Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grading Mike Lombardi's 2013 NFL Draft

    So how did Mike Lombardi actually do in his first NFL draft?  They say you need to wait a few years to evaluate, which is usually true, but in this case all the players might be out of the NFL by that time.  And in fact, Mike Lombardi might be out of the NFL by that time.  
      The fact is that there has been very little talent extracted from the draft over the past few years.  
1.  Barkevious Mingo, OLB.   Mingo proved to be a promising backup, ranked 38th out of 42 outside backers by Pro Football Focus.  That is not real good for the sixth overall pick.  It was understood that Mingo was too small to play defensive line, but even at linebacker he appeared to struggle against the run, especially later in the year.  New Coach Mike Pettine says he wants Mingo to come in a little heavier, and perhaps that will help him contend for a starting role this year.  

  Was Mingo worth the Number 6 overall pick in the first round?  Well, no....

2. No pick.  That pick was traded for Josh Gordon by the previous administration, the best move ever made by Tom Heckert.  This pick does not count for Lombardi, and in fact the Browns were trying to trade him away at the NFL trading deadline last year. 

3.  Leon McFadden, DB. The Browns were afraid to play Leon in 2013, who was the fourth defensive back.  He was usually torched when he did play.  Defensive backs often improve a lot between their first and second year (for example, Buster Skrine was much better last year than his rookie year), but McFadden seems to have a long way to go before he can be a starter or even the nickel back.  

4.  Traded for a 2014 3rd Round pick from Pittsburgh.

5.  Traded to Miami for Davone Bess.  Bess dropped a number of passes last year, and did not gain very many yards, despite a very large contract with guaranteed money.  Davone seemed to be in a drug-induced stupor over the off-season, and no one is sure what will happen to him.  

Bess showed flashes of brilliance, but mainly was known for dropping the ball in crucial situations.  

5.  Traded to Indianapolis for a 2014 4th round pick.  

6.  Jamoris Slaughter, S.   Slaughter was drafted despite a career threatening Achilles Tendon tear.  At 6'0", 200 pounds and a 4.6 sec 40 yard dash time before the injury, he was not considered a prospect.  Notre Dame used him at both safety and linebacker, but there is no such animal as a 200 pound linebacker in the NFL.  Similarly, a safety who runs a 4.6 is considered slow by NFL standards.  So it is not clear what Lombardi was thinking.   A guy with linebacker speed and safety size?  

7.  Armonty Bryant, DE.  Bryant slid into the seventh round because of off-the-field issues, but  earned some playing time on the defensive line. 

7.  Garrett Gilkey, OT  Gilkey has the size and physicality to be a good lineman, but is very raw. He started one game in 2013 and played in a few others.  

Amazing, the Browns had not one regular starter emerge from the 2013 draft despite occupying the number six position in the draft.  Normally, the guys drafted in Rounds 1-3 are expected to either start or at least be solid contributors.   The best moves appear to be the ones in which the Browns traded 2013 draft picks for 2014 picks, because these picks still exist and might someday contribute to the team.  It looks like Mingo is certainly behind Jabaal Shears in the linebacker corps.  McFadden seemed overmatched as the fourth cornerback, and will have to improve to make the team again.  Bryant and Gilkey made minor contributions as backups, and may be back in 2014 but probably not as starters.  

     Can the Browns really be this bad at selecting players?   Lombardi & Co. did a bit better at signing free agents, signing two starters on defense (linebacker Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant at defensive end).  Chris Owens was a decent nickel back.  The  Browns also picked up two credible starters at quarterback in Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell.   Hoyer will be back in 2014, but because of his high salary cap number, it is likely that Jason Campbell will be cut.   

Keeping in mind that Haslam and Banner both seem determined to draft a quarterback in Round 1 this year, it is doubtful whether Lombardi's acquisitions of Hoyer and Campbell will be much appreciated by his bosses.  They are regarded as potential backups only.  

The Browns also signed a backup tight end in Gary Barnidge, and some backup running backs in Edwin Baker and Fozzy Whitaker.   The Browns also signed Bobby Rainey, but Coach Chudzinski would not play him, so he was eventually cut and signed by Tampa Bay, where he became a solid starter. The other big trade was sending Trent Richardson to Indianapolis in exchange for another 2014 pick. TRich continued to struggle in Indianapolis, another team with issues on the offensive line,  but we at least have to admit that he has not set the world on fire so far.  

Overall, the Browns' personnel was weaker in 2013 than in 2012.   Obviously, it is hard to criticize too much based on a single season, but let us at least admit it was a very rough start for the Lombardi era.   Probably the Browns draft would have to rank at the absolute bottom of the league. The best you can say is that they deferred some picks till 2014 so there is still some hope of landing some players.  As for the free agent signings and trades, they at least wound up with players, and avoided major catastrophe.  I think that the draft is a "D" and the free agent signings are more in the "C" range.  The main problem is that the Browns did not sign as many free agents as they could have, preferring to defer salary cap space to 2014, which is legal under the new rules.  

     Speculation is that they may get some help in making draft picks in 2014.  Ray Farmer might be given more responsibility.  That would probably be a good thing.  

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