By Tony Grossi
Fifth in a series analyzing the Browns’ draft needs.
Roster: Gary Barnidge (TE), Travis Benjamin, Jordan Cameron (TE), Josh Cooper, Kellen Davis (TE), Josh Gordon, Dan Gronkowski (TE), Greg Little, Jordan Norwood.
Gordon and Little concluded 2012 as the clear No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers and are just turning 22 and 24, respectively over the next month. Gordon’s development as a rookie two years removed from his last season in college was remarkable. By the end, his consistency was approaching his elite athletic skills. Thanks to former GM Tom Heckert’s foresight and gamble in the supplemental draft, the new coaches inherit a receiver heads-and-shoulders above – literally and figuratively – any they could have gotten in the 2013 draft. At the bye week, Little dropped Twitter and then dropped his drops. Starting with Game 10, Little was a more reliable receiver producing from the slot position, where his big body created matchup problems for nickel backs. Benjamin had his moments flashing his elite speed, but his slight frame will always pose durability and ball security concerns. Cooper, the Brian Brennan-type, and Norwood took turns playing the same fourth-receiver role. At tight end, Cameron’s production still has not matched his athleticism, but he should get more opportunity now. Davis is an in-line, blocking tight end. Barnidge and Gronkowski are backups with special teams versatility.
Another big and fast outside receiver to keep Little in the slot. My preference was for this to be filled in free agency, but they may have to add it in the draft. Also, a fast tight end who can pierce the seams.
Top five prospects (WR)
1. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee.
He has size, speed, decent hands, playmaking ability, return ability … everything except experience. Played only one year at the major college level after two years at Hutchinson Community College.
2. Tavon Austin, West Virginia.
The most dynamic offensive player in the draft. He electrified the NFL combine with a 4.28 40 clocking. He is an explosive return specialist. However, he is 5-8 ½ and 174 pounds. His ideal landing spot would be with a dome-based team, for whom he could make his cuts-on-a-dime under perfect footing on carpet.
3. Keenan Allen, California.
A tall and lean target who has been productive for three years in the Pacific 12 Conference. Although he’s shown return ability, his speed is a question. He has been unable to post a 40 time because of a knee ligament injury. April 9 is a big day for him to run in front of scouts.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson.
A productive receiver who plays faster than his 4.57 40 clocking. He may thrive as an underneath target. He showed signs of being a prima donna at times.
5. Robert Woods, Southern California.
Doesn’t have elite skills, and they caught up with him his final season as his production tumbled. But he did leave as the USC’s all-time reception leader with 252 receptions and 32 touchdowns in three seasons.
Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech.
Not related to the former Browns cornerback of the same name, he transferred from Kansas, where he ran track and specialized in the triple jump and long jump, and broke out with 43 catches in 2012. He timed 4.32 at the combine.
Top five prospects (TE)
1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame.
An exceptional pass catcher who lined up everywhere, was productive in the receiving game and as an in-line blocker.
2. Zach Ertz, Stanford.
The latest tight end from Palo Alto, CA, doubled the production of 2012 second-rounder Coby Fleener.
3. Vance McDonald, Rice.
A big-armed, big-handed pass catcher who can play a high-wire passing game.
4. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State.
Tall and athletic target who will struggle when asked to block.
5. Jordan Reed, Florida.
An oversized receiver, he’s riding the wave of parallels to New England’s Aaron Hernandez.
Nick Kasa, Colorado.
A converted defensive lineman, he had a career-changing final season under the auspices of current Browns tight ends coach Jon Embree.
Given that this year’s receiving class lacks a superstar, the Browns are fortunate that Heckert selected Gordon in the supplemental draft. He is a better prospect today than any receiver in this draft and can fulfill the No. 1 role with continued maturity.
|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 firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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