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Browns draft preview: Linebackers

Apr 02, 2013 -- 2:30pm

By Tony Grossi

 

Photo/Getty

Second in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.

Position: Linebacker.

Roster: Emmanuel Acho, Tank Carder, L.J. Fort, Chris Gocong, Quentin Groves, D’Qwell Jackson, James-Michael Johnson, Paul Kruger, Adrian Moten, Craig Robertson, Jabaal Sheard.

No position group changes more in a switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 than this one. The outside linebackers have the demanding tasks of rushing the passer and dropping into pass coverage. The inside linebackers have to be big and physical, able to joust with 330-pound guards now freed up by the three-man front to block them with a head of steam. The free agent signings of Kruger and Groves – and the projected switch of end Sheard to linebacker – addressed the outside linebacker concerns. A key decision involves Gocong, who is coming back from Achilles surgery. Does he join the rotation as a rush linebacker or is he in the mix at the inside linebacker position with Carder and Johnson next to Jackson? Robertson and Fort, who did well with unexpected playing time a year ago, might not be the right fits in this defense because of their size. We’ll see.

Needs: Another rush linebacker and a sturdy inside linebacker to help protect Jackson, fend off guards and make tackles in the running game.

Top five prospects

1. Dion Jordan, Oregon.

A rangy, 6-6 pass rusher who lined up all over the field for the Ducks. He has the athleticism to do everything asked of a 3-4 outside linebacker. But like most college ends, he is a projection and likely will be eased in as a situational rusher.

2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia.

Concerns about career length due to a spinal stenosis condition were compounded by a spectacularly slow 40 time of 4.92 at his pro day. His 28 sacks the past two years, however, raised parallels to another slow 40 timer prior to the draft – future NFL defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs.

3. Barkevious Mingo, Louisiana State.

A pure rush end at LSU whose freakish athletic ability translates into an NFL 3-4 outside linebacker. Then again, it’s a position he has never played. Thus, he will have to be developed in other areas but will break in as a situational pass rusher.

4. Alec Ogletree, Georgia.

A four-game suspension and a DUI arrest will knock him down in the first round. But he is the best prospect as a 4-3 outside linebacker or a 3-4 inside linebacker. A converted safety, he is more of a playmaker than a tackling machine.

5. Kevin Minter, Louisiana State.

Might be a more reliable producer as a 4-3 middle linebacker than inside in the 3-4 because of a lack of physical power. But has the instincts both positions demand.

Under radar

Nico Johnson, Alabama.

A mid-round tackler who is very physical in the run game. Not a three-down player, but a specialist who can fill the inside linebacker role on a 3-4 team.

Last word

Given their plethora of needs, the Browns might not be able to devote two picks to linebackers. They may have to choose between the developmental pass rusher and the physical run defender.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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