2013 NFL Draft – Option 1 for Pick #6 – Cleveland Browns
Dee Milliner – Cornerback, University of Alabama
Analysis: After the team focused primarily on pass rushers and a defensive lineman in free agency, the Browns acquired a pair of cornerbacks in Chris Owens and Kevin Barnes. Both of which are “depth signings”, as neither will likely be starting opposite Joe Haden when the 2013 regular season commences. Incumbent Sheldon Brown was not offered a new contract, and younger veterans Trevin Wade, Buster Skrine, and Johnson Bademosi have not proven themselves (up to this point) – so it appears the team should get a highly talented cornerback in the draft.
Coupling this with the fact the Browns went 0 – 5 in games without Haden last year and it becomes evident that viable options (and several of them) will be required. Currently, Milliner is rated as the top available cornerback coming out of college; the former teammate of Trent Richardson is looking to making his name after winning a pair of National Championships.
Biography: Entering the draft early (following his junior year), Milliner became a full-time starter in his final year of college. During that period, the cornerback played against the best competition (SEC) and performed exceptionally. After a freshman season that included forty-one tackles, his total dipped to fourteen in 2011 – however Milliner was then able to get close to his 2010 output (with thirty-three stops). Corner blitzes never seemed to be in Nick Saban arsenal; only one-and-a-half takedowns on opposing quarterbacks occurred during his three seasons.
In the passing game, Milliner compiled six interceptions in his collegiate career. Starting every game in 2012, one would expect the junior to come away with more than two picks – but that stat does not tell the entire story. The University of Alabama star was a part of twenty pass breakups (which was equal to his total of his first two years there). Additionally, he defended twenty-two passes over the season – the most in the entire NCAA. Throw in a fumble recovery and a blocked kick, and Milliner has done a little bit of everything during his time in Alabama.
As far as his measurables go, the cornerback comes in just under six feet tall (5’11 ¾”) and two hundred one pounds. His forty-yard dash of 4.37 was exceptionally fast in the combine and helped to vault his draft stock. One concern involving the athlete was his labrum injury following his 2012 season. The cornerback required surgery on it and was forced to miss his bench press as a result (many will argue that this is not important with this position group, however).
Conclusion: Therefore, there are a multitude of positives that surround Dee Milliner. He is a day-one starter who would fill a void within the franchise. The secondary had its ups and downs last year and getting a solid playmaker would cause opponents to think twice when facing the Browns. The defensive back is fast and athletic, and the rest of the defense will be better as a result (deflecting passes and slowing down runners are two examples).
However, the team may not draft Milliner (should he still be available) for a reason or two. First, the injury to his shoulder may worry some in the front office – his production could suffer and further injuries may incur in the NFL. Also, the Browns still have needs on offense and might want to address these early in the draft instead. (Touchdowns are obviously necessary, and the Browns need to score many more of them than they have in previous seasons). The team could then take a member of the secondary, or two, in the later rounds.
Personally, Milliner is my favorite option for the Browns at pick number six – assuming the roster is status quo and the cornerback is available there. Offensive athletes can be taken in rounds three and four, but shoring up the cornerback position will really help out this team.
Additional Secondary Options: If the team chooses to trade down from their first-round pick, Xavier Rhodes (Florida State University) and Desmond Trufant (University of Washington) are a pair of high-quality cornerbacks that would still be available several selections later. Perhaps the team may want to trade and get an athlete to pair with T.J. Ward in the safety position. In this case, the Browns may look to acquire Kenny Vaccaro late in the first round.