Heading into the offseason after another dismal year in 2013, the Cleveland Browns were faced with numerous question marks surrounding the roster. A personnel overhaul was needed across the roster, including the defensive secondary. When free agency began, the Browns signed veteran safety Donte Whtiner, but questions about who would start alongside Joe Haden at cornerback remained.
Fast forward to the NFL draft in which Cleveland traded down in the first round and selecting CB Justin Gilbert, who was originally thought to be the answer at the second corner position, as well as small-school product Pierre Desir in the fourth round. Desir, from division II Lindenwood University made a name for himself by earning the Cliff Harris Award, given to the nations top small college defensive back, and invitations to both the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.
Desir and Gilbert are battling with last year’s starter Buster Skrine for the starting role heading into training camp. Reports out of OTAs are that Desir has proven he belongs in the NFL and has played well enough to get a serious look at starting. Even if Desir isn’t chosen to be the No. 2 corner, his attributes will allow him to instantly be one of the league’s top zone coverage corners.
At 6-foot-1, Desir’s height will make offenses think twice about throwing over top the secondary. In his college career, Desir was known for being a ball hawk, with some analysts saying his attacking of the ball while it’s in the air makes him look like a WR. At the draft combine, Desir ran a 4.59-forty, which isn’t blowing anyone away, but is certainly not slow for his frame. Besides the issue of competition faced while in school, the knack on Desir is that he doesn’t utilize his size in the running game as a tackler — something that could hurt his playing time.
The Browns have been seemingly trying to build a team much like the Seattle Seahawks, and adding young, potential stars like Gilbert and Desir is a step in the right direction. Desir’s athleticism, ball skills and height should allow him to be a playmaker for a Browns’ cornerback group that had been solely relying on Haden. If he can make the jump from division II standout to the NFL, there will be plenty of “Desir” jerseys in FirstEnergy Stadium.