With Day 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft in the books, many Cleveland Browns fans have mixed emotions. Locked and loaded with Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round, some were expecting general manager Ray Farmer to make a major splash in his second year at the helm. Instead, Farmer went the opposite route of his first draft in 2014—taking two players many felt were “safe” picks.
After ranking dead last against the rush in 2014, Farmer and the Browns targeted a mammoth of a man with the No. 12 overall pick—Washington defensive tackle, Danny Shelton. Standing 6’2” and 339 pounds, Shelton is well known for his ability to take on two blockers on any given down. Despite his size, Shelton also played a high number of snaps during his career. This gives hope to many, including Farmer, that he can be a 3-down lineman at the NFL level.
According to Sports Reference, Shelton racked up 208 total tackles, 24 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks in his career at Washington. He put together an incredible senior campaign for an interior defensive lineman in 2014, collecting 93 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss and nine sacks. Though many list pass rush as an area to improve on, he showed the ability to make an impact in that department last season.
One other impressive thing when you watch Shelton on film is how athletic he is for a guy of his size. The two games that really stood out were against Arizona and Oregon, two teams that run an up-tempo, spread offense. Usually big men like Shelton are weaker in these games—wearing down quickly. However, all game long you continuously see Shelton running sideline to sideline—tracking down some of the most electric players on offense for both teams.
Shelton has the ability to be an impact player from Day 1 for the Browns, opening up opportunities for other players in the team’s front seven. Drawing comparisons from Haloti Ngata to Vince Wilfork, the Browns got themselves a good one in the Washington product.
As the first round of the draft went on, the Browns found themselves in an intriguing situation leading up to pick No. 19. On the board after selecting Shelton were two players—DeVante Parker and Bud Dupree—that nobody thought would still be there. However, Farmer and company remained at No. 19, which allowed the Miami Dolphins to pounce on Parker at No. 14.
When the Browns were on the clock with pick No. 19, Dupree was still there. For a team that just lost Jabaal Sheard in free agency and did not have much pass rush aside from Paul Kruger last year, it just made sense—the Browns were going to draft Dupree.
Instead, Farmer and the front office shocked everyone by selecting Florida State offensive lineman, Cameron Erving.
Leading up to the draft, there was some talk the Browns could target offensive line in round one—many fans just did not want to believe it. However, the Browns selected the 6’5” and 313-pound lineman with the No. 19 pick.
Instantly when he was selected, the first thing everyone saw was the “C” designation for center next to his name. With Alex Mack returning from injury, fans were slightly confused by this. But with Mack’s contract situation (he has the ability to opt out after every season), the addition of a player who can not only step in for Mack next year should he leave, but start at another position on the line (right guard or right tackle) was a major need for the Browns organization.
When you watch Erving on film, you notice he can get beat by speed rushers off the left side of the line. Hopefully this will not be a problem once he either gets moved to the interior/right side. He is extremely versatile, athletic and aggressive when blocking opposing defenders. He is also the type of guy who gets to the second level with ease, and has the speed and quickness to get out in front quickly—something that will be essential to the Browns two-headed (possibly three-headed) rushing attack of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell next season.
While this writer was concerned heading into the draft about his deficiencies against the speed rush, putting him in the mix on the right side provides an immediate upgrade and Day 1 starter over the likes of John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz next season. With a group of Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Mack, Schwartz/Greco and Erving, the Browns instantly have one of the best offensive lines in the league.
At the end of the day, I would have preferred the pass rusher in Dupree at No. 19—but you can never be mad at controlling the point of attack, and that is something Erving will help you do. With Day 2 just a few short hours away, let’s hope Farmer and company have their eyes on a pass rusher and wide receiver in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
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