Back in 2013, the AFC North was smitten with the pass rush, and both the Steelers and the Cleveland Browns felt they needed to nab one in the first round. Unfortunately, when it comes to both parties, neither has gotten what they had hoped for, let alone what they expected.
And at least in the Browns’ case, there is wonder over whether or not that former first-round outside linebacker will even make the team—even though there are many who wish that might be true in Pittsburgh as well. But unlike in Pittsburgh, Cleveland is already a couple of regimes removed from that draft pick.
Barkevious Mingo is the name in question, the sixth-overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. He started out well enough, producing five sacks during his rookie season, largely serving as a situational pass rusher, but he has only recorded two sacks since, none last year. He recorded two sacks in 11 starts in 2014.
Despite playing in 16 games last season, Mingo had just 24 tackles and four passes defensed in 2015, though he also had an interception, as he was asked to drop into coverage more. But part of the reason for that is because he was not performing as he was expected rushing the passer.
The Browns have since, essentially, moved on. Paul Kruger is still in the starting lineup, for now, but lining up across from him is Nate Orchard, a former second-round pick entering his second season. Cleveland also just drafted Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert, with Armonty Bryant still in the mix as well.
That is already five outside linebackers that the Browns could cobble together a 53-man roster with. And if you listen to Hue Jackson’s words, it seems fairly clear that Mingo’s roster spot is anything but guaranteed. The Browns even had him working at inside linebacker in practice recently.
Asked about that fact, Jackson told reporters that “we’re going to keep moving our players and giving them the chance to make our football team and be the best players that they can be”. But the players being moved around, by and large, are the fringe players, hoping their versatility can buy them a roster spot.
The Browns did lose both of their starting inside linebackers from last season, it is true, but they also have the players in place to replace them on the roster. But perhaps if Mingo shows that he can play both on the outside and on the inside—and on special teams, of course—he could stick around.
He does, in truth, have no lack of athleticism, which is what got him drafted in the first round to begin with. And the Browns were dropping him into coverage fairly liberally last season. It’s not out of the question that his skills could be transferable. Not to start on the inside, but just to have the capacity to serve as a backup at all positions. Otherwise he may not make the roster.