With the 2015 NFL Draft just over a week away, it is time to continue with our Top 5 position fits series for the Cleveland Browns. Earlier this week, I took a deeper dive into the RB position and five realistic options should general manager Ray Farmer look to add another back to their already young duo of “Baby Backs,” which you can read here.
Today, we shift the focus to the defensive side of the ball—with the focus squarely on the outside linebacker position. Losing Jabaal Sheard to the New England Patriots in free agency, the Browns lost a major contributor in terms of snap percentage and overall impact on their defense. Despite still having players capable of rushing off the edge on their roster, do not be shocked if the Browns not only draft an OLB in 2015—but they may just take one early.
OLBs/Edge Rushers Currently on the Roster:
Paul Kruger: 2013 Free Agent Signing from Baltimore Ravens
Barkevious Mingo: 1st Round Pick 2013 NFL Draft
Armonty Bryant: 7th Round Pick 2013 NFL Draft
Scott Solomon: Signed in 2014, Debuted for Browns vs Carolina in 2014
Keith Pough: Signed by Browns in 2014
Taking a look at the current OLBs/Edge rushers on the Browns roster, it all starts with Kruger. A major free agent acquisition in the 2013 offseason, Kruger finally came to life in terms of sacks during the 2014 season. Despite not having the sack numbers many expected in year one, he has been an important part of the Browns defense in terms of getting pressure on the QB since the minute he arrived in Cleveland.
With that said, at 29-years old Kruger is heading into year three of his five-year deal with the Browns—and his guarantee is only getting smaller. If he experiences any decline in 2015, the Browns can cut ties and only owe him $2.4 million in guaranteed money for his final two seasons—saving $13.5 million in base salary in the process. If he remains productive like we all hope, the Browns will still need a future replacement for Kruger.
Next up on the list is Mingo—aka, the most scrutinized player on the Browns defense. After being selected No. 6 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, many expected Mingo to make an instant impact as a premier pass rusher. Instead, Mingo has posted just seven sacks in two seasons—leading many to question whether he will ever develop into an elite pass rusher in the NFL.
Now, is it fair to call Mingo a bust after two seasons—one of which (2014) he played 15 games with an injured shoulder? No, but with just two years left on his rookie contract—it is time for Mingo to take the next step as a pass rusher. With his first two years of underwhelming football behind him, the Browns still need to bring in another pass rusher to the mix.
The third man on the list is Bryant, a highly questioned seventh-round pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. After a little mishap of selling marijuana on the practice field in college, nobody expected anything from Bryant. Instead he has shown flashes of situational pass rushing potential—recording three sacks in part-time duty in his first two seasons in the league. I fully expect Bryant to get an increase in edge snaps this season in year three.
As for the other two guys, Solomon and Pough, only Solmon has shown anything for the Browns. Coming in due to injuries against Carolina, he made a number of plays at the end of the season for the Browns that warrant another look in 2015.
With only three OLBs/Edge rushers with true pass rushing experience on the roster, the Browns absolutely have to leave this draft with at least one—if not two—more prospects to add to the mix. For this reason, the following five players could be very good fits at various areas of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Vic Beasley, Clemson, 6’3” and 246 pounds, Top 10 Projection
Okay, so we can go ahead and chalk this up to the “pipe” dream category as Beasley will likely be gone by the time the Browns select at No. 12. However, crazier things have happened—and if teams in the Top 10 have different needs than are being reported currently by the media, the Browns could have an opportunity to move from No. 12 up a few spots and snag the talented pass rusher.
Coming out of Clemson, Beasley is the epitome of a pass rusher as he racked up 33 sacks from 2012-2014 and 52.5 tackles for a loss. When you watch him on film, the first thing that stands out is his quick first step and natural ability to take advantage of his speed (4.53 40-yard dash) to get around the edge and get to the QB. He often looks like he is playing at a different speed than the people around him, absolutely punishing opposing offensive linemen game in and game out.
A perfect example of his speed and athleticism on display at the 2:46 mark in the video below, as No. 75 (first-round prospect Cameron Erving) for Florida State never stood a chance. Beasley utilizes his track speed to run right around the left tackle, and continues until he runs down the QB for the sack.
Things are not all perfect when it comes to Beasley though, as there are times where he will struggle to set and hold the edge in the run game. This is something he will absolutely have to work on early in his career, especially on a team like the Cleveland Browns that traditionally struggles against the run.
Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Kentucky, 6’4” and 269 pounds, Top 15 Projection
Commonly rated as the No. 4 or No. 5 edge rusher in the 2015 class, Dupree’s availability when the Browns pick at No. 12 will likely depend on whether or not Randy Gregory falls down draft boards. If Gregory falls, it will be tough for Dupree to be available when the Browns are picking.
However, there are some who think he could be there when the Browns pick at No. 12—which is why we are discussing him here. A productive pass rusher in college with 23.5 sacks and 37 tackles for a loss in four seasons, Dupree is an athletic freak when you watch him on film. He registered a 4.56 40-yard dash time at the combine, and that absolutely shows up when you watch him play the game—especially in regard to his initial burst.
One of my favorite aspects about Dupree’s game is that he can be seen toying with his opponents, creating opportunities by making them think he is going one speed and then surprising him with his speed. Dupree is also an asset in pass coverage situations, which is something the Browns could certainly use as it seems every year they are being roasted by opposing TEs and RBs out of the backfield.
There are some concerns with Dupree though, some of which are a little tough to get past right now to make him a Top 10 pick. One of the biggest issues is in terms of raw physicality, as he would rather beat his man with speed or a move instead of using power. This will become a major problem if a lineman can get into his body off the snap, and it shows with not much disengagement once engaged at the LOS. Despite this, there is a lot to like about the youngster out of Kentucky to potentially take him at No. 12.
Eli Harold, Virginia, 6’3” and 247 pounds, 1st/2nd Round Projection
One of this writer’s personal favorites, Harold is widely considered in the next tier of pass rushers in this class. This means that he will be available when the Browns are picking at No. 19—and possibly could be available when they pick at No. 43 in round two.
Though not as productive as the others in his career (17.5 sacks and 36.5 tackles for a loss), Harold is an underrated prospect in this draft class. From his speed and quick burst to his non-stop motor, Harold is a relentless athlete with the versatility to stand up or put his hand in the dirt to rush the QB.
When you watch him on film, one of the things that really stands out is that relentless effort—as he just does not quit. He displays solid secondary pass rush moves, and will utilize his arm extension to get good push off offensive linemen—knocking them backwards to gain an early advantage. A very good example of this occurs in the GIF below, as he jams his hands right into the left tackle and then burns him around the edge to get to the QB.
Just like the other prospects, there are some concerns with Harold—which is why he isn’t a Top 15 prospect at this time. His motor can get him in trouble at times, as he will continue past the pocket and open up holes on his side of the field. This over pursuit can also trickle down into the run game as well, as you will see him leave holes in the run game attempting to push his assignment back too far at times. Also, he has a lankier build and could stand to add some bulk at the next level.
With all of this in mind, the Browns should absolutely consider Harold at No. 43 if he is sitting there or as a potential trade back from No. 19 into the mid-to-late 20s option in the first round.
Nate Orchard, Utah, 6’3” and 250 pounds, 2nd/3rd Round Projection
If I told you a guy who had 18.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss last season would be available in the 2nd/3rd round, would that be someone you would be interested in? Well, that is exactly what will happen with Orchard—a player many were talking about making his way into the late first round just a few short months ago. Thanks to a 4.80 40-yard dash at the combine, Orchard has taken a mini-tumble down draft boards, but he plays much faster than his combine time tells.
Contrary to that combine time, Orchard has a very good first step and burst off the snap. He is also able to turn the edge well, quickly closing on the QB once he gets around his blocker. Orchard also has a non-stop motor, as he will continue to attempt to get to the QB or ball carrier despite not being in the play at first. He is also very good in the run game, something you cannot say about a number of the other, more highly rated pass rushers in this class.
In terms of weaknesses, Orchard needs to get stronger at the point of attack as he struggles from time to time when engaged with offensive linemen. He also needs to develop a solid bull rush inside, as he attempts to rely on his speed and motor a little too often when attempting to get to the QB.
Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma, 6’3” and 262 pounds, 6th Round Projection
Since the first four players on this list are coming off the board in the first few rounds, I wanted to provide a player who could be a raw, upside pick later in the draft. In terms of a “physical specimen,” he certainly fits the bill at a chiseled 6’3” and 262 pounds.
With a quick burst and excellent acceleration, Grissom certainly has the raw tools as a project pick later to get around the edge. He also has plenty of strength to fight against blockers, which will be a major asset once he is coached up at the NFL level.
In the weaknesses column, you can clearly see how raw he is on film. He does not have great instincts for the position yet, and he tends to over pursue due to his reliance on his speed coming off the edge. With this in mind, someone is going to fall in love with his raw tools and upside—so do not be surprised if we are talking about him a few years from now as an impact pass rusher if he gets the right coaching at the NFL level.
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