In an interesting move, the Cleveland Browns traded down from the No. 4 overall choice with the Buffalo Bills at No. 9, then swapped picks with the Minnesota Vikings to select Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8 overall. The Browns are no strangers to conducting trades in the NFL Draft, and have notoriously traded away draft picks for questionable quarterbacks who proved to be non-factors in Cleveland. But this time, the Browns appear to have made the correct choice in drafting Gilbert, and gaining a first-round choice in 2015.
While he may not be a high-profile pick, Gilbert should be able to contribute for the Browns in his rookie season, both in the secondary as well as special teams. Cleveland is lacking a dynamic corner to start opposite Pro Bowler Joe Haden and Gilbert should help to solidify a secondary that boasts Haden and safety Donte Whitner.
Gilbert’s height (6 foot), and speed (4.35-forty) will allow him to cover the big wide receivers of today’s NFL and should deter teams from shying away from Haden’s side of the field. Although the Browns have return specialist Travis Benjamin, Gilbert should get a shot to display his return skills. Last season at Oklahoma State, Gilbert took six kickoff returns for touchdowns.
The Browns’ smokescreen strategy proved to work out, as draft rumors did not focus on Gilbert becoming a Brown leading up to tonight. However, it’s been widely speculated that the Browns would be looking to draft multiple defensive backs in 2014. While it took some maneuvering to get there, the Browns made the correct choice in selecting Gilbert. Cleveland drafted the help it needed in the secondary and Gilbert should contribute from day one in defensive-minded head coach Mike Pettine’s defense.