Let’s start with the trade quickly. This was obviously about value for Ray Farmer. Maybe they really wanted the big offensive tackle Greg Robinson and were prepared to move back when they couldn’t get him. Maybe it was part of the plan all along to use the fourth pick to get extra selections and fall back to a point where they could still grab Gilbert.
Whatever the case, the Browns got the first cornerback taken in the draft, and he’s a good one to be certain.
But why take a cornerback with their first pick? The best answer is that the Browns had a draft order set, and they valued Gilbert over any other player regardless of position.
What’s to like about Gilbert:
Let’s start with this- he was the fastest cornerback at the combine. The Oklahoma State senior (yes, he played out his college career) ran a 4.37 40-yard dash. Not only is he fast, but he has size. At just a hair over six feet tall, he is taller than all of the cornerbacks currently on the Browns roster. He has long arms. He also has strength. He pushed up 20 reps on the bench press in Indianapolis. That;s just three off the top mark for a defensive back.
The best reason to like Gilbert though is his ability to ball-hawk. He led the Big 12 in interceptions in 2013 with seven, and picked off twelve in his college career. Lining up opposite Joe Haden, he is going to get plenty of attention from opposing quarterbacks. Buster Skrine was in the top three in all the NFL in targets last year. If Gilbert takes his spot on the outside, he’ll get those looks. And he will push Skrine inside to the slot where he has better success.
Gilbert is also a kick returner. He has six touchdowns on kick returns.
What’s not to like about Gilbert:
Fair or not, this list starts with the obvious fact that he isn’t an offensive player. Fans wanted a wide receiver or a quarterback. If the Browns end up with a quarterback at 26, they will likely forgive that perceived flaw.
According to experts, he doesn’t play the run game very well. That’s the reason many had Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard ahead of him. He also had an off year in 2012, after a breakout sophomore season which has caused some to question his consistency. Another issue might be his vertical leap, which was the one measurable that he didn’t excel at in Indianapolis.
What about the trades?
So the Browns moved out of the fourth pick, and get Buffalo’s 2015 first round pick and fourth round pick. That’s kind of a haul to move down four spots. According to the infamous ‘trade value chart’ the move from four to nine is worth 450 points. That is equivalent to a mid-second round pick. Even if the Bills are much improved next season, the Browns will have gotten a good value and still got the player they wanted.
I believe they were targeting Gilbert when they traded to nine.
A whole lot of experts had Gilbert going to the Detroit Lions at ten. It makes a lot of sense for the Browns to trade just in front of them.
Now about the move trading the ninth pick to the eighth pick. It could be that the Lions were attempting to leapfrog the Browns to get Gilbert. Perhaps the Vikings were also considering Gilbert and needed a sweetener to go defensive line instead. Whatever the case, the Browns gave up a fifth round pick to get the guy they wanted. And they got a first and fourth next year already.
The player they wanted and an extra first round pick next season is a good deal. Now that player has to prove them right.
Update: Ray Farmer on the trades-
“The thought process was simple. We had an opportunity to move back, pick up some future considerations. We knew where we were in the draft and we felt like it was a good opportunity to continue to improve our team with the number of picks we could get so we made a deal to move back to Buffalo (No. 9). Second trade was another opportunity to get the player we thought we wanted. It didn’t cost us much to move back into position when he was on the board. We took that opportunity, and we took the pick with (Oklahoma State CB) Justin Gilbert.”