Some Bark in the Pound
BEREA – The Browns took a far-sighted approach to their pick in the first round of the NFL draft.
In the short run, selecting a cornerback to team with Joe Haden seemed to make sense, but the Browns are thinking long term. Instead of getting instant help at an area of need, they went with a player who better fits the style of football favored by first-year coach Rob Chudzinski.
Enter defensive end/outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo of LSU. Mingo (6-foot-4, 241 pounds) is a lanky player with tremendous speed, undeniable athleticism and good character.
“We’re not going to force things filling a need on a short-term basis as opposed to building a team where we can get really good and sustain it,” CEO Joe Banner said. “We’re not going to fill all the needs of this team this year.”
It’s a common-sense approach after back-to-back 5-11 seasons. Mingo is a perfect fit for the aggressive style planned by defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Another possibility with the sixth overall choice was Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, who was selected by the New York Jets with the ninth overall choice.
“He has very high character,” Banner said of Mingo. “He’s hard working and competitive. We talked about bringing in aggressive players for an aggressive scheme. This was the outcome we were hoping for, and I’m very excited.”
During an interview with “92 The Fan” about two hours before the start of the draft, Banner said there was a 65 percent chance the Browns would get the player they wanted. He revealed that they had a trade on the table that would have been used if Mingo hadn’t been available.
“We’ve been talking to people about moving down the last few days,” Banner said. “We felt too strong about his character and strength and how he fit into our scheme with the chance to develop, so we went ahead and made the pick.”
Horton was among the point men in recommending Mingo. Chudzinski also liked what he saw of Mingo during interviews and private workouts.
“You get a sense and feel for people,” Chudzinski said. “You enjoy having conversations with him. Everybody we talked to felt the same way.”
“We’re excited about ‘Ke Ke.’ The thing that stood out is the kind of person he is. He has outstanding character and was highly recommended by the people we talked to. He’s someone we wanted to put in our locker room and be part of the team. He’s gifted and explosive and has great speed off the edge. He’s been battle tested in the SEC. He’s played a lot, and he has plenty of room for growth. We see him as an outstanding pass rusher.”
Horton and Chudzinski must figure out what to do with all the additions to the front seven. Free-agent linebackers Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves were signed in March, and end Desmond Bryant was also added. Jabaal Sheard, who played end the last two seasons, will be switched to outside linebacker.
Kruger is being paid too much money to not be a starter. Mingo, as the sixth pick in the draft, should be the other starter.
“Jabaal was impressive during the minicamp and demonstrated he can make the adjustment to the 3-4,” Chudzinski said. “Adding Ke Ke gives us another pass rusher and a solid rotation. We plan to rotate that group between Paul, Jabaal, Ke Ke and Quentin. You can’t have enough pass rushers. The key is keeping those guys fresh.”
It’s obvious that Horton’s defense will be in attack mode all the time. Chudzinski said that Mingo will play outside in the base defense and move to rush end in a four-man front on passing downs.
“It’s been a priority for us. We want a strong front with guys that can run and hit and are relentless,” Chudzinski said. “Affecting the quarterback in this league is the key to winning games and playing great defense. We’ve found some guys in free agency that can do that, and going forward in the draft we felt the same way about Ke Ke.”