NFL Network’s Mike Mayock agrees with his counterparts from ESPN who believe the Browns should forget about drafting a quarterback sixth overall and instead target a pass-rushing outside linebacker or end who would mesh well with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 multi-front scheme.
The consensus, though, stops there.
In their most recent mock drafts, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay predicted the Browns will take Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner and Louisiana State defensive end Barkevious Mingo, respectively, at No. 6. However, Mayock doesn’t deem Werner, Mingo or Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore, another player often tied to the Browns, worthy of top 10 selections because he doesn’t believe they have elite pass-rush abilities.
Mayock thinks Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones is the best fit for the Browns at No. 6, provided he checks out medically. Jones played for Southern California in 2009 and was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column, after injuring his neck. USC’s team doctors would not clear him to play again, so he transferred to Georgia after their doctors granted approval for his return.
“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 during a conference call.
Jones, a redshirt junior whom Georgia lists as 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, had 13½ sacks in 2011 and 14½ in 2012. He led the nation in sacks, tackles for loss (24½) and forced fumbles (seven) last season.
Mayock compared Jones to outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, standout pass rushers in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 3-4 system. But regardless of his production, the medical tests Jones undergoes at the NFL Scouting Combine, which runs Wednesday through Feb. 26, will play a crucial role in determining his draft stock.
“Unfortunately there’s nothing he can do to alleviate the medical concerns,” Mayock said. “He either has stenosis or he doesn’t, and it’s either continuing to narrow his spine or isn’t. 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.”
Mayock also raved about two other pass rushers, Oregon’s Dion Jordan and Brigham Young’s Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah.
“I kind of like Dion Jordan, who I think is two years away from being an Aldon Smith-type player,” Mayock said. “He’s only about 240 pounds, but he’s 6-7. He’s got frightening athletic skills. He’s a year away. 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. I really like that kid. But again, that’s a little bit of a risk-reward betting on this kid two years from now.”
Mayock said Ansah, a Ghana native, had an average week of practice last month leading up to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., though he might have been the best player on the field once the game started.
“He’s so gifted some teams are looking at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker while other teams are saying with that frame he could be 290 [pounds] and be a 3-4 defensive end,” Mayock said. “So it’s kind of interesting. Teams are looking at him as a 4-3 end, a 3-4 outside linebacker and a 3-4 end. You can’t say that about many kids and it goes to his unbelievable athletic ability and huge frame. I’m willing to bet on the kid, and I think he’s going to go earlier than later.”
Lackluster top 10
Mayock thinks this year’s draft has great depth but lacks difference makers typically found in the top 10 selections. That could make trading down difficult for teams with early picks.
“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.”
He’s not impressed with the quarterback class, either. Mayock said he thinks West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Southern California’s Matt Barkley should be drafted between picks 20-32. He said the Browns would be “reaching” if they took a quarterback at No. 6.
If the Browns want to pursue a quarterback in the third or fourth round, Mayock said Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel could go in that range. Mayock also likes Duke’s Sean Renfree, whom he projects as a fifth-round choice.
Possible free-agent target?
Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore will test free agency to find out if there’s a starting job or a situation that appeals to him, and Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner is a big fan of Moore, the Miami Herald reported.
The Browns are looking to acquire a quarterback this offseason to compete with incumbent starter Brandon Weeden.
In 2011, Moore went 6-6 as a starter, throwing for 2,497 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions. Ryan Tannehill supplanted him as the starter last season.
Moore, 28, hasn’t ruled out re-signing with the Dolphins, according to the report. Free agency begins March 12.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.