Stop me if you’ve heard this one- which came first, the chicken or the egg? When it comes to the Browns and the 2013 NFL Draft, the question might apply.
When the Browns made wholesale coaching changes, it appeared that a certain draft strategy would be in place. Ray Horton’s defense would require several pieces. An outside linebacker/edge rusher seemed the highest priority. A number of candidates emerged. At pick number six the Browns would certainly be in line to have their choice of pass rushers that are projected to go somewhere in the top ten, meaning nobody would accuse the Browns of reaching for a need.
And then, free agency began.
The Browns were aggressive early on in securing their front 7. They pursued arguably the biggest free agent of the year in LB Paul Kruger and got him. Desmond Bryant added depth to the front line and Quentin Groves brought experience in Ray Horton’s defense.
For a while, it seemed as though the Browns had addressed the need for pass rushers, and were actively seeking to replace Sheldon Brown with a quality free agent CB. It was then that I felt like the Browns were putting themselves in a perfect position to actually take the best player available with that 6th pick.
Teams say that they selected the best player available all the time. It is interesting how many times those players also happen to fill a position of extreme need. Truth be told I’m ok with that strategy. If there is a talented player that fills a need it is a logical match. But the Browns were looking like a team that could go any number of directions with that first pick and not go wrong.
Laughably, I thought about looking back over the Browns recent draft history to find a first round pick that wasn’t a player at a position of need. I thought about it for around 2 seconds before asking myself what hasn’t been a position of need since the Browns returned.
But the Browns missed out on Brent Grimes and Aqib Talib and even Captain Munnerlyn. They signed Chris Owens and Kevin Barnes, but those aren’t the starters you were hoping for.
Which puts the onus back on the draft.
The defensive backfield is an area of extreme need. The Browns have the sixth pick. Alabama’s Dee Milliner is head and shoulders above the rest of the corner backs in the draft. Best player available, meet position of need.
Now in fairness, there are other areas of need on this team. The new offense needs a solid TE. The Browns have an untested group at that spot. Jordan Cameron has the physical tools the staff wants, but may not be ready for the full-time gig. The safety spot opposite TJ Ward is also completely up for grabs. And many fans would still love to see a marquee wide receiver brought in.
The problem is that the players that would fill those needs just aren’t in the top ten of this draft.
Because of what the Browns did in free agency, they have set themselves up to grab the best corner available- one who has the skills to give the Browns a great tandem. If not, they could move down in the draft and grab a TE or Safety or even a RG. And get an additional pick or two later in the draft.
Maybe that was the strategy all along.