Many had the feeling outside linebacker Joe Schobert would be the first Wisconsin Badgers player drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. The 2016 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year led the team in sacks (9.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (5), and was one of the four captains last season.
The Cleveland Browns selected Schobert with the 99th overall selection, the first in the fourth round, back in late April. To help us discuss the former former walk-on’s chances in “Believeland,” Joe Ginley from Dawgs by Nature answered some of our questions.
What were fan's reactions to the Browns drafting the former walk-on with the first selection in the fourth round?
JG: To be honest, most Cleveland Browns fans did not know his name. Take that as you may, but most fans did not expect the Browns to select Joe Schobert.
Personally, I didn't know a lot about Schobert when he was picked with the first pick of the fourth round. Along with a lot of Browns faithful, I knew more about Joshua Perry out of Ohio State, and expected the Browns to select Perry for his raw athleticism and playmaking ability.
But once fans saw phrases in his bio such as "unrelenting effort," and "driven mentality," Browns fans were sold. In our post pick poll, about 80 percent (1,092 readers) voted the pick was a good one for the Browns.
It sounds like the Browns coaches and personnel don't necessarily know where he'll end up either as an outside or inside linebacker. What position makes sense from your vantage point?
JG: Inside linebacker looks like the better fit at this point. Following the departure of Karlos Dansby, the Browns have a big hole in the middle of the defense. Schobert's quickness and ability to slip off blocks, combined with his football smarts, make him an ideal fit at inside linebacker.
Some might say outside linebacker, but I don't agree, due to Schobert's lack of off-the-charts athleticism or speed. His instincts and tackling ability also fill a big need in the middle, because the Browns need a sure tackler at linebacker.
At both linebacker positions, who will he have to beat out?
JG: At inside linebacker, Schobert's top competitor is Demario Davis. The Browns picked up the former Jet to fill the hole left by Dansby. Davis is nearly identical in size to Schobert, with more experience and durabilty.
Schobert likely won't have to beat out Davis, however, just Christian Kirksey. The Iowa product has been alright in his last two seasons, but far from stellar. Schobert could beat him out, though Kirksey did earn more playing time in 2015. Besides Kirksey, career special teamers Justin Tuggle and Tank Carder will compete for time, along with late round pick Scooby Wright.
At outside backer, Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo hold the starter spots (for now). Each disappointed last year, though new defensive coordinator Ray Horton also has second-year backer Nate Orchard and rookie Emmanuel Ogbah to work in. None of these four is a stud, leaving the door open for Schobert.
Do you see him as a starter on the defense this year, or potentially down the road?
JG: I see Schobert working his way into the depth chart for 6-8 games, but not the entire season. I think Wright will steal the show initially at inside linebacker and Mingo and Orchard will take steps forward, shutting the door at first for Schobert.
However, Mingo and Wright are both injury-prone, meaning Schobert will get a shot at some point. Plus, Horton likes to rotate players in and out at linebacker to keep guys fresh,
Lastly, how much does Cleveland love another Joe from Wisconsin, in All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas?
JG: Cleveland loves Joes in general (myself notwithstanding), especially Joes from Wisconsin. Joe Haden and Joe Thomas are two of the fans' favorite players, especially Thomas. He personifies the Cleveland persona of earning everything, working hard everyday, regardless of the circumstances. I love watching Thomas play.
Based on what I've heard of Schobert, Cleveland fans will quickly learn to love the other Joe from Wisconsin, too.