Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Morning Kickoff …
Déjà vu all over again?: The Browns ignored Clay Matthews’ son in the 2009 draft. Will they do they same to Frank Minnifield’s son this year?
Clay Matthews III was the 26th pick in the 2009 draft. The Browns needed an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense they played at the time, but they passed on Clay four times – trading down from No. 5 to No. 17 to No. 19 and to No. 21. There they selected center Alex Mack.
Clay III wound up with the Green Bay Packers, for whom he helped win the Super Bowl championship in his second season.
Now comes another son of a former Browns’ great. Chase Minnifield plays cornerback, the same position his dad Frank Minnifield played on the Browns with distinction for nine seasons.
Like every team, the Browns are always looking for cornerbacks. Will they give Minnifield’s son a closer look than they gave Matthews’ son?
The best-laid plans went awry: Chase Minnifield considered leaving Virginia after his junior season last year, but he returned to school in hopes of improving his draft position. A knee injury at the end of the season has thrown into question when he will be drafted.
After consulting the famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, his father decided Chase should have surgery in January to remove cartilage particles. The surgery was minor, but it wiped out Chase’s pre-draft season. The trade-off was the promise to be fully healthy for his first pro training camp.
Chase wasn’t able to work out at the combine. Two weeks later, he pushed through the Virginia pro day at 80 percent to show, Frank said, that “he was on his way back and the surgery wasn’t major.”
“We’re going back to Dr. Andrews and will have him write something official that he’s fully recovered and 100 percent,” Frank said. “I would say if somebody wants to work him out, he’ll be ready. At this point, he hasn’t had any requests. Next week he is going back to Indy for a (medical) re-check.”
Frank said that his son is far more prepared to play in the NFL than he was coming out of University of Louisville in 1982. Chase played for two seasons under Al Groh, who was a long-time NFL assistant with the Browns and other teams.
“Anybody at Virginia will tell you his football IQ is off the charts, far as understanding the complexities of what the defense is trying to do,” Frank said. “At no point did I have a coach that played in the NFL. Not a DB coach or a head coach.”
How does Chase compare to his father athletically?
“He’s a real good leaper, real good jumper,” Frank said. “Not like that crazy number I would put up. My vertical jump was like 48 (inches). Chase is a little bit taller (by one inch), much longer. His arms are much longer. I’m more compact, shorter arms. He’s a whole lot more rangy-looking than me. I would say his biggest attribute is his length and his jumping (normally 38 inches). He’s probably got five inches on my reach.”
Does Minnifield want his son to play in Cleveland?: “You know, I have mixed feelings about Chase coming to Cleveland,” Frank said.
“I would love for him to be in Cleveland just because I know how great an experience it would be. I also know I have my detractors in Cleveland and I would hate for him to start out with 50 percent of people hoping he fails.”
Despite being a four-time Pro Bowler – and co-creator of the Dawg Pound with Hanford Dixon – Minnifield never got the credit he deserved as one of the Browns’ greatest players. I consider him one of the franchise’s five most under-rated talents.
“Some people kind of took offense to how brash me and Hanford tried to play and how confident we went about doing our jobs,” he said. “People aren’t receptive to some of the things I would say during the normal course of business.
“Chase is a much more polite kid because he didn’t grow up in the housing projects. He’s never been in a situation where he could’ve been really hurt seriously on the streets like several occasions I was in. Those kind of things kind of shape your world. But it’s amazing the resolve Chase has to be successful.”
Where will Minnifield be taken?: NFLdraftscout.com rates Minnifield the 109th player overall and the 15th cornerback, a third- or fourth-round pick.
“I just hope he’s not disappointed if the NFL discounts all the things he’s done up to this point because of the ‘scope he had,” Frank said. “He really had his heart set on coming back this year because he was probably thinking third round draft pick after his junior year and six interceptions. He came back to be a first-round draft pick. I know he’s going to be disappointed for anything other than first round.
“I’m going to be happy because it will be a dream come true for him. Whatever team gets him they’re going to get a very motivated football player. The reason the team loses won’t be because of Chase Minnifield.”
When the Browns passed on Clay Matthews III, Tom Heckert wasn’t the Browns general manager. You’ve got to hope that Heckert would have taken a closer look at Matthews. Heckert’s dad was a scout with the Browns when the elder Matthews and Minnifield were leading the Browns to five consecutive playoff appearances.
The Browns better not blow another evaluation of a second-generation Brown.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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