Draft Sleepers: Defense

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Updated: April 26, 2015
Cleveland's defense will need some more live bodies before August.

In the previous Draft Sleepers article, we examine a few names on the offensive side of the ball. This article is going to be dedicated to the defensive guys.

Defensive Linemen

Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neil will run a base 3-4 defense again this season. Last year the pass defense was fantastic but the rushing defense was a true weak spot. The line, which was supposed to be a strength at the start of the season, really struggled because of poor play and injuries. Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Billy Wynn, Armonty Bryant and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen all battled injuries last year that caused them to miss significant time. The line is largely back from last year with the exception of Rubin, who signed with Seattle and Armonty Bryant who will move to outside linebacker this season. The team also signed DT/DE Randy Starks from the Miami Dolphins. What does this team need; a run stuffer plain and simple. Danny Shelton would really solidify this line and he could be the pick at 12. However; if he isn’t and they pass up guys like Malcolm Brown and Eddie Goldman at number 19, who can they look for later in the draft? Tyler Davidson, Fresno State, 3rd-4th round, David Parry, Stanford 5th-6th round and Darius Kilgo, Maryland 6th-7th round are all guys who can eat up blocks and allow the linebackers behind them to make plays.

Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson an NCAA college football game against Army on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson and nose tackle David Parry are both mid-round targets for a 3-4 defensive team (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Edge Rushers

The Browns want to bring the pressure. If they can sure up the run game and force the offense into obvious passing situations, then they are going to bring the house. In order to do that, they need some dynamic edge rushers. Paul Kruger had a break out year and more is expected this season. Barkevious Mingo played with one arm last year and when he rushed the passer had high analytic scores but that did not translate into sack or tackle for loss numbers. Armonty Bryant provided pressure off the edge from the DE position; will that translate now that he’s going to be asked to stand up? Scott Solomon flashed towards the end of the season as a pass rusher but make no mistake, the Browns need an elite pass rusher. If he makes it to the third round, Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington will be an absolute steal. He had a tremendously productive college career but has torn his left ACL twice already so his stock has fallen a bit. David Tull, Chattanooga, is a small school guy who has great production teamed with above average athleticism. The question is can he be effective playing against elite competition? Deiontrez Mount, Louisville, is a late round guy who has a great frame and good speed. Mount is a development project for sure but someone who can develop into a starter down the road.

Inside Linebackers

The Browns have a solid group of inside backers lead by Karlos Dansby and young guys; Craig Robertson and Christian Kirksey. Kirksey’s specialty is a coverage linebacker and Robertson, after an awful 2013, improved greatly in that aspect during the 2014 season. The Browns lack that thumper in the middle though. Someone who flies around making tackles ala Kiko Alonzo or Ray Lewis. Mike Hull, Penn State, Taiwan Jones, Michigan State and Ben Heeney, Kansas are guys who can try to fill that role for the Browns.

Cornerbacks

Mike Pettine can never have enough cornerbacks in his system. He needs press corners that play on an island so that he can bring as many guys possible for a pass rush. JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas is raw but a hard worker who can play press man. Tye Smith, Towson is a taller corner at 6’0. He draws some comparisons to Pierre Desir which instantly puts him on the Browns radar.

Safeties

Ideally the Browns lock up Tashaun Gipson to a long term contract. While Gipson is the ball hawking safety, Donte Whitner is the thumper. Whitner is getting long in the tooth though so drafting his replacement would be appropriate. Mid round prospects like Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern and Clayton Geathers, UCF are the “in the box” safeties the Browns can look at.

Special Teams

We can’t forget about special teams can we? Ok we can so this will be short. Justin Manton, UL-Monroe is the only draftable place kicker while Kyle Loomis, Portland State is the only draftable punter. Sorry to disappoint the Christian Yount haters, but there are no draftable long snappers this year.

That is a quick look at some guys at each position the Browns could look at from the third round on. Much time is spent on the first and second round prospects but there are many later round guys who go on to have excellent careers. Hopefully the Browns can uncover one or 2 this year.

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