At 35, Browns select … #KRM
Browns KRM to this point
Zarathustra and ChuckKoz have delivered the Browns Jadeveon Clowney (OLB, SoCar at #4) and Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State at #26). While neither player would have been my pick at those slots,1 they both wrote great breakdowns of why they felt that those players were the Best Player Available and made extremely good arguments. I agree that they could be considered the BPA at those slots and could end up being our picks. Even better, I do not have to consider any pass rushers or quarterbacks at my pick now (as they tend to be the highest risk picks other than WR). Thank you to both for jobs well done.
Team Needs for the Orange Hats2
Farmer has spent the offseason swapping out players for guys who are hopefully upgrades. He cut D’Qwell Jackson to sign Karlos Dansby to be our SILB and team leader on defense. He let T.J. Ward walk in free agency to sign Donte Whitner to take over at SS. Ray fixed the Davone Bess situation by signing both Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins, which will also allow us to bid adieu to Weeden favorite Josh Cooper(not yet though). He let Washington get silly with Shaun Lauvao and signed a depth OG in Paul McQuistan from Seattle. Finally, among other depth players, he cut Brandon Weeden and let O’Neil Cousins go in free agency for the collective sanity of the North Coast.3
Farmer did have three signings that addressed specific needs. Ben Tate (starting RB), Jim Dray (blocking TE), and Chris Pressley (fullback) were positions for which our beloved team did not have good options in 2013. I suppose I should mention Isiah Trufant as well, though I expect him to be a special team player only unless something goes horribly wrong.
However, our 2014 offseason has left us with some obvious and significant holes on our roster. In particular, starting spots that do not have a great option as of today.
On offense, we do not know what we have in Brian Hoyer, so quarterback is an obvious need that was filled in this KRM with Derek Carr. We could still use a better developmental QB3, but that is for a later pick (Connor Shaw in the fifth round). We still need depth at RB as Ben Tate and Dion Lewis have not proven they can handle the full load of a NFL season, but the RB position has been devalued to the point where they are getting paid like kickers on the open market, so do not expect us to burn a high pick on one. On the OL, I assume that the depth acquisition of Paul McQuistan and Alex Mack retention indicates that we will fill at least one OG spot internally, if not both (Greco, Pinkston, McQuistan, Faulk, Gilkey). Receiver is an interesting position as we signed two WRs who are at best in the slot (Burleson, Hawkins), have a great flanker (Gordon backed up by recovering Benjamin), but no real option at split end (Greg Little is the only guy penciled in there with eraser in hand).
On defense, we already have a stacked DL especially if Desmond Bryant’s recovery is going as well as claimed. With Clowney added in this KRM, we also have four capable OLBs with great potential. Haden, Whitner, and Dansby lock up three of the remaining six starting positions on defense. However, the issue is with those three remaining slots. Gipson (FS), Robertson (WILB), and Skrine (CB2) are all capable NFL players (yes, even Craig), but best served as depth rather and not starters where their flaws are more easily exposed.
Another area of concern is the amount of players on our roster that have not been capable of staying healthy under the extreme physical demands of a NFL season. Signees Ben Tate, Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins, Chris Pressley all have medical red flags associated with them. Roster holdovers Brian Hoyer, Desmond Bryant, Dion Lewis, Jason Pinkston, and Travis Benjamin may all be asked to compete for significant roles but also are either recovering or have serious medical red flags as well. Please note these positions may require additional depth as a result of this concern.
Final Offense Need Tally: WR2, OG1, QB3, RB3, OT3
Final Defense Need Tally: FS, WILB, CB2, ILB4
Here is the pro-football-focus chart, though I have people in slightly different positions and also have updated for offseason moves and the KRM:
The Browns have been absolutely terrible since 2007 and haven’t made the playoffs since the 2002 season. Is there any hope?
To be fair, it will mostly come down to the quarterback. If we get that position correct, then we should be good. As in, competing with Cincinnati for the AFC North good. If we do what we have done the past 15 years at the position, then we will struggle.
However, there are quite a few reasons for optimism. Our defense has a ton of talent on it and we have real depth at several key positions. If we can fill our obvious voids, then those incumbent players become good backups instead of poor starters. Our offense is a split end and offensive guard away from being legitimately dangerous (assuming our QB option works out). If Hoyer is our 2014 starting QB, then we only have five starting positions to truly fill and we have three top35 picks along with a wealth of middle round picks to do it.
Of course, if our medical concerns end up causing us to have a year full of injuries and our quarterback play does not improve from what we have been subjected to, then we will merely waste the talent that we have obtained and we will march to another top ten draft pick.
GM Ray Farmer’s lack of tendencies
Ray Farmer was a two-time all-ACC safety at Duke who was converted to LB for the Eagles and had a short playing career before it ended with a knee injury. After his playing days, he was a scout for the Atlanta Falcons from 2002-2006 and then the Director of Professional Personnel for Scott Pioli’s Chiefs from 2006-2012. If you want to try to gain insight into his draft tendencies from those stints, then I wish you luck. Atlanta was very fringe heavy in the top rounds (DB, WR). The Chiefs were middle heavy (OL, DL) with some DB as well (WRs only drafted in first round).
So, should we just grab the interview list of guys they brought in or went to see? Well, he certainly muddies those waters by saying they are guys they might not be interested in.4
Farmer said. “definitely opportunities to talk to all parties that we may or may not be interested in.”
Hmmm, well perhaps he will be a need-based drafter?
“Every player that we look at will fit a need for us,” Farmer said.
Ah hah! Oh wait, I should read the rest of the quote where he basically says that anyone can be a need. They just need to be a good player that he believes will upgrade that spot (love the bit about being a starter after Banner’s draft last year):
“I probably shouldn’t use the word need, but will fit a role. He’ll have a defined way to compete and to play in our offense and our defense. It’s really about driving competition. If we think that guy can come in and compete to be a quality starter, then, yeah, we’ll definitely be interested.”
Seems it will be tough to figure out who we are targeting and that is just how Ray wants it:
“No one really knows what we’re doing,” Farmer said. “Keeping everybody guessing is a positive.”
The only consistent piece is that his approach to the draft looks to mirror what he saw in KC and Atlanta. Both of those Front Offices viewed draft picks as stock picks and are reported to have formulas to determine how to maximize the value. We have no idea what Ray’s formulas may be or how good he is at working the phones, but that seems to be the strategy he will follow.
“I look at the draft as currency,” Farmer said. “A first-round pick, be it early, be it late, is probably worth five years of a good player at a relative number and same thing down the line.”
It’s Mike Pettine, but hey, still pretty cool.5
As a defensive coach, perhaps we can start with what base defense he will run. Or maybe not.6
“We’ll be multiple-front, multiple-coverage.”
“We’re not limited in the type of football player we can take. If there’s a guy who is an explosive athlete who can make plays for us defensively, then we’ll find a spot for him. Fitting the system to the players — let it be the player’s system. We won’t have guys we’ll circle on the board and say, ‘well, he’s not a fit for us schematically.‘ ((Music to Kanick’s ears.)) If he’s an outstanding player who can be productive in this league, we’ll find that home for him.”
He does give some insight into what he looks for in at least one position.
“I’d rather have smaller guys who are faster, and the best place that usually shows up as your linebacking corp. You look for guys who can run and hit guys and go sideline-to-sideline.”
But, I do find this statement about Kyle’s offenses quite accurate (and making it nearly impossible to get a good read on things, which is actually a positive).
“That was the most encouraging thing to me, that there wasn’t just one way he got it done. He did it with a quarterback like Matt Schaub, got it done with RG3. Did it with a premier wideout like Andre Johnson, then he did it with the likes of Pierre Garcon in Washington. He’s been in the top in the league in rushing statistics, also in passing statistics.”
Narrowing the Field
Back on the Ravens pick, I mentioned how I envied that Ozzie would take the player he felt was BPA sometimes eschewing obvious needs to ensure he received the best player. As such, I would be a hypocrite if I solely focused on team needs without first listing out the players that I feel may be BPA at this point in the draft. The players on my list who have the best chance of becoming elite are (not factoring in associated risks and in no particular order):
- Dee Ford (OLB, Auburn),
- Kony Ealy (OLB, Mizzou),
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington),
- Joel Bitonio (OL, Nevada),
- Gabe Jackson (OG, MissSt),
- Kyle Van Noy (LB, BYU), and
- Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU).
Also, there are several players that do not have quite as high a ceiling but who are significant steps ahead of the next tier at their position (so, if you wait, then you are getting a much lesser player):
- Jimmie Ward (S, NIU),
- Bashaud Breeland (CB, Clemson),
- Morgan Moses (OT, UVa),
- Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State), and
- Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt).
The one advantage to having as many needs as we have is that we can merge our need with BPA for this selection (as I reach for a silver lining). That eliminates Ford, Ealy, and Seferian-Jenkins from the discussion and leaves us with nine players to discuss. We can break things down further by comparing players at the same positions to get it down to four final choices.
