By Sam Ingro
The details have begun to funnel in, and the new staff of the Cleveland Browns has been assembled. After weeks of waiting, the world now knows that Rob Chudzinski is the head coach of the team, the Air Coryell offensive system will be installed under Norv Turner and the 3-4 defensive scheme will be utilized by Ray Horton. With that information, it becomes slightly easier to start looking at the options that lie before the Browns in the 2013 NFL draft.
Taking a look at their needs in the 3-4 scheme, outside linebackers in the draft become a premium for Cleveland. It is no secret Horton loves to get after the quarterback, but currently there is really no proven No. 1 rushing threat on the Browns. The most explosive and promising options are Jabaal Sheard and Emmanuel Acho, so a legitimate weapon will be needed if the Browns’ defense doesn’t want to cross their fingers and hope the duo works out.
So who are the options at outside linebacker for Cleveland at No. 6 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft?
Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State
A German-exchange student at Florida State, Werner didn’t begin playing football until the age of 15. In that short amount of time, he has emerged as a dominating force for the Seminoles. Werner stands at 6’4″ and 256 pounds, ideally fit for a 4-3 defensive end role, playing OLB is not out of the question by any means.
With his size and motor, he could be a solid fit for the Browns in their 3-4 defense. After dropping 20 pounds in the offseason before his final season, Werner went from the 275-280 range down to 260-265 pounds and proceeded to have the best season of his collegiate career. In his final two seasons, he racked up 35 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks, 18 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. For that reason, NFL executives will not be anticipating that Werner will be able to bulk up to a 3-4 defensive end size, so most will think of him as purely a 4-3 lineman or 3-4 linebacker.
NFL Comparison: Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants
Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Aside from having one of the most unique names in the draft, Mingo has already become a popular choice for Browns fans. Sure, there are the fun Bark-evious jokes which the Dawg Pound will certainly enjoy, but on the field he is no laughing matter. Mingo is relentless in pursuit of the ballcarrier, whether it is the quarterback, running back or tight end. Another late bloomer like Werner, Mingo did not begin playing football until his junior year of high school, but what he has done in such a short time has been nothing short of impressive.
Leading the LSU Tiger defense into memorable battle after battle, his Sophomore year saw him register 46 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Looking at his junior season, the numbers regressed a bit, but much of it had to do with opposing offensive coordinators beginning to take notice of the young pass rusher. Even still, he posted 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. At the next level, Mingo’s speed, physicality, and exceptional use of his arms and hands, could make him a threat for years to come.
NFL Comparison: Jevon Kearse, DE, Tennessee Titans
Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
Ansah has only recently started climbing up draft boards, as his physical abilities left scouts drooling over his NFL potential during the Senior Bowl. A native of Ghana, Ansah only began playing football three seasons ago, but BYU immediately recognized his contributions. At 6’6″ and 270 pounds, he has already drawn comparisons to New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul, and could be a draft day steal regardless of how high or low he may go. Ansah may be a gamble, as his stat-lines were nothing extraordinary, but to post 4.5 sacks. 13 tackles for loss and 62 tackles shows that he has the ability and potential to succeed. The Browns will have to decide if the physical phenom will go the route of Pierre-Paul or wind up more like failed Buffalo Bills’ pick Aaron Maybin.
NFL Comparison: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants