Could the Cleveland Browns draft a left tackle to compete with Joe Thomas?
BEREA, Ohio -- Either former Auburn standout Greg Robinson or Texas A&M standout Jake Matthews could be the first offensive lineman off the board in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft tonight, but could the Cleveland Browns be in the mix for a left tackle with seven-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas manning the spot?
If Browns general manager Ray Farmer holds to his credo of increasing competition among the players on the roster, it could be a possibility.
"Joe Thomas is a very good football player," Farmer said in his pre-draft press conference. "He's been to numerous Pro Bowls. He's been a successful player for a reason, but having players on this roster that Joe looks over and says, 'Oh boy. That's a real guy right there.' That's good for our franchise and good for our football team. There's no way I wouldn't tell you those guys are interesting players for us as well."
Robinson spent the 2013 season blocking for an Auburn offense that scored 553 points, which averaged out to 39.5 points per game, and was 207 more than its opponents.
He cleared the way for 4,596 rushing yards, 2,422 passing yards, and 68 touchdowns. Running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall each ran for more than 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdown totals for an Auburn squad that made it to the National Championship Game.
Mason rushed for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns on 317 carries, all of which led the team, while Marshall scampered for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns, in addition to throwing for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Tigers.
"We were sitting in the suite at the combine when Greg Robinson ran, and (owner) Jimmy (Haslam) turned and was like, 'How big was he?' Farmer recalled. "You go back and you start reviewing the numbers and the size, his movement, and then, his play. He's a very, very interesting prospect as to what he could possibly bring to a franchise."
The son of Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, as well as nephew of former Browns linebacker Clay Matthews and cousin of Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews III and linebacker Casey Matthews of the Philadelphia Eagles, Matthews protected the blindside for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
With Matthews protecting him, Manziel completed 300 passes for 4,114 yards with 37 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and was sacked only 19 times in leading the Aggies to nine wins last fall.
"It's the same thing with Jake Matthews," Farmer said. "His history and his pedigree speak for themselves. The idea of what he can be and what he's going to be in the National Football League moving forward are definitely intriguing. I would tell you again, I want to drive competition on the roster."