By Bob Evans
The beginning of free agency in the NFL saw the Cleveland Browns come out like a lion, catching two of the bigger defensive names on the market—Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant—and giving them big dollars to come anchor the team’s new 3-4 defense. The team then continued addressing needs by signing former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves and former Carolina Panthers tight end Gary Barnidge.
After striking early in free agency, the Browns have been relatively quiet as of late. In a time period when many thought they were going to address other major needs—primarily at starting cornerback—the team has stood pat over the past few days. With the exception of hosting cornerback Brent Grimes from Atlanta, the Browns have been pretty hush-hush in regard to any more roster plans.
If general manager Michael Lombardi is done addressing the team’s starting needs in free agency, it means the team’s eyes are squarely focused on next month’s NFL Draft. While this writer still believes the team will bring in at least one or two more free agents, it is officially time to get this party started with my first Browns’ mock draft of the year.
After days of breaking down the roster and flipping through draft notebooks, the selections are officially in for my first mock. To get things started, the Browns have struck at trade with the Miami Dolphins to move down to the No. 12 pick in the first round—acquiring the No. 42 pick in the second round in the process. The Dolphins need any one of the best available at defensive end, cornerback and tackle—and being at No. 6 gives them their choice of best available any of those positions.
Round 1 (12) Trade With Miami—Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
This likely will not be a popular choice with Browns fans right away, as the team has more pressing needs at starting cornerback and adding another pass rusher. However, with Alabama corner Dee Milliner likely being gone before the team’s original No. 6 pick, the Browns put themselves in a position to draft best available for the first time in years.
Austin gives the Browns’ offense the much needed weapon it has lacked for years. Some may think this is too early to draft a slot receiver, but Austin has the ability to be much more than that to his team. His game-breaking speed can be utilized in a multitude of ways, as many people compare the bottle of lighting to a combination of Wes Welker and Percy Harvin.
Round 2 (42) Trade with Miami—Desmond Trufant, CB, Washintgon
By moving down in the first round, the Browns now have the opportunity to select the best available cornerback on the board to pair with Joe Haden. The younger brother of long-time Seattle Seahawk Marcus, Trufant will bring a much needed true starter into the Browns’ secondary.
Many think he could be an early second-round pick, but if he falls to the Browns here it would be a steal. Trufant didn’t put up flashy statistics in college because defenses didn’t throw his way, but he is going to be a starter in the NFL for a long time.
Round 3 (68)—Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi
Thanks to the additions of Kruger and Groves in free agency, the Browns do not have to take one of the “project” hybrid defensive ends in the first round. Collins is a guy who could rise up draft boards as we get closer to the draft, as the 6’3” and 250-pound linebacker had a strong performance at the combine. Not to mention, the best thing about Collins is that he actually has experience rushing the quarterback from the linebacker position, and has proven to be effective. He racked up 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in his senior year.
Round 4 (7th)—Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State
Failing to get one of the best tight ends on the free agent market leaves the Browns with just former project Jordan Cameron and the recently acquired Barnidge on the roster. Sims is the big, athletic type of tight end (6’5” and 262 pounds) the Browns’ new coaching staff loves, and could end up being a solid pick at this stage in the draft because of his excellent blocking skills and hands.
Round 5 (6th)—Josh Evans, FS, Florida
While all the scouts talk about Evans’ teammate Matt Elam, he could be the best Gator pro in this draft class. At 6’1” and 207 pounds, Evans led the Gators with 83 tackles in 2012, and pulled in three interceptions. All of his film fits defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s preference for attacking style players. He is very physical and not afraid to mix it up in pass coverage, but is also very skilled at blitzing and making tackles in the open field.
Round 6 (5th)—Eric Herman, OG, Ohio University
The Browns need a young, durable guard with the ability to pull and pave the way for running back Trent Richardson—enter Herman. After starting 51 consecutive games for the Bobcats, Herman takes his excellent blocking abilities to the NFL; as he is best known for paving the way for Beau Blankenship, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last season for the Bobcats.
Round 6 (7th)—Zach Boren, FB, Ohio State
After taking Herman to compete at guard, the Browns need a dependable blocker to help pave the way for Richardson. While there are very few fullbacks usually worthy of selection in the NFL Draft, Boren’s versatility and team player attitude warrant a selection. After seeing the Buckeyes ravished by injuries during his final year, Boren volunteered to move to linebacker to help keep the team’s undefeated season intact. But when on offense, the 6’0” and 235-pounder is a pure wrecking ball who isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body to create a hole for his running back.
Related Articles on Buckeye State Sports: