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2013 NFL Draft: Browns will likely target pass rusher at No. 6, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. says

By Nate Ulrich Published: February 13, 2013

Texas A&M defensive tackle Damontre Moore (94) symbols the Texas A&M "Wrecking Crew", which is the name for a legendary defense that once played at the school, after the defense held Oklahoma to three goal line stops in a 33-19 upset victory in an NCAA Football game between Texas A&M and Oklahoma at Kyle Field on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010, in College Station. Photo: Julio Cortez, SAEN / © 2010 Houston Chronicle

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had plenty to say about the Browns today during a conference call. He believes the Browns will target a pass rusher with the sixth overall pick in the draft, which will run April 25-27, and lists Florida State's Bjoern Werner and Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, who's pictured above, as prime candidates. Kiper also thinks none of the quarterbacks in this year's class is worth of a top-10 pick, and Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden might be better than all of them.

Here are some highlights from the conference call with Kiper:

On the Browns’ options with the No. 6 overall pick: “A lot of need areas. Josh Gordon keeps emerging at wide receiver. They still have to determine what they’re doing at quarterback. You got to think about the defense. Think about pass rusher, linebacker, corner. I have them taking Bjoern Werner from Florida State [in his first two mock drafts]. He could be gone. You could flip Damontre Moore in there, a kid out of Texas A&M, as a possibility. If Dee Milliner, the cornerback from Alabama were there, he would be very intriguing. I have him going earlier at four, maybe even to five to Detroit. So I would think you look at the pass rusher. Be it Moore or Werner, I think one of those two will be there at [No.] 6.”

On whether Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 system: “I think Bjoern Werner’s a 4-3 end. I wouldn’t want him playing on his feet, myself.”

On which one of the teams switching to a 3-4 defense this year, the Browns, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles, is a draft away from being set in that scheme: “That’s a tough question. I mean you have to see how guys fit in and how this draft impacts those teams. I think if you look at certainly the players in this draft, there’s a lot of guys that have that scheme versatility. Werner on his feet? Possibly. [Texas A&M linebacker/defensive end] Damontre Moore played on his feet. He could be a guy who fits the Browns obviously. Werner could if you look at him that way. If you think about [Louisiana State linebacker/defensive end] Barkevious Mingo, [Oregon linebacker/defensive end] Dion Jordan, there’s a lot of guys that could impact the Browns. The Saints obviously you look at what they have on paper. The Browns have some talent as well. [They’ll be] shifting positions for some guys, trying to add players via free agency or the draft. These are going to be works in progress for these teams. I can answer that question obviously more accurately after the draft to see how it all shakes up. But I think the draft presents, especially for Cleveland at [No.] 6, some very good opportunities with guys who fit their scheme very well, the new scheme I should say, with the players I just mentioned.”

On his projections for the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft: “[Southern California’s] Matt Barkley is a guy I think goes late first, early second. Geno Smith, West Virginia, some think top 10 and it's possible. I just think he's going to go 20-32. We'll see how that all moves along as we go through pro days and combines and all of things that are important now until April. Mike Glennon from NC State I thought could be in the mid-first-round range. He didn't play great against Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl. He didn't have a lights out Senior Bowl week, but he's got talent and he's got ability and he also probably had the weakest supporting cast of any quarterback that we're evaluating here. In terms of dropped balls by his receivers, there were more than any other quarterback. Glennon could still emerge maybe late one, early two. A lot of things happened that prevented [Arkansas quarterback Tyler] Wilson from having the year expected. I think he's an early to mid-two, at worst an early three. Early two to early three right now is the range. Some think late first. I don't see it right now. Tyler Bray from Tennessee I think he needs another year but comes out early after an inconsistent season. I think you're looking at maybe second round for him.”

More on USC quarterback Matt Barkley: “If he would've come out last year, he could've been the fourth pick overall to Cleveland, but that's history. Now you move on and unfortunately he didn't finish the process healthy, with a shoulder [injury]. He's not going to be physically imposing when they go through the numbers and the measurements and all of that type of thing. He's not the type of kid that's going to wow you over in a workout anyway. You just have to go back and look at him and evaluate him and I tell you, he's a pure passer, he's an accurate passer. He doesn't have a great arm, but he's got certainly good enough arm strength in the right situation, which wouldn't be Buffalo. It certainly wouldn't be a cold-weather environment. It would be more of a dome environment or a warmer weather environment like Arizona. It would certainly be a case where you'd have to protect him with a good offensive line, but he's a kid who's kind of a first one in, last one out of the building guy. He's definitely dedicated. He's definitely a respected team leader, highly regarded by his teammates and that coaching staff. I'd say more than likely right now second round, but if he has a good pro day -- evidently he's not going to throw at the combine -- then somebody could jump back into that late first [round] and grab him maybe.”

On how Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden stacks up against the quarterbacks in this year’s draft: “Obviously with age situation, 29 years of age as we speak, and in a good situation at Oklahoma State with the receivers and the system that was in place there, if you put him in this draft, from where he was last year to this year, obviously you look at where the quarterbacks are this season. There’s not one that there’s consensus on. So it’s possible he could’ve been the first quarterback taken this year. You look at Geno Smith and Matt Barkley and Brandon Weeden, it would’ve been a tough call. It would’ve been a tough, tough call. Nobody right now is in this draft saying, ‘If I’m Cleveland, I’ve got to take this quarterback even though I have Brandon Weeden.’ There’s no quarterback that screams out, saying, ‘Take me, even though you have Weeden because I’m that much better.’ There’s nobody. So I don’t think Cleveland’s going to be able to find that guy. Ironically, it might have been Barkley last year that went to Cleveland fourth overall. But now it’s a different scenario. It’s a different year. Things happen. Things change. They have Weeden now. They invested a first-round pick, even though it wasn’t this [regime] that’s in place now that did that. But I don’t think there’s another quarterback that you can say, ‘Boy, coming in as a rookie he’s going to be better than Weeden, who already had one year on the pro level.’ I don’t see that.”

On whether there will be a defined order for the quarterbacks by the time the draft rolls around in late April: “Well, it’s a good question. It’s just because of the way quarterback position went. Last year, it was an easy evaluation. Automatically you put Andrew Luck [of the Indianapolis Colts] and RG3 [Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins] up there and you said, ‘OK, let’s see how the rest of the guys fall in line.’ If Barkley would’ve been in that draft, ironically, if you look back, I mean think where he would’ve gone. He would’ve gone fourth to Cleveland maybe ahead of those other quarterbacks and certainly Trent Richardson wouldn’t have been a Brown. They traded up one spot to get him. History would’ve been rewritten completely. Then all of the sudden, he would’ve been ahead of [Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan] Tannehill and maybe have been the fourth pick. Now all the sudden, you’re looking at late first, early second for him. So the year didn’t go the way Barkley and the USC Trojans hoped. They started the year No. 1 in August in the AP poll. He began the year No. 1 on my big board. Well, you saw what happened with USC. They lost four games with Barkley at quarterback, lost a couple more when he was hurt, didn’t have a signature win all year. So they dropped down the rankings from No. 1. He dropped down the rankings from No. 1.”

On whether there is a quarterback like Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks who the Browns could get in the third or fourth round: “Russell Wilson was almost one of those once in a lifetime type of players. How many 5-10 ½ quarterbacks have been successful in this league? I mean you go back, Fran Tarkenton had a great career in the NFL. Seneca Wallace, he was in Cleveland. Was he a great quarterback? There’s been a lot of guys come along, but it was one of those guys, you catch lightning in a bottle here. Russell Wilson, he went in the third round because people wondered about that. I brought up he’s going to have to do something nobody else has done. And I made this point on draft day: If he were 6-2, he’d be the No. 1 pick overall, maybe ahead of Andrew Luck. Maybe he would’ve gone ahead of Luck and Griffin. Maybe one or two, maybe he would’ve gone third, but he wouldn’t have gone past the fourth pick to Cleveland had he been 6-2 or taller. So he had all the other attributes you want. … Russell Wilson, you’re not going to find Russell Wilsons every year. You’re not going to find Russell Wilsons every 20 years, 5-10 ½ quarterbacks that can play at the level, you’re just not going to find. We haven’t had them before. So if you count them, forget one hand. One finger, two fingers. I mean you don’t need more than a couple of fingers to figure that out. So at the end of the day, don’t try to find that guy. He’s not there. It’s just not there, and again, the third round is where Wilson went off the board. He didn’t go in the second round. He didn’t go in the first. So that’s not going to happen.”

