Cleveland Browns: The Enigma of Austin Corbett
By Joel W. Cade
The Cleveland Browns started off the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft with a surprise. But Austin Corbett could be a real value.
Austin Corbett played left tackle at Nevada. By drafting him, the Cleveland Browns have turned the University of Nevada into their pipeline for interior linemen. The last left tackle the Browns chose from Nevada was Joel Bitonio. Now they have drafted the man who replaced him in college.
But drafting Corbett is a bit of an enigma. And it has sent people out trying to figure out why the Browns drafted an interior lineman withKevin Zeitler, Bitonio and J.C. Tretter in the fold. So here is one writer’s attempt to read the tea leaves.
When Bitonio was drafted, it was to play in Kyle Shanahan’s zone run based offense. Coming out of college, Bitonio fit that scheme perfectly. He was athletic, was excellent in the zone run game and had excellent skills at second level blocking. He was the perfect fit for a left guard. He literally was the plug and play draft pick.
The similarities between Bitonio and Corbett are amazing. They possess the same skill set. Corbett is excellent in the zone run scheme. He does an excellent job blocking at the second level. He has a nasty streak it he run game.
He could use some improvement in pass sets. He does not slide back into protection well. As a result he can be beaten by speed rushes. He plays top heaving often leaning over instead of bending at the waist in pass protection. But these are part and parcel of most tackles entering the NFL.
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But why would the Browns draft him so high? What is happening that makes his a good pick for the Browns. The following is my personal conjecture based on film study and research.
First, the Browns are installing Todd Haley’s offense. This is a move away from the power-based scheme that Zeitler and Shon Coleman are perfect for. Last year the Steelers ran a primarily zone based scheme under Haley. If it is a return to zone based schemes as the primary offense, then Corbett is a perfect fit. He is at his best when zone blocking and has the mean streak and athleticism to be dominate as a run blocker.
Second, the Browns may be changing their philosophy of pass protection. There are two basic philosophies on pass protection. Pocket protection, which the Browns used, tries to form a pocket around the quarterback allowing the defensive ends to be fun behind. Dish protection attempt to keep all the action in front of the quarterback as much as possible. In this scheme the tackles will “short set” or attempt to engage the defensive ends closer to the line of scrimmage and hold them there.
Corbett did a lot of dish protection at Nevada. The Steelers did a lot of dish protection last year under Todd Haley. Corbet would be a perfect fit as a short setting pass protector on the line of scrimmage.
But all of this still makes the pick of Austin Corbett an enigma. Why draft a player who is essentially an interior lineman at the top of the second round?
One possibility may be the Browns are planning for life after J.C. Tretter. Corbett would be a perfect center if can make the transition. Another could be that the Browns plan on moving on from Zeitler after next season and are grooming his replacement.
There is always the idea that Bitonio would move out to left tackle. But if that is the thought, it would be easier to put his clone Austin Corbett at left tackle since he is already used to it. Browns fans should not rule out the possibility of Corbett simply playing left tackle next season.
All this said, it is hard to imagine what the Browns are up to with this pick.
Next: Draft grades for Day 2 picks
Corbett seems to be the guy who fits everywhere but fits nowhere.