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Monday, May 13, 2013
Browns' McFadden not short on confidence

By Jamison Hensley

The Cleveland Browns only have two picks from the first five rounds of the 2013 NFL draft, and both have heard scrutiny during the team's rookie minicamp this past weekend. Pass-rusher Barkevious Mingo was questioned about being too skinny, and cornerback Leon McFadden has heard the talk about him being too short.

Leon McFadden
Cleveland defensive back Leon McFadden practices during rookie minicamp at the Browns' training facility on Friday.
McFadden, a 5-foot-9 third-round pick out of San Diego State, was the 11th cornerback taken in the draft. But he was the first cornerback under 5 feet 10 drafted this year. Most of the top cornerbacks measured around 5-11, and three (Xavier Rhodes, Johnthan Banks and David Amerson) were over 6 feet.

“I don’t think my height is a problem,” McFadden said, via the Morning Journal. “I take that as a chip on my shoulder and turn it into a positive and go out there and compete on every down."

Heading into the draft, everyone knew the Browns would take a cornerback at some point. It was the biggest need on the team. I thought the Browns would be looking for a cornerback with more height and length. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton was a longtime secondary coach for the Steelers, and Pittsburgh is known for the size of its corners with Ike Taylor (6-2), Keenan Lewis (6-0) and Bryant McFadden (6-0).

From the Browns' perspective, McFadden isn't replacing a tall cornerback in Sheldon Brown (5-10) and he isn't competing against one either in Buster Skrine (5-9). For the Browns to improve upon the NFL's 25th-ranked pass defense, it might not be about the size of the cornerbacks. It's about the size of the mistakes.

Cleveland allowed 22 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers last season, tied for second most in the NFL. Brown, who wasn't re-signed, and Skrine combined to give up nine touchdowns last season. Brown and Skrine also ranked in the top five in penalties committed by cornerbacks, getting flagged nine times each.

“Obviously we all want 6-1 corners," general manager Mike Lombardi said. "We all want Willie Brown from the old days, but sometimes it’s harder to find."

McFadden is considered the favorite to start opposite Joe Haden, but veteran Chris Owens is expected to rotate with McFadden.