Follow the author: @Ian_Tumey
Many people would look at the Cleveland Browns abysmal 1-15 season and think, “They need to make changes at 22 different positions.” That, however, is not the case. The Browns were clearly outmatched in many of their contests this season. Then, another disastrous 2015 season and an even more disastrous off-season, which saw another front office change and many of the Browns key players moved on to greener pastures, happened. (Then again the Browns pasture looks like Chernobyl) Many draft picks have moved on to other teams from the Browns defense (Ward, Gipson, Taylor, Sheard) or apparently forgot how to play football when they got to Cleveland (Mingo, Gilbert). But we as Cleveland fans can always say, “This is our year!” I will be breaking down the three main parts of the defense (D-Line, Linebackers, and Secondary) and explaining how important each pick is in this draft to address.
In the AFC North, there is one theme of the division winners each year and that is that they are great in the trenches. Since this article focuses on defense, that trench is along the defensive line. In the 2016 draft, the Cleveland Browns addressed the defensive line needs by taking defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State (2:32). Ogbah played well for the Browns in his rookie season. Ogbah had 55 tackles and 5.5 sacks. There were times where he lined up at defensive end and was sometimes at linebacker. Moving forward, however, it will almost be certain that Ogbah will be on the defensive line. The Browns also spent a draft pick on defensive end Carl Nassib from Penn State (3:65). Nassib is a raw talent, who had 15.5 sacks in his last season at Penn State. Nassib was injured for a few games during his rookie season but had 20 tackles and only 2.5 sacks.
This draft gives the Browns a chance to definitely bolster the defensive line and they can do that with the first overall pick in the draft. The Browns can do so by taking Texas A&M defensive end, Myles Garrett. Garrett was dominant playing against many of the best players in the country in the SEC. The Browns should definitely not pass up on the chance to nab Garrett with their first overall pick. The importance that the Browns bolster their defensive line is through the roof. The Browns were 31st in the NFL in rushing defense and desperately need to get better along the D-Line in order to be competitive in the AFC North.
The days of having a dominant linebacker are long gone for the Cleveland Browns unless Jamie Collins can do what he did for the Patriots here in Cleveland. D’Qwell Jackson led the NFL in tackles in his third season. The Browns have not had any dominant linebackers since then. The Browns took linebacker Joe Schobert from Wisconsin (4:99). Schobert who had 28 total tackles, but was not used much to get a true evaluation of him The Browns then took Scooby Wright III from Arizona in the 7th round (250). He is no longer with the team.
The Browns have Jamie Collins, Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey who anchor the linebackers. Kirksey is a promising young player who I think could be a great player in the league. He had 93 solo tackles last season which was good enough for 13th in the NFL. The Browns do not have much in the terms of linebackers are concerned. The Browns could definitely use a boost to the linebacking corps in this year’s draft. If the Browns choose to take a linebacker it will not likely be till the middle rounds due to there being much more glaring needs.
Finally, we get to possibly the part of the Browns defense that gives us absolutely zero confidence, the secondary. The Cleveland Browns, just a few years ago, had a secondary that consisted of Joe Haden, TJ Ward and Tashaun Gipson. Those days are long gone as Ward and Gipson both left the Browns and Joe Haden couldn’t defend the top 10 high school wide receivers in the country.
The Browns best corner last year was a guy with two last names. The Browns addressed the secondary in the 4th round by taking safety Derrick Kindred from TCU (129). Kindred ended up starting at the end of the year but was often lost in coverage, just like every other member of the Browns secondary. Cleveland also took CB Trey Caldwell from UL-Monroe in the 5th rd (173). Caldwell only appeared in one game for the Browns. Tramon Williams is well…..Tramon Williams.
The Browns need to address the secondary in this draft like Warriors fans need to address that they blew a 3-1 lead in the finals. The Browns desperately need to get someone opposite Joe Haden unless it’s the aforementioned guy with three names (Briean Boddy-Calhoun). If at 12, the Browns could get a guy like Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State. That would definitely be an excellent addition to the secondary.
The Browns definitely need to use many of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball in the upcoming draft. If I was making draft picks for the Browns, I would take Myles Garrett with the first pick and take Marston Lattimore if he is there at 12. The Browns need to focus on the defense more than the offense to get where they need to be.
Follow the author: @Ian_Tumey
Images via: CBS, Browns.com