BEREA: Logic ruled with the first draft pick of the Browns’ new regime.
In staying at No. 6 and using the selection on LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, they minimized their risk.
The Browns don’t have to worry about the five surgeries Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner has already undergone at age 21.
They didn’t overdraft a quarterback like West Virginia’s Geno Smith. That would have opened up General Manager Mike Lombardi to criticism since the then-NFL Network analyst said the same thing about them using the 22nd overall pick on quarterback Brandon Weeden in 2012.
They found the perfect pass-rushing partner for the prize of their free-agent class, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger. CEO Joe Banner said they liked Mingo so much that they had a trade in place to move down if Mingo had been off the board.
They acquired a freak athlete who is “explosive, with great speed off the edge,” according to coach Rob Chudzinski.
Above all, the Browns stuck with their plan. It started in free agency when they added linebackers Kruger and Quentin Groves and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, players they needed as they make the transition from a 4-3 to coordinator Ray Horton’s multi-front 3-4.
But CEO Joe Banner said it started before that.
“It really started with our coaching search and Chud’s philosophy, which was part of the reason he got the job, frankly, about playing aggressive, attacking defense, making life uncomfortable for quarterbacks, being on the attack even when the other team has the ball,” Banner said. “You can see it in the moves we have made, the philosophy’s consistent, whether it was the free-agent moves or what you’ve seen so far in the draft. It fit the plan from hiring the coach to the coordinator and through to the players we’re adding.”
I love the latter most of all. Months ago, I wanted the Browns to devote all their offseason resources to the defense. And for the most part they have, with the most notable exception being free-agent quarterback Jason Campbell, also needed to pressure incumbent Weeden.
Picking Mingo is not without some risk. At 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds, he’s lean and needs to add weight. He must make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, just as 2011 second-round pick Jabaal Sheard is being asked to do. Mingo must learn how to drop into coverage, which he had little experience in at LSU.
But the Browns seem confident that Mingo can do it after putting him through extensive classroom work in his visit to Berea earlier this month.
The Browns also took a page from the past, sticking to the high-character model that dates back at least two regimes.
“The things that stood out to us, the first thing was the kind of person he is,” Chudzinski said. “Outstanding character, highly recommended from the people down there we talked to. We spent the day with him, extremely impressive young man, somebody that we felt like we strongly wanted to put in our locker room.”
Chudzinski couldn’t offer an example from Mingo’s visit, but he did elaborate on the young man he referred to as “KeKe,” which is part of Mingo’s Twitter handle (@keke_mingo).
“He’s the type of guy you enjoy the conversation with and spending time with,” Chudzinki said. “Everybody that met him and had the opportunity to spend time with him felt the same way. He was a unanimous-type person in terms of the recommendations from different people that met him around the building.”
If a player’s smile is any indication, Mingo is all that and more. That was evident at the NFL Combine with his captivating countenance during his media room interview.
Asked if he got that dazzling smile from anyone in his family, Mingo said on a conference call, “I don’t know. I don’t know. But thanks.”
Mingo truly sounded appreciative of the compliment.
Some of his personality came through on his post-draft tweet. “Really want to thank everyone who has ever made an impact on my life. From the bottom of my heart thank you. #trulyblessed.”
Just as impressive was his confidence. Mingo said he believed he was the best pass rusher in the draft, better than Oregon’s Dion Jordan, who went No. 3 to the Miami Dolphins.
“I want to be great,” Mingo said. “I want to be one of those guys that gets their name called in Canton, Ohio,” Mingo said.
There is no guarantee Mingo will achieve his goal of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the Browns’ logical, methodical plan seems off to a great start.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.