BEREA, Ohio – Barkevious Mingo walked into Radio City Music Hall for the NFL draft wearing a brown tie and orange pocket square in his suit jacket.
Even before the Browns called his name, he looked like a perfect fit.
With their first pick under new owner Jimmy Haslam, the Browns put a little more “Bark” into their defense on Thursday, selecting the speedy LSU defensive end with the No. 6 overall pick. Mingo played defensive end in college but will switch to outside linebacker in Cleveland’s new scheme and hopefully chase down some quarterbacks.
“We’ve talked about bringing in aggressive players in an aggressive scheme and he fits that very well,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said of Mingo. “This was the outcome we were hoping for. We’re very excited.”
The Browns discussed trades with several teams, and Banner said if Mingo was not available the team would have made a deal.
But the 6-foot-4, 241-pounder was still there when the Browns were on the clock, and they didn’t waste a second snagging him.
“We just felt too strong about the fit, the character, his strengths and how it fit into the scheme and the personality we are trying to develop,” Banner said. “We felt that this was the right guy at this time.”
When it became their turn to pick, the Browns could have selected Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, a player to pair on the opposite side of Joe Haden. Mingo, though, had impressed the Browns at the combine with his athleticism and he further wowed them during a visit to the team’s facility.
“He’s somebody we felt strongly about having in our locker room,” first-year Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “His athleticism speaks for itself. He’s an extremely gifted athlete. He’s explosive and has great speed off the edge. He’s battletested in the SEC and has played a lot and still has plenty of room for growth.
“We see him as an outstanding pass rusher.”
Mingo said it was “a real big coincidence” he wore Cleveland’s colors to the draft in New York. He’s aware his name will be a big hit with fans in Cleveland’s notorious bleacher section, known for years as the “Dawg Pound.”
“It is very fitting,” he said when asked about his unique name. “My mom just made it up. She came up with it. She just wanted it to be different, I guess. She felt Barkevious was different.”
Mingo recorded 4.5 sacks last season as a junior — down from eight as a sophomore — with the Tigers and was named second-team All-SEC, the conference that may prepare players for the NFL better than any other.
“We played in an NFL-type game week in and week out,” Mingo said. “A lot guys got their name called early from the SEC. And it shows, there are a lot more guys that are thoroughly making an impact on an NFL team.”
During his visit to Cleveland, Mingo got a sense that he’s joining a franchise with a rich heritage and a passionate fan base that can rival any in Louisiana.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “It’s a lifelong dream.”
The Browns are switching from a 4-3 alignment to an aggressive, 3-4 multifront scheme under new coordinator Ray Horton, who must be salivating at the thought of turning Mingo loose off the edge. Mingo will play on the other side from Paul Kruger, who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore and then signed a five-year, $40 million free agent contract with the Browns in March.
Chudzinski said Horton was “very involved” in the process to pick Mingo.
Banner said the Browns discussed several trades, but chose to stay at No. 6 to snag Mingo, who skipped his senior season at LSU to jump to the NFL.
Banner was asked if the Browns had any intention of trading back into the first round.
“No, we’re going to sleep,” he joked.
The Browns enter the draft’s second day — Rounds 2 and 3 — with just one pick (No. 68 overall). Cleveland forfeited its second-round pick when it took wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft.
Banner said it’s simply not possible for the Browns to address everything this year.
“We’re not going to fill all the needs of this team this year,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen.”
This draft is already unlike any other in Cleveland history.
It’s taking place while Haslam, who bought the franchise from Randy Lerner for $1.05 billion in October, is under federal investigation for fraud at his Pilot Flying J truck-stop chain.
Haslam spoke briefly to some of the team’s season-ticket holders and sponsors at a party inside the Browns’ field house about an hour before the draft kicked off.
As Chudzinski, Banner and general manager Lombardi went over last-minute details before picking Mingo, Haslam addressed more than 100 partygoers who gathered to watch the draft. Haslam thanked them for their support and gave an update on the team’s progress. However, he did not mention the scandal that has rocked his family’s company based in Knoxville, Tenn.
“The pace, intensity, tempo is no comparison to last year,” Haslam said to the group. “The energy level at practice is quite different. Players are real excited. We had a good free agency and have plenty of (salary) cap room. We need to have another good free agency, another great draft.”
Haslam did not take any questions or speak to the media.
On Tuesday, Haslam met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the owner assured him he would cooperate in the investigation. A league spokesman said last week that there were no plans to ask Haslam to step aside. Last week, FBI and IRS agents raided Pilot’s headquarters as part of a probe into claims of fuel rebate fraud.