2013 NFL Scouting Combine – Players to Watch – Offense
Well, it’s that time of year again – when scouts, general managers, and professional personnel employees of NFL teams travel to Indianapolis to watch, interview, and discuss many options for the upcoming draft in April. Typically the front offices know what they have in their roster and can pare down each position group to certain individuals that will be the best fit for the team. Looking at the Cleveland Browns’ needs and the available options, let’s analyze where the team (could and) should focus most of time in the last weekend of February.
Quarterback: Landry Jones (Oklahoma), E.J. Manuel (Florida State), Ryan Nassib (Syracuse), Tyler Bray (Tennessee), Matt Barkley (USC), Mike Glennon (North Carolina State) and Tyler Wilson (Arkansas).
Conclusion: The front office has not given their full support to Brandon Weeden, and competition will arrive at the quarterback position. I believe the Browns are out of the Geno Smith market, and rightfully so (I do not think he is as valuable as the sixth overall selection). Five of the seven listed above participated in the Senior Bowl in 2013 – watching the practices and game, none particularly stood out. If the Browns want to take a quarterback in the draft, I hope they wait until their second pick (third round) comes around. I believe Glennon, Wilson, and possibly Nassib will be drafted in that area; hopefully the team takes longer glances at Jones, Manuel, Dysert, and Bray as a result. Barkley is the wildcard; I’m intrigued to see how he responds to injury and a disappointing senior season. Before further scrutinizing each in their respective pro Days (where the quarterbacks will likely throw), it will be important to record both measurables and personalities of possibly future signal callers.
Running Back: Montee Ball (Wisonsin), Kenjon Barner (Oregon), Le’Veon Bell (Michigan State), Mike Gillislee (Florida), and Ray Graham (Pittsburgh).
Conclusion: I omitted Giovani Bernard from North Carolina and Eddie Lacy from Alabama as options; after taking Trent Richardson last season, I highly doubt the Browns draft a running back early once again. Ball and Bell will get a great deal of attention from scouts in Indianapolis – both have performed exceptionally in the collegiate game for multiple seasons. They also to appear to be more “complete backs” (where they do not possess too many limitations). The other three (more than likely) options for the Browns – Barner, Gillislee (who appeared to be the best back in the Senior Bowl), and Graham are smaller athletes who will likely be employed as complementary running backs. I am uncertain about the front office’s feelings on Hardesty and Ogbonnaya – therefore they may be looking for a younger option in the backfield.
Wide Receiver: Tavon Austin (West Virginia), Marquise Goodwin (Texas), Tavarres King (Georgia), Cobi Hamilton (Arkansas), Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech), Markus Wheaton (Oregon State), and Robert Woods (USC).
Conclusion: With the selections of Greg Little, Josh Gordon, and Travis Benjamin in the past two years, there’s a fair possibility the team will not draft another wide receiver in 2013. However, I feel they need another dependable option this season – whether they take this athlete in the draft or acquire a free agent. Assuming they go the draft route, I hope the Browns select more of a possession-type receiver who can pick up yardage and take hits. Austin and Goodwin are outstanding players but more in the mold of Travis Benjamin (which could deter the team from choosing a similar athlete). I liked the way Patton and Wheaton – and to a lesser extent, King – performed in Mobile, Alabama, a few weeks ago. I would love to see the team inquire more about these targets, as well as Hamilton and Woods.
Tight End: Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame), Zach Ertz (Stanford), Joseph Fauria (UCLA), Travis Kelce (Cincinnati), and Jordan Reed (Florida).
Conclusion: I anticipate Ben Watson not being with the team in 2013 – that leaves just Jordan Cameron and Alex Smith on the roster at the tight end position. The team needs to add another playmaker for defenses to game plan against. Along with the wide receiver position, the Browns could find an option in free agency (but that is not a given). In the draft, there are a couple tremendous athletes in this position group; I hope the Browns are able to get one in the middle rounds . Eifert had a solid season, but may not be available when the third round begins. The Browns need a guy who cannot only catch and run, but can also prevent defenders from meeting Trent Richardson in the backfield. It will be fascinating to see how the group tests in agility and receiving drills alike – perhaps one or more can stand out in Indianapolis.
Offensive Line: Chance Warmack (Guard – Alabama), Jonathan Cooper (Guard – North Carolina), Barrett Jones (Guard – Alabma), Brian Winters (Guard – Kent State), D.J Fluker (Tackle – Alabama), Dallas Thomas (Tackle – Tennessee).
Conclusion: Joe Thomas is a perennial Pro-Bowler, Alex Mack is one of the better centers in the league, and Mitchell Schwartz had a very good rookie season – the Browns will likely only focus on the guard position (if they are looking to upgrade the offensive line). There’s a possibility the team takes a tackle and converts him to guard in the NFL, as well. Warmack would be an option at the sixth pick, but many feel the defense is dire in certain areas and desperately needs upgraded before offensive guard. Jones bounced around between positions in his collegiate career and would be a great option – if he is available later in the draft. Fluker, Thomas, and Cooper all interest me; I look forward to seeing what they can do on the field.