More on Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner: “Not the elite skill set. It doesn't mean he's not going to be a heck of a player. I mean Darrelle Revis didn't go one, two, three, four or five in the draft. He went in the middle of the first round. Nnamdi Asomugha became a heck of a corner in the NFL, didn't go until the late first round out of Cal. So at one point in time, they were the two best corners. Revis has been special all along. At one point, Asomugha was considered the second-best corner in the NFL. Can Dee Milliner be a heck of a player? Yeah. Does he have an elite skill set? No. He wasn't a starter until this year at Alabama. Where Dee Milliner is right now, it's the fourth pick overall where I projected him at Philadelphia, fifth pick to Detroit, sixth to Cleveland -- that's where he's going to go, somewhere in that range. Some think he'll go a little higher than that. He doesn't have a Patrick Peterson skill set or Mo Claiborne or Deion Sanders. We know that. He doesn't necessarily have the overall talent physically and athletically as Dre Kirkpatrick, his former teammate. But he is more fundamentally sound. Being coached by Nick [Saban] and the staff down there is only going to help him. … He might go higher than some of those other players when all is said and done.”

On the Browns losing their second-round pick this year because they took wide receiver Josh Gordon last summer in the supplemental draft and whether they could trade down from No. 6 overall to try to get back in the second round: “I had no problem with [the selection of Gordon]. Second round was maybe a round stretch, but the kid's got an awful lot of ability. He showed that at Baylor. He did a heck of a job there and that talent was evident this year in a number of games. He's got a chance to be a very, very good player in this league, so I don't think that was a stretch by any team's opinion that I spoke to. No one felt it was a bad decision to lose that second-round pick on Josh Gordon. Would he be in the second-round this year? Yeah, possibly, but you already have a year of production with him, too. A year of developing and coaching, so you're ahead of the game. In terms of trading down, that's impossible to answer at this point until we see what these juniors do at the combine or at their pro day to see what type of demand there will be. We don't know about demand until these kids do well or don't do well. If they do well, then these kids jump up and there's more demand.”

On the strength of the tight end class in this year’s draft: “In terms of the tight ends, it’s a pretty good year because of the juniors, and that’s the only reason I say pretty good. It would have been awful had it not been for the juniors. The junior influence with [Notre Dame’s] Tyler Eifert and [Stanford’s] Zach Ertz and Jordan Reed, Jordan Reed out of Florida, Dion Sims out of Michigan State has made this a very good tight end crop at the top. I didn’t even mention a guy like Gavin Escobar out of San Diego State, another underclassmen coming out early. [Levine] Toilolo from Stanford is another kid coming out early. Travis Kelce from Cincinnati is the top senior tight end in my opinion. Vance McDonald from Rice is another one that deserves to be in the discussion. So it’s become a pretty good tight end group because of the influence of the underclassmen. Chris Gragg, had he stayed healthy all year out of Arkansas would’ve been in the mix. Joseph Fauria is a kid out of UCLA to watch late. Ryan Otten out of San Diego State is another kid to watch late. Philip Lutzenkirchen with the injury at Auburn is a versatile kid I think can help. Jack Doyle is a kid at Western Kentucky that has ability. Lucas Reed at New Mexico can catch the football. So there’s going to be an awful lot of tight ends looked at, but the junior influence at the top -- with Ertz in the first round, Eifert possibly in the first round, Jordan Reed in the second round, Sims in the third round, Escobar in the third or fourth round -- all those juniors are the reason why tight ends is pretty doggone good, and the juniors are going to probably supply the first round with two tight ends.”

On his projections for Michigan State cornerback Johnny Adams, a Buchtel High School graduate, and Kent State offensive lineman Brian Winters, a Hudson High School graduate: “I think in terms of Johnny Adams, here’s a kid who started out the year, had a pretty high grade and struggled at times. That’s the thing. You looked at him and there were some games where he didn’t play as well as I thought he could have and should have. He’s got very good ball skills for the most part. Here’s a kid who plays with a lot of confidence out there. He seems to be a guy that when you bring him in, could I think allow you to think he’s a third, fourth guy. He’s a nickel guy in this league where you need five corners more than likely starting the season. … You need so many corners now. That’s going to help Johnny Adams probably be a fourth-round type of pick. So I would say round four for him. Who was the other player you wanted to know, Brian Winters from Kent State? He’s a guy that you look at as a tackle but you knew the way he was at Kent State, the way he played the game at Kent State, the way he went about his business, he would be a guy who could be a right tackle or a guard, not a left tackle. So I’d say as a guard in this league, there’s no question he’s going to help a team. Where he goes, I think probably third round. I thought second round at one point. I’m thinking more third. So he’s going to be I think a nice addition. He’s going to be a guy that starts for a long time in this league and gives you solid performances.”


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