The NFL Combine is well underway this weekend. We’ve already had our usual pair of incredibly impressive speedsters (West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Texas’ Marquise Goodwin) and plenty of updates from the Cleveland media.
But as all of these measurements and assessments take place, it begs the question: What is going on with this draft class? I’ve been monitoring draft boards for a monthly update at WFNY for a while now: November, December and January. It might just be or it might just be these sites, but there seems to be a whole heck of a lot of back-and-forth movement among the top 15 picks or so.
The Cleveland Browns own the No. 6 pick. They have a new owner, new front office and new stadium deal heading into 2013. Yet for now, there has been no consensus emerging over possible favorites for their selection. Is this yet another sign of a weak draft class with no can’t-miss prospects?
Let’s take a look again at what some big boards say, share some of the latest Cleveland draft updates and then look into various ways we can find what will fit for the Browns at No. 6.
For the third time out of four updates, my aggregate big board rankings this month will be simply an average of these four different sites: Scouts Inc., Mel Kiper at ESPN, Walter Football and CBS Sports’ NFLDraftScout.com.
This time, I’m only sharing what worked out to be the relatively consensus top 12 among these four big boards. There’s lots of movement again from last time, with two players not previously in the top 15 joining the fold (Floyd and Vaccaro), and two from the top 10 last time dropping out entirely (Te’o and Ogletree).
Here’s the latest update:
You can clearly to see the continued big board volatility, especially in the monthly rankings of guys such as Bjoern Werner, Eric Fisher, Chance Warmack, Jarvis Jones and the newcomers.
The position (clearly fluid based on system and fit) breakdown of these top 12 players is as follows:
2 OT (#1 Joeckel, #6 Fisher)
3 DT (#2 Loutulelei, #9 Floyd, #10 Richardson)
3 DE (#3 Werner, #5 Moore, #11 Mingo)
1 CB (#4 Milliner)
1 OG (#7 Warmack)
1 OLB (#8 Jones)
1 S (#12 Vaccaro)
The most difficult aspect of this draft, regardless of overall strength or depth, is the fact that there is no clear indication what the Kansas City Chiefs might do at No. 1. A franchise desperate for a threat at QB, there is likely no passer worthy of a top 5 pick in this draft. So that throws a wrench into the usual plans for a top selection, thus leaving the door open for more confusion at the next few picks all the way on down to No. 6.
Going more in-depth with the latest Cleveland reports, here are some of the many storylines we’ve seen over the past few days at the combine:
—- MLB Manti Te’o (highest ranking: #14 by Kiper) won over the crowd at the combine on Saturday. His heartfelt interview was a turning point in media coverage toward the former Notre Dame star. It still remains unlikely that this positive trend will bring him to the top 10 of the draft, but it’s definitely a good start.
—- OLB Dion Jordan (highest ranking #9 by Kiper) is out for 3-4 months following shoulder surgery. Yet, earlier in the week, the Oregon product shared that he is getting the majority of interest from 3-4 defenses. He might be a reach at No. 6 following this injury news, but there likely will be some team shortly after the Browns that takes the risk here.
—- Rumors indicated this weekend that up to a dozen teams have taken OLB Jarvis Jones (#8 consensus ranking) completely off their big board due to his spinal stenosis condition. Dropping from the consensus No. 1 pick in November to now possibly not going in the top 10, this has been a huge injury tumble for the former Georgia star.
—- Off-the-field issues continue to hurt fellow Georgia defensive star OLB Alec Ogletree (highest ranking: #12 by ESPN and WF). He has apologized profusely for his recent DUI charge and some analysts are saying he is the better Te’o as he could actually serve as a more proficient MLB in the NFL. We’ll see if he can climb back into the top 10.
—- The unsung hero of the combine? That would have to be BYU DE Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah (highest ranking: #11 by WF). I absolutely loved the Sports Illustrated profile on him from December. He’s a freakish talent but incredibly raw, so he likely wouldn’t be a good immediate-playing-time fit for the Browns. But he’s getting very favorable reviews out in Indianapolis.
—- Remember DT Johnathan Hankins? The Ohio State junior was a consensus top-5 pick back in November and December. Now? His highest big board ranking among these four is a #15 from WF. It wouldn’t be all that crazy if he drops out of the first round entirely. This has been a gigantic collapse from his previous status.
—- Just moments ago this morning, Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson ran a sub-4.4 time in the 40-yard dash. Previously, he was in competition with California WR Keenan Allen for the top wide-out billing in the draft. Patterson’s work-out in Indianapolis contrasted with Allen’s work-out decline could catapult Patterson into the top 12 (at least). Patterson’s previous high big board ranking was CBS at #19.
—- Rumors surfaced Sunday morning on Twitter that USC QB Matt Barkley (highest ranking: #18 by CBS) won’t fall past Arizona at #7. The Cardinals have been rumored to be connected to a number of QBs already this draft cycle and Barkley is just the latest. Certainly, this could give the Browns added leverage for a possible move down later into the first round.
—- Related to Cleveland’s quarterback needs, the team again made it clear they don’t have plans to go with a QB at No. 6. Florida State QB E.J. Manuel could potentially be a potential fit and there might be others still remaining in the second round (via trade) or later. For now though, it appears the Browns will simply add to the competition via free agency.
Now, let’s move on to who might be available and who might interest the Browns with the No. 6 pick in the draft in April.
More likely than not, all things being equal, these two players will be off the board in some form or another before Cleveland has a chance to select a player: OT Luke Joeckel and DT Star Loutulelei. That’s about it in terms of any guarantees based on a large sampling of mock drafts and big boards.
After that, it appears for now that DE Bjoern Werner is slightly most likely to also be off the board. Looking through mock draft databases at Walter Football, FF Toolbox, DC Pro Sports Report and more, he’s got about a 60-70% chance of going somewhere in the top-5. He’d be close to a sure-fire pick by the Browns, however, if he did indeed slide all the way down.
Just after Werner, DE Damontre Moore from Texas A&M probably has a 55-65% chance of being taken before the Browns. This just goes to show the incredible volatility of mock drafts and big boards. With Jones falling and falling, even Moore, the most accomplished pass-rusher in college football in 2012, might not necessarily go in the top 5.
Despite being ahead in the big board rankings, CB Dee Milliner from Alabama comes in fifth in the percentage likelihood rankings, with probably about 30-40% probability of going in the top 5. Would the Browns be interested in investing so heavily in another CB to solidify a formidable pass defense alongside Joe Haden? Possibly. But for now, his most likely landing spot could actually be in the 7-9 range.
In terms of Werner-Moore-Milliner, I’d expect most likely that one of those players is available at No. 6. For now, it’s probably a 35% chance all three are gone, 60% chance exactly two are gone and a 5% chance that two are remaining for the Browns to pick between.
This then leaves the door open for a large variety of other contenders for Cleveland, hence why we continue to see so many conflicting reports, rumors, mock drafts and more. Will they reach for an unproven athlete like Ansah? Does Jones’ health status not scare them as much as other teams? Would they consider an unexpected fit, such as Warmack? Or even, what about the other defensive-line prospects like Floyd, Richardson and Mingo?
There are a whole slew of angels and storylines that will continue to emerge from Indianapolis this week and other locations leading up to April 25. But now, with a more structured understanding of what the Browns might be working with, hopefully you’ll be able to align all the noise in the context of likely consideration sets at No. 6.
Photo: Ross Obley/FSU Sports Information