BEREA, Ohio —
The Cleveland Browns made two early trades and then selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8 in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
With the first deal of the draft, the Browns, who were expected to use one of their two first-round picks on a quarterback, moved down five spots and acquired Buffalo’s No. 9 pick and first- and fourth-round picks next year. Cleveland then swapped picks with Minnesota, acquiring a fifth-rounder before taking Gilbert, who they plan to play on the opposite side of Pro Bowler Joe Haden.
Browns first-year general manager Ray Farmer passed up on Johnny Manziel — which he later drafted at No. 22 after making the team’s third trade of the first day — as well as wide receiver Sammy Watkins and linebacker Khalil Mack before picking Gilbert.
“He’s long. He’s fast. He’s explosive. He’s a playmaker,” Farmer said. “He plays like a Brown. He’s got great arm length. He’s got the speed. He’s got the ball skills. I know some people have questioned his tackling. We cover like Browns, tackling was good, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be great. We understand exactly who he is, what he is. We think he can make plays for us. He’s going to play relentless. He’s going to play at the line of scrimmage and press people. He’s able to do things we need him to do.”
Gilbert wasn’t sure the Browns were that interested in him until he was getting ready to head to New York.
“It’s a dream come true,” Gilbert said in a conference call. “I became friends with him (Haden) not too long ago and he’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert had seven interceptions last season, returning two for touchdowns.
“I pretty much can do it all,” Gilbert said. “I’m an all-around cornerback.”
Gilbert scoffed at critics who say he’s a weak tackler.
“I’ve heard it before,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t bother me at all because I know I can tackle.”
Gilbert can also help the Browns in the return game. He owns the Oklahoma State and Big 12 record with six career kickoff returns for touchdowns.
“Justin is a very gifted football player who brings a lot to a team, both on defense and in the return game,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “He is a playmaker. His decision to come back to Oklahoma State for his senior season really paid off because he established himself as one of the top players in this year’s draft. We’re very proud of Justin and happy for both him and his family.”