We are less than a week from the NFL Draft, also known as the most important day of the year for your Cleveland Browns. With (another) new regime taking over the reigns and new schemes in place on both sides of the ball, it is crucial that Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Ray Farmer, Rob Chudzinski and the crew nail these three days. It all starts Thursday night with the primetime First Round.
The Browns currently hold the sixth pick. Will they go with a defensive back? Could they turn to a pass rusher? Would they possible fortify the offensive line? Could they shock everyone and take an additional offensive weapon? Or maybe, just maybe, would they trade the pick to a team that wants to move up and snag one of those top offensive tackles?
From now until Thursday’s first round, a different member of the WFNY staff will take their look at one player in particular and tell you why the Browns, should they choose to, would go in this direction.
Name: Star Lotulelei
Weight: 311 lbs.
Whom he would replace: Ahtyba Rubin?
Why he makes the most sense for the Browns: Once the top prospect in all of the draft by Kiper, Lotulelei’s best position is as a 3’4″ DE. The Browns are converting to that defense. He has been described by some as having Haloti Ngata type potential. If the Browns are committed to fixing the front seven first, Lotulelei could be a piece to that puzzle. It would offer the Browns a chance to potentially trade Rubin for another decent draft pick, player or combination of both. Would help the Browns stop the run.
What the experts say: “No medical questions. Tape shows a player who can’t be blocked in the run game one-on-one, period — but he’s not a very good pass-rusher. He absorbs so much blocking help and frees up others, but he’s not just a clogger, because he can show off a burst that he marries to a great sense for disrupting the run game in the backfield. Quick off the ball with great upper- and lower-body strength.”- Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN
“Lotulelei’s ideal fit is as a 3-4 end, but he has the versatility to play nose tackle and increase the flexibility of the defensive front. With his strong hands, nimble feet and range, Lotulelei brings plenty to the table.” – Todd McShay, ESPN
“Going from not qualifying academically out of high school to go to BYU, to delivering furniture during that first year not playing football, through junior college and to Utah, Lotulelei has developed a work ethic and determination that is uncommon amongst 300+ pound DT’s. For a player who was so highly regarded entering the 2012 season, I was expecting to be disappointed as I usually am by hyped players. However, Star jumped out early in the first game I evaluated against USC and just kept getting better and making more impact plays. He no doubt must become quicker taking on and shedding OL run blocks and needs to improve his pass rush repertoire, but his physical talent is unquestionable. Overall, Lotulelei is going to be a Top 20 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft because he has a rare combination of size, strength, athleticism and competitiveness. I believe that he will be a highly productive starter in the NFL and what position he plays will depend entirely on what team selects him. I think he can be equally effective as a DE in a 34 scheme or a DT in a 43 defense.” – Sports Illustrated
“Powerful and agile starting nose tackle prospect. Versatile enough to play almost all interior defensive line positions across many types of fronts. Often the first player off the snap, will challenge the hand and foot quickness of guards inside. When choosing to bull rush, gets under his mans pads and churns his legs to push him backwards. Thick arms eat up ball carriers coming into his path. Quick feet and a bit of short-area speed to spin off blocks inside and follow plays across the field. Flashes arm-over move to penetrate. Recognize screens and track them down, also willing to move down the line while engaged. Greatly improved on reading blocking schemes, locating the football, and disengaging over his last two seasons.” – NFL.com
Chances the Browns will take Lotulelei: It would be hard, in my opinion to justify taking Lotulelei or any other defensive lineman for that matter. The Browns invested in Desmond Bryant during free agency. Add him to a depth chart that includes Phil Taylor, Rubin, John Hughes, Billy Winn and Ishmaa’ly Kitchen. If the Browns were to work out a trade for Rubin, then taking a 3-4 DE would make some sense. A heart condition at the combine scared some teams away from Lotulelei, but he has been cleared since. Still, I don’t see the Browns using the sixth pick on him.