Story Time With Sobo

Brent Sobleski is an ESPN.com blogger that previously served as a columnist and draft analyst for the OBR. Throughout the season, he will appear as a guest here on Cleveland Reboot and answer any pertinent questions relating to the Browns, the NFL, football and life in general.

Past Story Time With Sobo segments can be found here.

DK:
1. Is it possible that the Browns changed owners, personnel executives and general managers only to again trade down in the draft?

SOBO:
It can easily be argued that the Browns’ recent trade downs were in the best interests of the team based on the situation. And this year is no different. The Browns can go in multiple directions with the No. 6 selection, but the new regime values the depth in this draft and prefers to pick up the second round pick lost to the supplemental selection of Josh Gordon. It’s arguably their primary goal as the process commences. It would be the smart pay due to the holes which need to be filled on the roster, while taking advantage of the strength of this class – which is its overall depth.

DK:
2. Or, is taking Dee Milliner at 6 the same value as grabbing Xavier Rhodes later in the round while adding some mid-round picks?

SOBO:
My grade of the Top 2 cornerbacks is vast enough to warrant a “We have to take Milliner” approach. I personally have Milliner ranked as the seventh best prospect in this class with Rhodes sitting at No. 9.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out the Browns don’t necessarily need to draft a cornerback in the first round for them to address the position. The team has done extensive work on the next tier of cornerbacks which will be drafted in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Multiple targets could develop into starting options at some point next season.

DK:
3. According to Cleveland sports legend Hiram Boyd, the choice for the Browns at 6 is “easy.” “Just take a pass rusher.” Already realizing that Hiram is always right, is there any reason to dispute this?

SOBO:
Browns’ brass are seemingly higher on the top two defensive linemen in this draft, Utah’s Star Lotulelei and Florida’s Shariff Floyd. They’re long term options to eventually replace Ahtyba Rubin, who is due over $8-million next season in the last year of his contract. General Manager Mike Lombardi is a major proponent of drafting defensive linemen high in the process and this year may be no different due to the talent available (both Lotulelei and Floyd have No. 1 overall ability in accordance to the top of this class).

A top tier defensive lineman can help the pass rush as much as an edge rusher. Browns’ fans could see a perfect example of that last year when Phil Taylor returned fully healthy and became a threat to collapse the pocket. Jabaal Sheard, who was consistently doubled or chipped all season, saw his production rise as a result.

DK:
4. Similarly, if the Browns draft a pass rusher, are they essentially picking the player that will allow Paul Kruger to live up to that huge free agent contract?

SOBO:
A selection of a pass rusher would be in no way an indictment of Paul Kruger or his contract. It could be seen as a measure to insure the team has two viable starting outside linebackers since Sheard’s transition to the position isn’t a given. With that said – there is only one pass rusher in this class I feel is worthy of that pick (Dion Jordan), and he’s very unlikely to be available at No. 6. If he is, the Browns would likely jump all over him as their choice.

DK:
5. In what football world does Dion Jordan become the first overall draft pick? Or Tavon Austin the 6th?

SOBO:
The two names you mentioned are the two most unique talents in this draft. It’s what separates them in a class that lacks elite talent. If you don’t have elite talent available, unique talent becomes the most intriguing.

Jordan, for example, is as adept at dropping back in coverage as he is rushing the passer. It allows a defense to do so much when one of your top talents is that flexible within the scheme. And that’s not to mention he has tremendous athleticism and length. Austin’s speed and explosiveness coupled with crisp route running could be tremendous with proper offensive play callers who are a little inventive. Jordan would be a Top 10 pick in most years. Austin, probably not. Either way, they’re unique talents in a class that lacks elite talent.

DK:
6. For your Draft Pun of the Week, what chance do you put on the Browns grabbing Chance Warmack with the 6th pick. Is there still value in selecting a guard that high – or that big?

SOBO:
I’ve never been a major advocate of positional value. Certainly, quarterback is the most important and valuable position on the field. And – if all things are considered equal – the edge goes to positions like left tackle, cornerback and pass rusher due to the effect those players can have on the game. But those guys aren’t in this class (well, the tackles are but Joe Thomas just laughs that off). If you tell me you think a player can be a ten-time Pro Bowler at guard once he’s graded out with the rest of the talent in the class, then I’ll take that player. That makes his value worthy to me.

DK:
7. How much separation is there between Geno Smith in the first round and Zac Dysert in the third?

SOBO:
Since I have Geno Smith ranked just inside the Top 15 overall and see Dysert being selected somewhere in the late fourth to fifth round, then it’s a pretty extreme difference in the two. But it also must be pointed out that Cleveland will very likely select a quarterback at some point in this draft. The odds are more likely they’d take Dysert to develop than Smith. The same could be said of prospects such at Matt Scott (Arizona), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Tyler Bray (Tennessee) and Mike Glennon (North Carolina State).

DK:
8. You’ve been known for calling certain Browns’ picks in the past (Greg Little in 2011 comes to mind). Care to take a educated stab at one player you see coming to the lakefront?

SOBO:
What? No love for successfully predicting quarterback Luke McCown in the fourth round 2004 Draft?

