We are less than a week from the NFL Draft, also known as the most important day of the year for your Cleveland Browns. With (another) new regime taking over the reigns and new schemes in place on both sides of the ball, it is crucial that Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer, Rob Chudzinski and the crew nail these three days. It all starts Thursday night with the primetime First Round.
The Browns currently hold the sixth pick. Will they go with a defensive back? Could they turn to a pass rusher? Would they possible fortify the offensive line? Could they shock everyone and take an additional offensive weapon? Or maybe, just maybe, would they trade the pick to a team that wants to move up and snag one of those top offensive tackles?
From now until Thursday’s first round, a different member of the WFNY staff will take their look at one player in particular and tell you why the Browns, should they choose to, would go in this direction.
Name: Dee Milliner
Weight: 201 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.48
Whom he would replace: Sheldon Brown
Why he makes the most sense for the Browns: The worst kept secret in Cleveland – The Browns have almost zero depth at cornerback. Not only do that lack a legitimate starting option across from Joe Haden, but what lies behind Haden is Buster Skreen, newly signed free agent Chris Owens, Trevin Wade, and special teamers Kevin Barnes and Johnson Bademosi. That just isn’t going to cut it. They went after Brent Grimes as a possible starter in free agency, but he eventually signed with the Miami Dolphins. This left the Browns still searching.
This brings us to Milliner, easily the best corner in the draft. He fits the bill for what the Browns are looking for an for what they desperately need. He is a physical, smart, corner who comes from about as close to an NFL program as you are going to get in college – Alabama. He has became a starter during the 2011 season on a defense full of stars and became a star on his own during the 2012 National title season in Tuscaloosa.
Pairing another extremely skilled and physical corner with Haden could give the Browns secondary a serious boost. If Milliner projects out to be as good as the experts thinks he can be, Haden and Milliner together would be the best pair of corners Cleveland has seen since Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield. However, there are concerns.
What the experts say: “Easily the top cornerback in this class. Has great burst and plenty of speed, so even if his backpedal needs work, he can turn and run with anybody, and he has time to fix minor technique flaws. A smart player, has a sharp learning curve, and his raw football skills are exceptional. His physical prowess is a step above that of other corners. Big question is how good his hands are.”- Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN
“Recognizes routes and anticipates breaks. Reads receiver and quarterback when facing the line of scrimmage. Does a good job of mid-pointing high-low route combinations. Above average instincts when facing inside and can’t see receiver. Turn and locates the ball when forced to turn and run. Rarely caught out of position. Reacts quickly to play action. Steps up when reads run. Has experience lining up on the outside and over the slot.” – Todd McShay, ESPN
“Ball skills are a major plus and a rare attribute that Dee has in aces. He shows a great ability to finding and attacking the ball while it is in the air. His instincts are second to none even of player currently in the league. He is a smooth athlete and has a burst that make him effective in both man and zone schemes. He has a great frame that could even handle some more bulk which will help him against big WR’S.” – Sports Illustrated
“Overshadowed by his high-profile teammates like fellow corner Dre Kirkpatrick over the span of two seasons, Milliner has made plays when given the chance (six interceptions, 38 pass break-ups in three years starting). He is ready to use his pro-ready size, athleticism and change-of-direction ability to become a household name in the NFL after winning back-to-back BCS Championships at Alabama. Milliner’s role grew extensively as a junior, and he showed the skills to be a first-round pick in the NFL.” – NFL.com
Chances the Browns will take Milliner: Originally, I thought the big issue for the Browns will be if Milliner falls to them at six. The Detroit Lions pick just ahead of them at five and are also cornerback starved. There is a very strong chance that the Lions won’t pass Milliner up. The reports surfaced yesterday that Milliner has already undergone four different surgeries. His torn labrum was already worrisome, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the CB also has a rod in his tibia near his ankle, and had hernia surgery, as well as a knee scope.
“There is some concern out there about Milliner and his medical history,” Mortensen said yesterday. “And it’s not misinformation, not trying to make a guy fall down [the draft] because all teams have this same information.”
We have heard his stock had been dropping over the past week, but these injuries could potentially add to his slide. NFL teams however, have had access to this information for a while now. The Browns still need a corner desperately and Milliner is still the best on the board.
If asked for a percentage of whether the Browns will take Milliner at six, I originally gave it 65% chance. After these latest injury reports, I would lower it to 35%.