The Browns used their first selection in this year's draft to acquire two intriguing prospects. Phil Savage's first target was defensive end Kamerion Wimbley of Florida State. He made a very controversial decision in trading down one spot with Baltimore for only a sixth-round selection.
The move not only disregarded the trusty value chart, it ignored the rule of trading within the division. The move was very disappointing because the Browns allowed the Ravens to fill a vital area of need with the selection of Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. When that sixth-round pick was turned in, the trade became genius. More on that later.
Wimbley is a very difficult player to evaluate due to position change, as well as his ability to flash amazing potential on one play and completely be overwhelmed on the next. Based upon pure performance, he was a late second- to early third-round prospect, but his workouts were amazing and he solidified himself as the top tweener in the draft with a top 10-caliber performance.
Wimbley displays a tenacious approach to the game, making plays all over the field, but his lack of bulk was glaring at the college level. Larger offensive tackles often engulfed him. He does, however, possess the frame to continue to bulk up without losing much athleticism. He should have little difficulty in getting bigger and strong enough to play at a comfortable 255-260 pounds as he matures physically.
Moving him to outside linebacker should enable Wimbley to use his speed and footwork to make plays all over the field. He is a solid tackler, especially in the open field. But he must improve upon his read-and-react abilities if he is going to play the run consistently. When he uses his hands correctly, he does a very good job of not allowing the blocker to gain control and with a powerful shoulder-and-hook move, he explodes into the backfield.
Wimbley's finest quality might be his relentless approach to every play. He doesn't give up on the play even when he has lost his initial battle. He has the ability to quickly recover and pursue the play.
His most glaring negative is his snap anticipation. He was often the last player to get off the line when the ball was snapped. This area needs a great amount of attention.
Bottom Line: Wimbley will immediately add pass-rush ability to the outside linebacker position. He will have stiff competition with incumbent starter Chaun Thompson and might split time early.
With linebackers flying off the boards at an unbelievable pace, Savage looked to move up to get his man. He sent former first-round draft choice Jeff Faine to the New Orleans Saints along with his second-round selection (pick 43) to move up to the 34th slot. He then drafted undersized middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson of Maryland.
If you did not know Jackson's measurables and based his draft stock purely on his game performance, he is a solid top 15-caliber player. Poor measurables dropped him into the second round.
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year was the top middle linebacker prospect in this draft. There was not a better linebacker at fighting through traffic and finishing. When you consider he was a one-man show in this defense, he becomes even more impressive.
Jackson is a highly intelligent player who is relentless in his approach to the game. He makes up for his lack of speed with quick recognition of what the offense is doing. Running the 40-yard dash in 4.2 does not help if it takes you three seconds to diagnose the play. Jackson has 4.8 speed, but with his quick read and react ability, it almost equals 4.3 speed.
He has an uncanny ability to shed the biggest blockers with his quick hands and feet to separate from the blocker while sealing the gap and making the play. He is also one of those big hitters not afraid to take on the fullback, sacrifice his body so those around him can finish the play. He takes proper angles and always keeps himself in position to make the play at the point of attack.
His best attribute is his leadership. Whether on the field or the sideline, he is always pushing those around him to be better and take responsibility for their play. He has that Ray Lewis leadership quality.
Jackson is also a bit smaller (a half inch shy of 6-1 and 230 pounds) than what you would expect for a middle linebacker in Romeo Crennel's scheme and does not have the frame to get much bigger. He also must improve his ability to cover on passing downs. While he shows good reaction to cover, he will often give up the inside route to the tight end.
Bottom Line: Jackson will be asked to start right away alongside Andra Davis in the middle. He will add a run-stuffing presence with the ability to make plays in the backfield. He will make an immediate impact to this defense. He is also my early pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The major concern is the talent that was still on the board when this pick was made. There were a host of players who outperformed Wilson on the field and during their workouts. This pick might end up being judged by the two players not taken – guard Max Jean-Gilles and wide receiver Demetrius Williams.
Wilson consistently makes catches, including those tough catches across the middle in heavy traffic, but will often allow the ball to get into his chest, which is a major concern at the next level. He has excellent size for the position, but only average speed. He does not show the crispness you like to see in running his routes. He is a short to intermediate possession type receiver, but might become a better deep threat as he learns to get off the line quicker.
Wilson's top attribute is his work ethic. The best players always put in the extra work off the field – in the weight room and the film room. Wilson is a tireless worker who strives to get the most out of his talent. If he can improve his route running, he can be an early contributor.
His most concerning trait is his presumed overconfidence when he proclaimed himself the best receiver in this year's draft.
Bottom Line: Wilson likely will see limited time within this offense as a rookie. He could have a very difficult battle with veteran Frisman Jackson and Brandon Rideau for the fourth and fifth receiver spot.