The Cleveland Browns season is over. We will spend a good amount of time reviewing the season but we will spend even more time preparing for the off-season. Browns 2015 NFL Draft seems ready to be a very interesting one for the team. With 10 picks, including two in the first round, the Browns are ready to make noise again for the second year in a row.
Instead the 2014 started off strong and ended with a thud. Last year the Browns draft included a big trade down and the drafting of Johnny Manziel. While the first round hasn’t panned out yet, the rest of the draft seems to be great. It is likely that GM Ray Farmer and Head Coach Mike Pettine see a greater need for more veteran talent on a very young roster and we expect them to be aggressive in seeking to bring in that talent during Browns free agency.
After free agency we wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns tried to trade their picks to move up, to get another veteran or went with best player available instead of drafting for need. Farmer did this last year when he drafted Joel Bitonio, Terrance West, Christian Kirksey and others instead of drafting a wide receiver. We could see that again.
In preparation for such we will be taking a look at certain players that we think the Browns could target. Keep in mind we are not saying that these are players they are targeting, although some rumors may start to leak of the Browns having interest in them, instead these are players that we think the Browns could or should have interest in. Our profile will try to include as much information as possible to prepare you for the NFL Draft.
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
6’3”, 245 pounds
2014 – 14 games; 65 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks
2015 NFL Draft Range
Round 1 – A redshirt junior, Ray played at a high level in the nation’s top football conference. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a first-team All-America after leading after leading the conference in sacks and tackles for loss in 2014, interestingly enough his only year as a starter for the Tigers.
According to his draft profile at NFL.com, Ray has “elite power for his size and explodes off the line like a coiled spring” and is a player who “rushes the passer with extreme passion and purpose.” He is also a player who “has fast, violent hands with (an) advanced understanding of how to use them” and “plays with bad intentions on each snap,” a trait that will play well in the AFC North Division and especially in Cleveland.
Another facet of his game that stands out from his profile is that Ray “rarely runs past the arc as a rusher and will fight to come back underneath if he gets on the high side.”
How many times did we see a Browns’ rusher (not to single anyone out, but Barkevious Mingo comes to mind) take a bad route to the quarterback last season? It sounds like Ray is the type of player that we wouldn’t have to worry about on that count.
One part of Ray’s game that is a bit worrisome, and we raised the same point with Vic Beasley, is that while Ray was a defensive end in college, he’s being projected as an outside linebacker in the NFL. According to draftbreakdown.com, Ray’s “lower-half is lean and somewhat ‘skinny’ and it shows up in the run game; he struggles to hold his ground as a result of the lacking power and strength in his legs.”
We’ve been down this road with Mingo, who was an undersized defensive end at LSU and transitioned to outside linebacker with the Browns. While we like Mingo, we also like it when the Browns use their first-round draft picks to select players for position they actually played in college.
However, we may be overthinking the whole situation, especially after reading this:
“The need for players like Ray (explosive pass rusher) is always high, and he’s likely to get over-drafted a bit because of it. That’s not to say that Ray won’t be a very good situational player in the NFL, because I do think that he is going to be a playmaker in passing situations. With the high-octane passing offenses currently ruling pro football, a guy like Ray is exactly the kind of weapon needed on defense.” – draftbreakdown.com
As much as the Browns need to do something to help the run defense, adding another “weapon” to the pass defense is certainly an appealing option.
Fit with the Browns
The Browns are currently thin at the outside linebacker position, with Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo the starters, and Keith Pough, a second-year player out of Harvard, the only other outside linebacker on the roster.
Ray would be a great addition for the Browns, with Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil certainly knowing how to use a player who “pursues the quarterback and the ball like it’s his last snap.”
The downside is that Ray’s frame is similar to Mingo’s, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. We have to wonder if a player who goes at full speed on every play will be able to take the pounding of 16 weeks of NFL football.
Browns Player Selection Could Impact
N/A – The Browns have an obvious lack of depth at the outside linebacker position after the loss of Jabaal Sheard in free agency. While Ray may not be there for the club at No. 12, if he were to fall into the 8-10 range, Farmer could be tempted to move up to select Ray.
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How the Selection Could Be Impacted by Free Agency
N/A – The Browns look like they have identified the need for solid veteran leadership across the board and they went out and got a veteran in Randy Starks to help in the middle against the run. The Browns’ have addressed key needs along the defensive line and wide receiver thus far in free agency, but now they need depth at the outside linebacker position.
High – The Browns defense has shown potential, but the front seven needs depth and an infusion of talent is needed. The Browns only addressed these needs thus far by signing Hughes to an extension and veteran Starks in free agency; they will need to add depth via the draft. Ray would be a great fit for the Browns as they need someone to help rush the passer along with Mingo and Kruger. The only question is if he will available when the Browns go on the clock.
Would you like to see Shane Ray in a Browns uniform come the fall?