Ryan Shazier vs. Kyle Van Noy
To begin this discussion, you have to understand that I believe either could be our WILB. They are both being touted as OLB for the purposes of the NFL draft, but also both possess the quickness, reaction time, and fluidity in coverage to handle the WILB spot for our defense. In addition, since Pettine wants to use a hybrid front, they are both the ideal guys you would like to be at WOLB when we show a 4-3 look. Van Noy is much better at shedding oncoming blockers and also is better in coverage. He would be my pick as I believe those to be essential skills in this role. However, I am supposed to pick how I think the Browns would pick. In that sense, I think they would prefer Shazier. He is much faster and a better overall athlete who is incredibly aggressive and instinctive. He does struggle to shed blocks, but that can be schemed and/or taught to some degree. It is a very close call, but I believe that Mike Pettine will request the Buckeye if it comes down to these players.
Allen Robinson vs. Jordan Matthews
If NFL lineage is important, than Jordan Matthews is set. He is a relative of GOAT WR Jerry Rice. If college competition is important, then Jordan Matthews is set. He is the all-time SEC leader in receptions, receiving yards, and is a two-time All-SEC player. If measurables are important, then Jordan Matthews is set. He is big (6’3”, 215 lbs, 10 ¾” hands), fast (4.46-40, 4.18-20-shuttle), and strong (21 rep bench). If character is important, then Jordan Matthews is set as he has been as non-diva as you can get as a WR and says and does all the correct things by all accounts (including willingness to block). The reason that he is a step down from the top five guys already taken is that he can struggle to release in press coverage, he doesn’t do double-moves all that well, and has bad habits with trapping the ball against his body in tight coverage.
Oh sorry, I got distracted, was this supposed to be a comparison or a love letter?7 A comparison? Ok, got it.
Yeah, there is also Allen Robinson who led the Big 10 in receptions and yards the past two seasons, is better than Matthews at creating separation and releasing from the LOS, is a big (but not as big) WR, a very good route-runner with the full routes due to O’Brien implementing them (head-start), and might be the better YAC8 WR of the two. His big issue is that he ran a 4.6-40 at the combine and looks slow in games (separation due to great routes) and I am not going to believe his 4.25 pro-day reported number (c’mon Penn State, at least make it plausible). I think he’s more likely to end up like Brian Robiskie in the NFL.9
Jimmie Ward vs. Bashaud Breeland
Breeland is the best cover corner left that isn’t a midget (5’11”), which makes him an intriguing prospect by default. However, I am not sure that he would beat out Skrine for the CB2 job in the 2014 season and there are too many good prospects left to take a guy who may be depth. Jimmie Ward is intriguing because he has real first round skills, can play FS, SS, and even CB in dime formations. He has the speed and the size and the skill to be utilized all over the defensive backfield.
Joel Bitonio vs. Gabe Jackson vs. Morgan Moses
Morgan Moses – He is an okay enough prospect, but the real reason he is even mentioned here is that the OT field drops off significantly after him. I feel he would be a reach at #35 and that someone will make that reach in the early second or even late first round. But, I hope that the Browns see him for what he is (a good but not great prospect) and move on. I am also not nearly as low on Mitchell Schwartz as some fans are.
Gabe is bigger in the belly, making him the stronger, but slower player. In fact, he was the singular slowest guy at the combine (not just in 40 time, but lateral drills, and pretty much everything). Speed isn’t all that important for an OL, but quickness is a big key to the ZBS and he may struggle there. However, in addition to being stronger, he also has a more refined technique. If Gabe embraces NFL conditioning as Cordy Glenn did, then he could be an outright elite OG. If not, then he won’t be in the NFL in 3 years.10
Bitonio, on the other hand, is the most athletic OL not going in the top ten of this draft as he was top four in all speed, quickness and jumping categories at the combine. He is a former top-prep PF and grew up doing mixed martial arts (his father was a professional), which is likely why he has such amazing balance and is so good with his hands. Mean SOB on the field who is also a noted leader in practice/film off the field and graduated with a degree in economics (statistic based). Also, after the season, he decided it might help his draft stock if he learned every position on the OL, which he did by the Senior Bowl (and had a great week). He isn’t the strongest guy, has shorter arms (so OG/OC only) and Nevada did almost exclusive 2-pt stance (though he looked fine in a 3pt in the Senior Bowl). If he can add strength, then he is the prototypical ZBS OG and wins the OL battle here.
So, the final four choices have come down to:
- Jordan Matthews,
- Jimmie Ward,
- Joel Bitonio, and
- Ryan Shazier.
All four players are extremely good players and all four could significantly improve an area of weakness on our team.
