Carl Nassib's Impact on the Cleveland Browns LBs, DEs

The Browns used their first of three Round 3 draft picks to take linebacker-end Carl Nassib, their second defensive pick of the day. What does this mean for Cleveland's defenders trying to keep their roster spot, and what could Nassib's position be for defensive coordinator Ray Horton's system?

The Cleveland Browns dipped into the defensive well for the second time on Friday night, selecting Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib with the second pick (or 65th overall) in Round 3. The pick is similar to the one made in Round 2, another collegiate 4-3 defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. But, unlike Ogbah, it’s not a lock that Nassib will be converted to an outside linebacker, which makes his roster impact a little bit different than Ogbah’s.

In his first two collegiate seasons, Nassib made little impact, with just 12 games played total between 2013 and 2014, with just 18 total tackles in that span, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He broke out in a big way in 2015, however, playing all 10 games, totaling 46 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks (a Penn State record) and six forced fumbles, the most in the nation. He won numerous awards for his performance, including Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and is known for a relentless work ethic that should help carry him through any rawness he possesses. He needs development, but given his disposition, that development could happen swiftly.

Because Nassib’s best position hasn’t been determined yet, it’s hard to make a full prediction about the impact his presence will make upon his defensive teammates. He’s certainly skilled at rushing the passer, which makes an argument for outside linebacker, but given the fluid nature of defenses—something discussed in our breakdown of Ogbah’s impact—his situational or rotational role could span multiple positions along the front seven. But if he ends up being a pure outside linebacker, his impact is similar to Ogbah’s. Players like Scott Solomon and Armonty Bryant need to be concerned immediately, though the threat isn’t as imminent as the ready-to-play-every-down Ogbah. Ogbah and Nassib, though, at outside linebacker means the pressure rises right away for those two veterans most particularly.

Meanwhile, very few dedicated defensive ends currently on the Browns roster need to especially worry about their jobs. He would be joining a relatively thin group featuring Desmond Bryant, John Hughes and Xavier Cooper, as well as end-linebacker tweeners Jackson Jeffcoat and Cam Johnson (both of whom are thus also affected by Ogbah). There will be competition at the end position that could potentially include Nassib, and it will result on pressure on the rest of the team’s ends, but it’s not the same pressure being placed on the outside linebacker position by Ogbah (and certainly not as much as if Nassib is also treated as a linebacker).

The other thing to consider about Nassib is that though he’s a Round 3 pick—a high-upside part of the draft, to be sure—that doesn’t mean he will necessarily make the 53-man roster. Depending on what happens through the summer and the preseason, it’s possible Nassib’s need for development becomes even more apparent. He did have an excellent 2015, certainly, but that one year of production and of full-time experience may not be enough to get him ready for NFL duty as a rookie. The practice squad could be his home, even if only for the first half of the season (and as long as the Browns feel confident another team won’t tap him for active duty and steal him away), which certainly decreases the pressure on veterans, whether those at linebacker or defensive end. What Nassib does with his considerable potential in the upcoming months will determine how his rookie year plays out.

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