Monday, May 5, 2014
Will OTs challenge Browns' draft thinking?
By Pat McManamon
Last week, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine said this about the team's right tackle spot, Mitchell Schwartz and the upcoming NFL draft: "Mitchell's a guy that we were happy with what he put on tape last year. We'll potentially address it in the draft, but I don't really see tackle right now as a position of need."
He also addressed the team's draft philosophy by saying this: "We've really stabilized the ship in free agency, and we have the opportunity now when we're on the clock that we can take the best player available."
Which naturally leads to the question: What happens if the best player available to the Browns when they pick at No. 4 is a right tackle?
Auburn's Greg Robinson could be the highest-ranked player on the Browns' board available at No. 4.
Because that very well could happen.
The draft features two excellent tackles, who could start their careers on the right side and be the heir apparent to Joe Thomas on the left side. They also could slide to guard, a position Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden played his first season in Baltimore.
Greg Robinson and of Auburn and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M are both nasty, gnarly guys who could be plugged into a position and play there for 10 years, a la Thomas.
Scouts Inc. rates Robinson as the draft's second best player (not second best tackle), and gives him a grade of 97 out of 100. Scouts Inc. calls him an overpowering player who has a "finisher's mentality." It lists no negatives.
Matthews ranks fifth on the list, with a ranking of 95. Scouts Inc. calls him a "clean prospect with no character baggage or off-the-field concerns." The adjectives are very similar to his father, Bruce: Nasty, scrappy, hard worker, tough, dependable. Again, there are no negatives.
Clearly either of these would be excellent choices.
Drafting a lineman is not sexy or exciting.
A lineman won't write headlines the way a quarterback or wide receiver would.
But winning teams usually are successful from the inside out, especially on offense. A talented line can make a quarterback or running back better.
Hall of Famer Harry Carson said during the weekend that if he had a high pick, he'd take as many offensive linemen as he could.
And if a guy like Matthews has the pedigree of his father and uncle Clay, the Browns would not go wrong taking him. When all is said and done in this draft, Robinson and Matthews may wind up being the best players taken -- for many years.
There are more arguments in favor of Robinson and Matthews.
At quarterback, the questions have been debated ad nauseam. None of the top three -- Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater -- are surefire locks. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said he's never heard so many varying opinions in the league about the quarterbacks in the draft. Some GMs see no first-rounders, some see three top-10 draftees.
At receiver, Sammy Watkins would be an excellent choice and would give the Browns numerous offensive options opposite Josh Gordon. But the draft is deep in receivers, and the Browns could find one with their second pick in the first round, or even in the second round.
LB Khalil Mack is much liked, but he played at Buffalo, in the MAC, and making the jump to the NFL is not a given.
Matthews and Robinson both played on very strong and nasty offensive lines in major conferences for good teams.
They would be near-locks to be excellent pros.
And they will challenge the Browns' thinking that the best player to take is the best player. Because one of them should be available when the Browns pick fourth.