Of course, there will be the combine and several other related activities until the three-day draft begins on Thursday, April 25, but let’s just go for the imagery of this magical, franchise-defining moment in the middle of spring for the Browns and their new front office/coaching staff.
Each of the last two months around this time, I started out WFNY’s draft coverage by looking at the Big Board for the NFL Draft. First, I professed my love for a certain underclassman turnover-machine from Georgia, and then, I squared off against my friend Jordan in the debate over picking a guard or a defensive playmaker.
So let’s take another updated look today at the aggregate Big Board.
The table below shows the most recent Big Board rankings from Scouts Inc., Mel Kiper Jr, CBS’ NFL Draft Scout and Walter Football. It also compares player’s rankings from my November outlook, if they made the top billing back then too.
In an effort to make some sense out of this table and why I did it this way here in January, let’s take a look at the biggest movements in this top 15 Big Board outlook:
Luke Joeckel, OT, 6-5 3/4, 306, Texas A&M (junior)
Now emerging as the most logical No. 1 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs1, Joeckel is taking advantage of some apparent league-wide concerns about other top prospects. This isn’t a sexy pick. And after last year’s dominant performances by top QBs Luck and Griffin, it’s likely that KC fans are anxiously awaiting a star QB. But this is not the year. Joeckel, who blocked for Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, would be just the third No. 1 offensive lineman in the Super Bowl era pick — following Orlando Pace in ’97 and Jake Long in ’08.
Damontre Moore, DE, 6-4, 248, Texas A&M (junior)
Moore is probably the best pure pass-rusher and his size/production this past season at Texas A&M sure is intriguing. He was one of the most dominant defensive players in the nation in 2012, and, depending upon the placement of Star Loutulelei, is now clearly in the discussion for the top defensive player in this draft. If he’s available at No. 6, it would be hard to see the Browns passing on him.
Chance Warmack, OG, 6-2 3/8, 325, Alabama
Warmarck’s performance in the National Championship Game against Notre Dame cemented his status as a clear top-15 pick, despite still being an interior offensive lineman. He could certainly climb as high as the top 8, possibly to Arizona at No. 7, assuming that no other QB needs dominate a desire for a standout guard.
Bjoern Werner, DE, 6-4, 255, Florida State
Many consider Werner to be the most dependable top-end defensive line prospect, as he projects to be just as good against the pass as against the run. He led the ACC with 13 sacks and again, like Joeckel and others, has jumped up on the Big Board because of other player concerns. It now would be a clear surprise if he falls past the top 8.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, 6-2, 242, Georgia (junior)
The current concern with Jones, who already was slightly undersized, is the report that he has spinal stenosis, which could lead to a draft-day slide or to a shortened NFL career. Reportedly, this diagnosis helped force a hand into his transfer from USC and to the University of Georgia. Seahawks Draft Blog had a nice look into what this could mean for Jones and other historical comparisons. Regardless, this just means that Jones is no longer a shoo-in as the top defensive prospect in the draft, and he could start to slide if other teams fall in love with Loutelelei, Moore, Werner or others.
Manti Te’o, ILB, 6-1, 248, Notre Dame
Well, this is pretty self-explanatory. But Te’o’s stock already had started to fall following the National Championship Game. Character concerns related to the peculiar imaginary girlfriend story also will spark up in the coming weeks — whether warranted or not. Teo’s ceiling now is somewhere in the No. 8-12 range.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, 6-3, 335, Ohio State (junior)
Hankins had a disappointing junior season for the undefeated Buckeyes, at least in the peripheral stats. Certainly, it’s logical that he was being double and triple-teamed by opponents, and this allowed his teammates such as John Simon to have standout seasons. But Hankins will have to answer to those questions soon, as this concern probably removes any chance of him being a top-five pick.
The QBs: Geno Smith, 6-2 3/4, 208, West Virginia AND Matt Barkley, 6-1 3/4, 228, Southern Cal
So here are the three most likely early places where a team might reach for a quarterback: No. 1 Kansas City, No. 2 Jacksonville, No. 7 Arizona and No. 8 Buffalo. Certainly, fans could argue that No. 3 Oakland and No. 9 NY Jets also make sense, but those teams recently made huge investments into their current starters. So if Smith, Barkley or the other top QB options — NC State’s Mike Glennon or Syracuse’s Ryan Tassib — don’t go in the top 8, it’s possible we might not have a single first-round QB, as Mel Kiper projected last week.
Mock drafts for the Browns
Now, instead of just speculating personally about who I want and why exactly, I wanted to share a diversity of mock drafts. Each of these five picks are different and come from a variety of reputable NFL sites. I’ll share my final take at the end.
Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN Insider, January 16th — #6: Bjoern Werner (link)
“I’ve heard Werner compared to J.J. Watt, and while he’s not nearly at Watt’s somewhat extraordinary level, and doesn’t yet have the size to work primarily inside at this point, in terms of his great awareness as a pass-rusher, there might be something to it. Not only does Werner provide immediate impact as a pass-rusher, like Watt, he defends the pass with his eyes and gets his hands up, disrupts passing lanes and swats away throws. A late arrival to football, he has a high ceiling. He’s an ideal fit in Cleveland, a team that saw the defense regress in 2012.”
Rob Rang, CBS Sports, January 16th — #6: Damontre Moore (link)
“Finishing last in the AFC North for the second consecutive year (and fourth time in the past five years), big changes yet again appear to be in store for the Cleveland Browns. The roster appears ripe with young talent but could use a dynamic pass rusher. Moore, who publicly announced his intention to enter the 2013 draft December 30, accomplished the rare feat of leading his team in tackles (80), tackles for loss (20) and sacks (12.5) through the regular season.”
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports, January 16th — #6: Dee Milliner (link)
“Although they’ll have a new head coach and GM, the Browns will probably give Brandon Weeden another year at quarterback, mostly because there aren’t many options out there. The biggest need for Cleveland is in the secondary, lacking an impact corner opposite Joe Haden.”
Charlie Campbell, Walter Football, January 18th — #6: Jarvis Jones (link)
“The Browns could use a pass-rusher on the other side from Jabaal Sheard and an improvement at outside linebacker. Picking Jones would accomplish both. Jones was one of the best pass-rushers in college football in 2011. He tied for the second-most sacks in the nation, 13.5. Jones also had 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. … The USC transfer fit well in the Georgia defense and looks like an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker for the next level. For a 4-3 defense, he could play in a similar manner to Von Miller. The 6-foot-3, 241-pounder could be the top talent in the 2013 NFL Draft at any position.”
James Christensen, NE Patriots Draft, January 21st — #6: Barkevious Mingo (link)
“Adding Mingo to what could be a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense is pretty exciting. He can rush standing up or with his hand on the ground – while his athleticism and flexibility is rare. He could help the Browns defense take the next step forward.”
So quite clearly, there is a divided electorate here in mid-January about what the Browns might end up doing at the No. 6 slot. But what situations could affect who is available? Joeckel will be one of those top four selections, most likely to Kansas City and Philadelphia. At the moment, is also appears that Moore and Louteleli also will be unavailable for Cleveland2.
Will one of the QBs (Smith or Barkley) or a defensive player like Milliner, Mingo or Richardson also jump into the top five? If just one of those players jump into the mix, then obviously there would be more top-end prospects for the taking at No. 6. For now, it certainly appears that Jarvis Jones’ fall in value could make him an ideal fit of risk/reward for the Browns. And you’d know there’d be nobody happier about all that than me.
Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports