Cleveland adds cornerback in third round to first-rounder Mingo
BEREA – There’s an obvious theme to the way the Browns are going about business in the first full year of a new regime.
Knowing that the offense likely won’t be a high-scoring unit next season, general manager Mike Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner have decided to go in the opposite direction. Their thinking is that if we won’t score many points, we’re going to do whatever possible to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.
The Browns landed linebacker Paul Kruger, defensive end Desmond Bryant, linebacker Quentin Groves and cornerback Chris Owens in free agency. Now they’ve added linebacker Barkevious Mingo and San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden in the draft.
The message sent out to the scouting department must have read: Find fast, aggressive defenders who can get to the ball.
McFadden, picked in the third round as the Browns’ only choice in day two of the draft, fits the mold. He’s shorter than ideal for a cornerback (5-9), but he’s a fluid player with speed and an aggressive mentality.
“Leon has mirror skills and is competitive and can make plays on the football,” Lombardi said. “He has the attributes we’re looking for at the position. He has the dimensions we wanted in terms of what we wanted to bring into the organization.”
Commenting for the first time on Mingo, the sixth overall pick in the draft, Lombardi has a similar assessment of the LSU linebacker.
“He’s a defining player that you want to bring into the organization,” Lombardi said. “He’s tough, athletic, long and loves football.”
There were a couple of intriguing players available when the Browns selected McFadden. One was former LSU cornerback Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. The other was USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who went from being a possible first overall pick last year to just another average prospect this year.
Mathieu didn’t fit the image of the high-character guys the Browns are attempting to add. He was dismissed from the LSU program last year for repeated violations of the university’s substance-abuse policy.
McFadden started four seasons for the Aztecs. He had 188 career tackles, 18 interceptions and 39 passes defensed. Last season he had 61 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defensed.
“He played in a conference where quarterbacks are passing the ball all the time,” Lombardi said. “When you play at the level he played at, going to the Senior Bowl was a great experience and a chance for him to see how he matched up against better receivers, and I think he did a good job in that game.”
McFadden was surprised when learning that he was headed to Cleveland. He didn’t have much contact with the team other than short interviews at the combine in February.
The Browns felt they saw enough of McFadden at the combine and didn’t see the need for much follow-up work.
“He worked out at the combine, so we had the opportunity to watch him work out,” Lombardi said. “There were no questions to ask him at another workout. When we talked to anyone at San Diego State, they talked about his quality of character and the type of person he is. We feel comfortable with him and with the person.”
McFadden has played outside and in the slot. He’ll compete against Buster Skrine and Owens for the chance to start opposite Joe Haden.
“I believe my ball skills are very good,” McFadden said. “My man coverage became more aggressive in the last couple of years. Studying my opponent is very big for me. I like to work on press man and polishing up my technique and keeping eye discipline.”
McFadden’s height could be an issue against taller receivers.
“I don’t look at it as a problem,” McFadden said. “I’m a competitor. I don’t think height has anything to do with competitiveness and playing.”