BEREA — After two trades tonight, the Browns took Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the eighth pick in the NFL Draft.
The Browns started the day with the No. 4 pick, but shipped it to Buffalo for the ninth pick and first- and fourth-rounders in 2015. The Bills quickly took Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.
The Browns, fearing Minnesota would take Gilbert, gave the Vikings a fifth-round pick (No. 145 overall) to move up one spot.
With the No. 8 pick, the Browns took Gilbert (6-foot, 202-pounds). He ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and had seven interceptions with two returned for touchdowns in 2013. He also returned kicks.
The Vikings used the ninth pick on UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
Browns rookie general manager Ray Farmer appeared to have Gilbert targeted from the start of the night. Cornerback was arguably the team’s top need.
“The thought process was simple,” Farmer said. “We had an opportunity to move back, pick up some future considerations. We knew where we were in the draft and we felt like it was a good opportunity to continue to improve our team with the number of picks we could get so we made a deal to move back to Buffalo. Second trade was another opportunity to get the player we thought we wanted. It didn’t cost us much to move back into position when he was on the board. We took that opportunity, and we took the pick with Justin Gilbert.”
Farmer gave his scouting report on his newest player.
“He’s long. He’s fast. He’s explosive. He’s a playmaker,” Farmer said. “He plays like a Brown. No. 1 thing we talk about when we talk about corners is they’ve got to cover like Browns. He’s got great arm length. He’s got the speed. He’s got the ball skills.
“I know some people have questioned his tackling. We cover like Browns, tackling was good, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be great. We understand exactly who he is, what he is. We think he can make plays for us. He’s going to play relentless. He’s going to play at the line of scrimmage and press people. He’s able to do things we need him to do.”
Gilbert should step in and start opposite All-Pro Joe Haden. That would allow Buster Skrine to slide into the nickelback for which he’s better suited.
“Joe Haden, Justin Gilbert, (strong safety) Donte Whitner — I’m getting excited,” Farmer said. “I probably shouldn’t go there. We’re excited about having corners that we think can go out, play press, get after people and give us a chance to turn the ball over.
“We’ve improved our defense. We’re going to do some other things to make our overall team better, but we definitely like the corner combination that we’re going to have. Hopefully, we keep those guys together for a long time.”
Haden, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract, and the Browns have been working on a long-term extension and both sides are optimistic a deal will get done.
The Browns have eight picks remaining, including No. 26 tonight.
The NFL Draft is quickly (or not) approaching. Here are some final (or not) thoughts before the picks start flying at 8 o’clock.
** Rookie coach Mike Pettine told ESPN today that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be in the discussion when the Browns are scheduled to pick at No. 4. That contradicts the report of Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, who was emphatic Tuesday that the Browns won’t draft Manziel with the fourth pick.
I don’t believe Manziel is the top quarterback on the team’s draft board and don’t think they’ll draft him at No. 4 – or at all.
The Browns also hold pick No. 26, when they could draft
** The Kirk Cousins-to-the-Browns rumors won’t go away.
Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012, worked with new Browns coordinator Kyle Shanahan as the backup quarterback with the Redskins. Their connection and Cleveland’s need at quarterback started the rumors months ago.
They continued today when CBS’ Jason La Canfora tweeted: “One QB who might still be dealt this weekend is Skins backup Kirk Cousins. Browns were willing to deal midround pick for him.”
La Canfora followed with: “Skins and Browns have not had contact since the original inquiry, but sometimes things heat back up during the draft.”
Cousins would enter the competition with incumbent Brian Hoyer and any draft pick, and serve as insurance if Hoyer’s torn anterior cruciate ligament isn’t ready for the season. Hoyer’s ahead of schedule in his rehab, participated in seven-on-seven drills at minicamp last week and is expected to be fully ready by training camp in July, if not the mandatory minicamp in June.