In all seriousness, two prospects immediately come to mind with this question. The first is defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. It will be very difficult for the Browns to pass on a talented defensive tackle (whom I have rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in this class).

The second is Colorado tight end Nick Kasa in the fourth or fifth round. This pick is obviously dependent on what happens in front of Cleveland and their choices before said point. But Kasa has a strong tie to the current staff. Jon Embree was his head coach at Colorado. Embree is now the Browns’ tight ends coach. Simple sports math in that case. And tight end is still a primary need as the team enters the draft.

DK:
9. And which draft prospect will you never expect to see play in Cleveland?

SOBO:
It’s still in question whether or not the Browns actually like quarterback Geno Smith enough to select him in the Top 10. Right now, they don’t – which would put him in the category expressed in this question. Although, the Browns do have a workout lined up with him this week which could change their tune.

DK:
10. You’ve also been known for being one of the best sources around regarding offensive linemen prospects. Disregarding the likely first round choices, who do you see as a prime mid-round line prospect?

SOBO:
In this class, offensive line is more top heavy than deep. If Kentucky guard Larry Warford were available at the top of round three (or round two in a trade down), the Browns would certainly give him strong consideration. The team has also spent considerable research on the likes of Kyle Long (Oregon) and Dallas Thomas (Tennessee). Two small school names I’d throw out there in the late rounds to fit the mauling style of lineman Cleveland now prefers is Garrett Gilkey (Chadron St.) and Edmund Kugbila (Valdosta State).

DK:
11. Which draft prospect that no one is talking about will become a 10-year NFL starter?

SOBO:
I’ve been fascinated by Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox throughout this process. Wilcox could go anywhere from the late second to early fourth round range. He only played one year at safety after being a running back in the Eagles’ triple option offense. When I finally got to watch him late in the year a couple times, he was clearly the best athlete on the field at the FCS level. He even showed some ability at the Senior Bowl to cover at cornerback in some drills. And he’s a fearless kick returner, which gives him immediate value. Wilcox is certainly not a big name, but he’s one to keep an eye on throughout the draft (and yes, the Browns have done their homework on him).

Also for the local fans, Ohio State’s Reid Fragel continues to grow tremendously in his role as an offensive tackle after spending most of his career at tight end. He is someone I suspect to be over drafted to a degree, because he has such upside as a prospect.

DK:
12. Finally, which draft prospect would you virtually “go to war” with?

SOBO:
I’ve been pounding the table for Dion Jordan since October. I continually called him the best pure pass rusher in this draft and was simply drawn by his versatility within the Ducks’ defense. Although it’s hard not to mention true war daddies like Star Lotulelei and Chance Warmack (all three of which comprise my Top 3 overall).

DK:
13. And which literal war would you choose? Crimean, War of the Oranges, Russo-Japanese or Ten Years War?

SOBO:
Most of my education revolved around the Vietnam or Revolutionary Wars. I’m technically a trained historian with a History degree and all that jazz. Those were the two periods I spent the most time reading, writing and discussing. I’ll give the edge to Vietnam in the context of this conversation simply because I found it absolutely fascinating from a socio-political point of view.

Plus, I know multiple vets who served during the war which always brings it to life more so than wars which occurred hundreds of years ago.

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Comments (8)

  1. Bob K

    Always enjoy readying your blogs.. With the draft that has a lot of depth to it. I would try to trade down not once but at least twice to gain more draft assets. Example Trade down to 12 with Miami pick a 2nd rd maybe a late rd pick with it depending on the competition for the pick. Than trade down to 18 ( Dallas ) Pick up a 3rd pick or at least 4th, not sure of the value of that move. If it’s a 4th you can move back up in the 3rd with your own. using one or two of your lower rd picks.Also what would be Rubin’s value if he were to be traded?

    • Thanks, Bob. Appreciate that.

      I like your scenario, although I’m not sure that trading down six spots can get the Browns a second round pick. Ideally, that would be a great trade. But I guess it depends on just who the Dolphins are chasing.

      This is a weird draft (at least for the Browns), given that they need 2 cornerbacks – yet first round CB’s have been misses for the past few years. The safer bet is probably to look at some 3rd round corners. It’s a bit ironic that this year’s draft is heavy in O-line and D-line players – two areas the Browns are fairly stable at. Although like Sobo noted, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a DT taken.

      As for Rubin, I’m not sure what his value would be. I think the general consensus to trade him is ridiculous, given that he’s both young and productive and considering that Phil Taylor has an injury history. I think it’s going backwards to sign a big free agent (Bryant) and draft a first round DT when the position was strong to begin with.

  2. Good read, greater point. Love this Blog, Dk.

  3. [...] a second round pick.  Drafting either Jordan or Lotulelei (or even Florida DT Sharrif Floyd, whom it appears they’re also high on) would give us the kind of depth to explore trade possibilities involving Jabaal Sheard or Ahtyba [...]

  4. jimkanicki

    can’t believe you showed a picture of the war room. are you what a serious breach of security that is? they’ll see everything. they’ll see the big board!
    yours,
    in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids,
    kanick

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