Nov 1, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers defensive end Eli Harold (7) is shown before a play against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia Tech won 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
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.
6’3”, 247 pounds
2014 – 12 games; 54 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks
2015 NFL Draft Range
Round 1 to Round 4 – A second-team All-ACC selection after leading the Cavaliers with 14.5 tackles for loss, Harold is a bit of a puzzle as a player.
His draft profile at NFL.com, which ranks Harold as a first-round pick, has this to say:
"“Explosive, leggy outside linebacker who has surprising strength at the point of attack, and the hands and length to become an outstanding edge-setter. Harold’s burst upfield to threaten the edge is pro caliber and his ability to bend the corner at a 45-degree angle creates potential for him to become a quality pass rusher from either outside linebacker spot in a 3-4.”"
Sounds good. The Browns play (basically) a 3-4 defense, they need another edge rusher to join Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo, and just this week Pettine talked about how he has a soft spot for having a pair of outside linebackers that can bring heat on the quarterback.
But then there is this analysis from draftbreakdown.com, which ranks Harold as not being worth a look before the fourth round:
"“Eli Harold is a project at this point who will require time for growth in the weight room. He has an appealing frame that can be built upon, and he flashed enough of a baseline set of skills (hand play, especially) to get excited about his potential as an NFL pass rusher. That said, he appears to be a few seasons away from making a significant contribution to an NFL defense. He will provide a nice value as a depth player with growth potential, and should come off the board somewhere in the early portion of Day 3.”"
That is quite a range there, from possibly going on Thursday night in Round 1, to waiting around until Saturday to hear your name called.
Harold is certainly someone who could be on Farmer’s radar, but hopefully not in the first round — especially if he really is a “few seasons away from making a significant contribution.” We’re not as down on Farmer as some are, and we’re expecting good things from cornerback Justin Gilbert this fall, but Farmer has to walk out of the first round in this year’s draft with two players who are ready to start on opening weekend against the Jets.
“(Harold) doesn’t always have a plan and needs to better marry together his athleticism, power and technique, but defensive coordinators simply need to give him direction and then wind him up and let him loose.” – CBSSports.com
And while Harold sounds like a nice player, he’s not someone the Browns should be looking at until later in the draft.
Fit with the Browns
The Browns are currently thin at the outside linebacker position, with Kruger and Mingo the starters, and Keith Pough, a second-year player out of Harvard, the only other outside linebacker on the roster.
We can see Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil being intrigued with a player like Harold, one who a coach just needs to wind up and let go.
We just wonder how long it will be before Harold is ready to do that on a consistent basis.
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, so while they are exploring having Armonty Bryant play there, they still have a need at the position.
How the Selection Could Be Impacted by Free Agency
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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 John Hughes to an extension and veteran Starks in free agency; they will need to add depth via the draft. Harold has potential, but the Browns may not have the time to wait on potential. If they like Harold, it seems as if he would be a good choice later in the draft.
Do you think the Browns should take a look at Eli Harold? If so, which round?