a guy who probably goes no later than 13. Because there's a certain quality of when a guy walks into a room. It's not a whole lot different from guys looking at beautiful women. The same in a football way a coach, or owner, or an executive looks and goes "Wow, I really want that guy on my team". There's a beauty contest element.
ZM: And you think Ansah fits that bill?
JC: Ansah fits the bill, yeah. Mingo fits the bill. You look at them and you see a player. Jones, not quite to the same degree.
ZM: I've seen Dion Jordan mocked as high as #2, some as low as around #8. Do you think he goes top 4-5?
JC: Yeah I think he goes in the top-4. He's the safest pass rusher in this group. He's the guy that most people believe has the best chance to be a substantial pass rusher. You put him at the top of that list. I've seen him drift to 8-9, in that kind of range. I don't believe that's going to happen based on what I'm hearing. I'm hearing he could go as high as #1 if Branden Albert doesn't get traded. If they [Kansas City] get stuck with Branden Alberts, I don't expect that to happen. I still think at the end of the day KC will take Joeckel maybe [Eric] Fisher, and then Jordan as their third option. If Jordan gets past 1, he could either go 2, 3, or 4 depending on any one of those three spots.
First of all I have to thank Jason Cole for taking time to speak with me. He was very generous and provided some great insight.
Secondly, I have to say my favorite part of the entire interview was Jason's jest at Brandon Weeden. I really don't mind Brandon Weeden, but still thought that was great.
Jason answered a lot of my questions in the short time we were able to speak. So what do you all think, did he answer any of your questions? What do you think of his responses?