Browns Hoping For Big Impact From Their Small Group Of Drafted Defenders
By Steven King
Despite the fact their 2013 NFL Draft class is small – with just five players – after not having picks in the second, fourth and fifth rounds – the Cleveland Browns could still end up getting a 60-percent return on their investment this year.
In fact, at least two of them should definitely make an impact, and it appears the Browns think that the third one will eventually be able to do as well. Not surprisingly, that trio is made up of the team’s top three picks:
LSU DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo (first round, No. 6 overall)
San Diego State CB Leon McFadden (third round, No. 68 overall).
Notre Dame S Jamoris Slaughter (sixth round, No. 175 overall).
Here’s a look at each player:
Mingo – Ever since defensive coordinator Ray Horton was hired, the emphasis defensively has been on speed, speed and more speed. That especially appears to be the case in terms of pass rushers off the edge – the focal point of his scheme. In that regard, Mingo – with maybe the coolest name in Browns’ history since wide receivers Fair Hooker (1969-74) and Jubilee Dunbar (1974) -- is a perfect fit. He is exceptionally fast overall and has a lightning-fast first step. That allows him to explode into the backfield – probably off the weak side – at least that’s the way Cleveland envisions it.
But even for the fastest players, size still does matter. And right now, Mingo’s lack of it threatens to limit his playing time. He has just 240 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, which makes him lighter than one of the quarterbacks he’ll be rushing against in the AFC North (Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger). It’s also way too small for him to get locked up with offensive tackles.
The Browns, however, did not use their pick at the top of the draft to get a player who can be on the field only in passing situations, so they will work hard with Mingo between now and the beginning of the season to increase his weight and strength. How many extra pounds his frame can hold is a question mark, but even with a little added weight, he could play more and keep defenses from constantly double-teaming new OLB Paul Kruger.
McFadden – The Browns have had good luck with San Diego State draftees (Cleveland still holds high regard for Brian Sipe and Webster Slaughter), so maybe they’ll be able to continue the trend with McFadden. Like Sipe and Slaughter, he is undersized (5-9, 193), which could create matchup problems against some of the AFC North’s bigger wide receivers, such as A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals.
But unless McFadden gets hurt and barring the unforeseen, he’s going to see a lot of playing time and likely will start. The Browns want to find another good young cornerback to pair with their clear top corner (Joe Haden) and McFadden’s resume is far better than those of the people against whom he will be competing, such as Buster Skrine. There’s also the notable fact McFadden is this new regime’s draft pick, so for that reason alone, he gets moved to the head of the line.
Slaughter – While the situation with Slaughter is different than it is with McFadden, there are similarities. This new regime also selected him so the door to the starting lineup is going to be opened wide for a considerable length of time, but Slaughter has some issues in that he’s trying to come back from a torn Achilles’ tendon that ended his 2012 season after only three games. He’s also not very big for a safety (6-0, 195). Slaughter will play once he is healthy, but will have to beat out returnee Tashaun Gipson, who has impressed the coaches. Although there is hardly a bevy of talent at safety on the Browns, the safety position is deeper than cornerback. Thus, Slaughter has a few more bodies to wade through than McFadden.