September 30, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
61°F
test

Browns: Draft a pass rusher? OK, which one?

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock agrees with the other draft analysts who believe the Browns should take a pass rusher with the No. 6 pick in April.

Jones

But Mayock has a different name at the top of his list for Cleveland: Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

“I think Jarvis Jones is the guy, as long as he checks out medically, whose value is commensurate with the sixth pick,” Mayock said Monday on a conference call.

Jones is highly rated after 28 sacks in 26 games with the Bulldogs, but he’s hardly a lock to go to the Browns, or in the top 10.

He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis — a narrowing of the open spaces within the spine — after a hit and wasn’t cleared for contact by University of Southern California doctors. He wanted to continue playing, received clearance by Georgia doctors and transferred.

His medical report after being examined at the scouting combine in Indianapolis this week will play a huge role in when he gets drafted.

“Unfortunately there’s nothing he can do to alleviate the medical concerns. He either has stenosis or he doesn’t, and it’s either continuing to narrow his spine or isn’t,” Mayock said. “Coming out of the combine in about a month or so, we’ll have a better idea of that when teams begin to share all that medical information.

“So let’s take that off the table for a second, and let’s assume that’s not a problem and let’s talk about what kind of football player he is. He’s explosive. He’s tough. He’s a playmaker. He warrants a top-10 pick.”

Mayock said Jones is a fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker from his days at Georgia, but the Browns are switching to a base 3-4 scheme with multiple fronts under new coordinator Ray Horton. Jones’ height (Georgia listed him at 6-foot-3) could be an issue with some 3-4 teams who prize length, but Mayock cited the Steelers’ success with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley as shorter outside linebackers in their 3-4 scheme. Horton was trained under longtime Pittsburgh coordinator Dick LeBeau.

“Pittsburgh looks at an outside linebacker and says, ‘Hey, he needs to be explosive. He needs to be able to disengage from blocks. He needs to be able to pressure a quarterback,’” Mayock said. “So, yeah, some of the 3-4 teams will see him and say, ‘Yes, he can play in what we do.’”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper mentioned Florida State’s Bjoern Werner and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore last week as likely pass-rushing options for the Browns at No. 6, but Mayock rates them at the bottom of the round. He said they’re good players, but doesn’t see the elite quick-twitch pass-rush ability desired in a top-10 pick.

ESPN’s Todd McShay projects the Browns with LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, but Mayock thinks he also belongs at the bottom of the first round.

Mayock prefers Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan.

He converted from tight end in 2010 and totaled only 14½ sacks in his career. But he’s 6-7, 243 pounds, athletic and played a variety of positions across the front seven.

“I think he is two years away from being an Aldon Smith-type player,” Mayock said, referring to the 49ers Pro Bowler. “He’s got frightening athletic skills.

“So he’d be a situational pass rusher year one and if he puts 20 pounds on, I think he’s going to be a perennial All-Pro. That’s a little bit of a risk-reward betting on this kid two years from now.”

The draft, which is slated for April 25-27, has the best depth in a decade, according to Mayock, but lacks difference-makers in the top 10. His top eight prospects are offensive and defensive linemen, which cuts down on the sizzle. In fact, he called Alabama guard Chase Warmack the best player he watched this season and wouldn’t hesitate to take him No. 1.

“I wouldn’t want a top-10 pick this year,” Mayock said. “I think the fifth pick in the draft and the 25th pick in this draft are very similar.”

The new Browns regime of CEO Joe Banner and vice president of player personnel Michael Lombardi seems committed to bringing in competition for quarterback Brandon Weeden, and the top 10 is usually where franchise quarterbacks are found.

Not this year, according to Mayock.

“There are a whole lot of holes in the quarterback class,” he said.

He said even the best options showed too much inconsistency and rates West Virginia’s Geno Smith and USC’s Matt Barkley highest — between 20 and 32 overall. He mentioned Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel as midround possibilities.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.