The Cleveland Browns need help in the secondary. Could the declining play of Joe Haden lead the team to look for a cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft?
The Cleveland Browns still have several holes to fill on the roster as they head into the 2017 NFL Draft, most notably in the secondary at the safety position.
The draft should bring help to the weakest position on the defense – possibly as early as the first round with LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker the most likely candidates. But Browns fans should also keep an eye on the cornerback position as the draft unfolds.
Cleveland signed cornerback Jamar Taylor to a contract extension at the end of the 2016 season, and Brien Boddy-Calhoun showed some potential in his rookie season. The sore spot has been the declining play of former top cornerback Joe Haden.
At least that is the conclusion of an analysis from Pro Football Focus, which shone a harsh light on Haden’s play the past two years. Haden consistently graded in the 80s his first for years in the league, but the past two seasons he has come in at 33.1 in 2015 and 56.3 in 2016.
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In addition, PFF points out that the six touchdowns Haden allowed last season with the sixth-most in the league; he allowed 1.48 yards per coverage snap, the 12th-highest in the league; and his 10 missed tackles were the most in his career.
Some of Haden’s struggles have been due to injuries. He missed 11 games in 2015 with a variety of ailments, had surgery on his ankle in the offseason, and then fought his way through a groin injury last season to appear in 13 games.
Injuries are part of the game, but once they start piling up it can be hard for a player to regain his previous form. Haden addressed the frustration of the past two seasons earlier this week, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
"“That’s one thing that you can’t control. I’m trying to control that. I feel healthy now. As long as I feel like I am out there being able to be healthy and just taking care of my body, that’s the biggest thing. I don’t feel like anything else is a factor. That’s just it. It’s been a lot, it’s been tough trying to fight through it.”"
In hindsight, Haden probably should not have played as much as he did last season, especially as the Browns were struggling through a 1-15. But with so much inexperience on the field, he believed it was more important to be in the lineup. That’s admirable, but how much lasting damage he did to his body remains to be seen.
Even if Haden remains healthy for a full season this fall, the Browns may still be looking to add a cornerback in the draft. The team can’t be certain that Haden will reverse his decline, Taylor could return to his old ways from his days with the Miami Dolphins, and Boddy-Calhoun still has to show he can be a consistent contributor.
The draft has some promising cornerbacks after the first round, with players such as LSU’s Tre’Davious White, USC’s Adoree Jackson, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, UCLA’s Fabrian Moreau, and Washington’s Sidney Jones and Kevin King being some of the more familiar names that could be available on the second day of the draft.