012 NFL Combine – Defense: Besides the obvious, here’s a list of a few players on defense to keep an eye on.
Twelve to Watch on Defense:
Defensive Lineman (outside of Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram) – Jared Crick (tackle), Whitney Mercilus (end), Nick Perry (end), Devon Still (tackle)
Crick – 6’6” 285 Lbs
Mercilus – 6’3” 240 Lbs
Perry – 6’3” 250 Lbs
Still – 6’5” 310 Lbs
Synopsis: The Browns need that last piece of the defensive line – the other starter at defensive end. Obviously Still and Crick are tackles, but it never hurts to have depth. It’s interesting to notice the size similarities between Mercilus and Perry. The Browns need a consistent pass rusher and the combine could help decide which of the two is a better fit.
My take: Depending on what the Browns do at #4, I would be a fan of Mercilus or Perry at #22 or #37 (if they are still available). If they feel they have their rush end in Sheard, who had a promising rookie year, they could go for either more of a run stuffing end (Perry – who had more overall tackles in 2011) or another pass rusher (Mercilus – who had more sacks in 2011). Additionally, the Browns should not completely ignore the two tackles, and I hope they get good value and pick one when it’s no longer a reach.
Linebackers (outside of Dont’a Hightower) – Vontaze Burfict, Zach Brown, Lavonte David, Emmanuel Acho
Burfict – 6’3” 252 Lbs
Brown – 6’2” 220 Lbs
David – 6’1” 225 Lbs
Acho – 6’2” 240 Lbs
Synopsis: It’s rather amazing at how similar the sizes of the linebackers are on this list. How each one can separate from the rest of the pack (besides film) would be through the drills and team interviews. Burfict is one excellent player, when his head is screwed on. Brown has been moving up and down boards, and the combine will be very important. The others can definitely make a name for themselves next week as well.
My take: Burfict is the risk/reward player in this group. I love watching him play and he’s a freak. However, I don’t really see the front office taking a risk on him, as he has the reputation as a head case. The position needs upgraded badly (even if they re-sign D’Qwell Jackson) and I hope the team selects a linebacker in the first few rounds. I would like to see some consistency from Brown before buying in. The Browns could draft multiple guys from this group for both depth and special teams purposes, assuming these positions are avoided in free agency.
Secondary (outside of Mark Barron due to injury, Janoris Jenkins, and Morris Claiborne) – Trumaine Johnson (cornerback), Dre Kickpatrick (cornerback), Shaun Prater (cornerback), Trent Robinson (free safety)
Johnson – 6’3” 210 Lbs
Kirkpatrick – 6’3” 192 Lbs
Prater – 5’11” 185
Robinson – 5’10” 197 Lbs
Synopsis: The Browns need another corner to pair up with Joe Haden. Again, if Morris Claiborne is taken with the fourth pick, most likely another cornerback won’t be taken until the later rounds (if at all). Robinson is an appealing option, as the Browns could use another safety, and I’m not sure what their plans are with Sheldon Brown.
My take: Kirkpatrick may be off the board by the Browns pick at #22. Even if they get Claiborne, I would still support a Johnson or Prater selection in the later rounds who could contribute in nickel/dime packages and special teams. However, Buster Skrine had somewhat productive year, so selecting multiple secondary players may not be ideal for the team. I have not heard too much about Robinson, so the Browns should weigh his pros and cons to decide if he is a NFL-caliber starter.