With Matthews, I am trying to balance my fear of second round WRs from yesterday’s post with the fact that he is the best WR left and has a ton of really good tools to use. He may be what we have hoped Greg Little could become. But, honestly, I think we are much better off right now at WR than at the other three slots and that is enough to pass on him as hard as it is to do.
Bitonio suffers a similar fate. He is among my favorite prospects this year, but I believe the Browns think they are better off at OG than I do. Perhaps Ray is just hiding his desire to draft OL, but he has been real quiet on it and the rumbling rumors that may or may not start in Berea have not really mentioned OG much. With Greco, Pinkston, McQuistan, Faulk, and Gilkey, we have good depth at OG. We could have two starters though I have my reservations about it. But, it is my guess to what the Browns will do, so we move on.
So, it comes down to the defense. While many fans may complain spending two of our first three picks on defense, I am a proponent of having an elite front. We are closer on defense and have a defensive HC, so it does make some sense. Also, it is just how this particular draft happened to fall. Regardless, the question to me becomes which player will have the biggest impact on our defense. Will a safety who you can move all over the field help more or a linebacker with ridiculous speed and athleticism? Honestly, I hope this is the choice Ray Farmer has to make because I do not think there is a wrong answer.
My answer actually comes down to Karlos Dansby. Dansby was a much, much better linebacker in Arizona when Daryl Washington was by his side.11 Dansby is not a fast player and he requires having speed paired up next to him to be truly effective. While Karlos thrives taking on the block to shed or going out in coverage, Shazier can be the guy who knifes all over the field and attacks the QB. When we show a 4-3 alignment, Karlos takes the MLB role and Shazier shifts to the WOLB and fits Pettine’s a call for sideline-to-sideline speed from the LBer corps.
Final Answer: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
In case you weren’t yet convinced
- Elite measurables
- Among linebackers at combine:
- Best vertical (42”),
- Best Broad Jump (130”),
- Fifth in 3-cone,
- Eighth in shuttle run (4.21),
- Eighth in bench (25 reps),
- Pro-day 40 time of 4.36 (not sure I trust but he is widely known as THE fastest linebacker in the draft and it shows on film).
- Elite field coverage
- Strong at the point of attack
- Great disruptor (does this look like a 2nd round pick to you?)
- Field general / leader with great instincts (including in pass defense)
- And, if all else fails, he’ll just suplex the RB
- Oh, just watch the full highlight reel put together by Ryan Shazier’s agents.
I have done these multiple GM mock drafts in the past and usually when you get to the second round there are two-three guys that you want and target and hope that the other guys haven’t read about them much (or are targeting other needs). This year is ridiculous. I listed twelve players off the bat and know there are another four-six that I could have easily considered. I would be happy with most of them even though I obviously have my personal preferences. The 2009 draft is the closest in recent memory to being stacked like this (not our fault Mangini messed it up, I wanted Shady McCoy, Loadholt and Sean Smith), but it could not compete with the talent this year. Doing this KRM exercise has really made me want to trade down with TB, Minny, Buffalo, or Tennessee and gain extra second round picks to take advantage of this wealth of talent.
Finally, many thanks to Kanick for including me on the KRM and to everyone who participated. The thought put into these posts and the different takes on prospects was absolutely refreshing and needed in this exhausting extended lead-up to the NFL draft. This thread of posts was my favorite non-family activity the past few weeks, which is saying a ton at the start of the MLB season. Everyone, please take a bow for some great insights.
Yes, bows all around. This was really extra-terrific. I kinda want to see who the Browns take in the third.
- No fair! Who would you have have taken? [back]
- White Hats = Good. Black Hats = Bad. Orange Hats = Family. If you need proof, then just look at our entire division and realize that the Bengals have orange stripes. [back]
- NCAC has laid the claim to that term for Ohio for the past 30 years and that is good enough for me- http://www.northcoast.org/ [back]
- All quotes obtained from Ulrich’s piece here. [back]
- Clarification: When Pettine’s name surfaced, I was among his most ardent supporters even over most of the bigger name coaches being discussed. And, I am also not meaning to use this phrase in a derogatory fashion towards his daughter. I love that she wrote it that way and they are both Orange Hats to me. [back]
- Pettine quotes sourced from Pokorny’s piece here. [back]
- Same thing happened to me when I was nixing Matthews for the Skins. [back]
- Still with us Mr. Cleaveland? [back]
- A plausible 4.47 40 is now being listed as Robinson’s pro day 40. Pro day numbers are always suspect. [back]
- Jackson was definitely an elite guard in the SEC and man, I think 7-6 Missy State goes 3-10 without him. He was that big of a difference. End requisite Gabe Jackson endorsement. [back]
- This checks out.