In watching the Browns’ draft the past few days my feelings ranged from relieved to puzzled to hopeful to disappointed. The team again did a lot of maneuvering and came away with a large number of prospects. I am excited about some of the picks and worried/confused by some others. I know that a draft cannot be accurately judged or graded for several years, but at this point, last year’s draft seems like a disappointment. Let’s hope the front office has figured it out, and Cleveland is on its way to finally fielding a winning football team. Here are my initial reactions to this year’s picks.
Pick #1 (1st pick overall, 1st round) – Myles Garrett DE
My initial response to this pick was a sense of relief. Adam Schefter had me worried when he reported the Browns were seriously considering Mitchell Trubisky at #1. I am glad the Browns took the consensus #1 guy in the draft with the first pick. Taking a talented pass rusher addresses a need they’ve pretty much had since their return in 1999, and they resisted the urge to reach for another unproven quarterback. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’m glad the Browns didn’t screw it up.
Pick #2 (25th pick overall, 1st round) – Jabrill Peppers SS
I was a little disappointed in this pick only because I think the Browns left some talent on the table by not picking at #12. They traded #12 to the Houston Texans for #25 and the Texans’ first round pick next year. While it’s nice to have an extra first rounder next year, it will probably be a later selection. I was really excited that Ohio State safety Malik Hooker was still on the board at #12 because I think he is a dynamic game-changing player, but I realize there are many holes to fill. Jabrill Peppers is a good prospect at strong safety which is also an area of need, and he can return kicks and be used in special packages on offense as well. I feel that he was a little overrated in college (and I hate Michigan), but I think he has a chance to be a very solid player in the secondary for year to come.
Pick #3 (29th pick overall, 1st round) – David Njoku TE
I am excited about adding a very gifted and athletic tight end as a weapon on offense. I’m not sure the Browns had to trade up to get him because he would have probably made it to their original pick at #33, but there was a run being made on tight ends. He looks like he still has a lot of potential to uncover because he is fairly new to the position, but I am a little disappointed we won’t get to see him in two tight end sets with Gary Barnidge. I was shocked to see the Browns released him after this pick. I know he had a kind of disappointing season last year, but he didn’t cost a ton of money. The Browns also still have plenty of cap space. It would have been nice to have him learn from a veteran like Barnidge and see what they could have done together on the field.
Pick #4 (52nd overall, 2nd Round) – DeShone Kizer QB
This is an interesting pick. The Browns were criticized for not taking a quarterback in the first round when they have a definite need at the position, but I applaud them for not overdrafting a quarterback with question marks just because they needed one. I think Kizer makes sense here. He was once considered in the conversation of top quarterback prospect in this class. He showed some good things at Notre Dame but also struggled to be consistent and win games last season when he lost a lot of his weapons and protection. Kizer is big and has an arm strong enough to make all the throws in the NFL, but he sometimes struggles with holding onto the ball too long and inconsistent mechanics. Hopefully Hue Jackson can take some time to develop him and help him reach his potential. He could possibly end up being the steal of the draft.
Pick #5 (65th overall, 3rd round) – Larry Ogunjobi DT
I can’t say I’ve seen much of Ogunjobi because he played his college football at Charlotte, but the seems to be a good prospect. It also is not going to hurt the Browns to add another big guy up front who can affect the pass game and get tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Ogunjobi only started playing football his sophomore year of high school, so hopefully Gregg Williams can help him continue to add to his game. He started every game for Charlotte’s young program and led the team in TFL’s each year. The team has had a real problem on defense the last several years, so I am happy to see two picks in the first three rounds being used up front on that side of the ball.
Pick #6 (126th overall, 4th round) – Howard Wilson CB
The Browns traded two fifth round picks to move into the fourth for a cornerback. I really like this pick. Wilson has pretty good size, speed, and length, and he has a nose for the football. He led Houston in interceptions with 5 last season and also had 10 passes defensed and 54 tackles. Wilson has tremendous energy and confidence and is not afraid of guarding receivers one-on-one at the next level. Secondary is another position of need on the Browns, and Wilson is a good value in the fourth round. This was considered to be a defensive-heavy draft, and some experts said he could’ve gone as high as the second round in some other years.
Pick #7 (Pick 160th overall, 5th Round) – Roderick Johnson OT
This draft was considered to be a poor one for offensive linemen, but you should always take at least one in the draft. The Browns really bolstered their offensive line in free agency, but their only question mark is at right tackle. Johnson was first team All-ACC last season and should compete with Shon Coleman, Spencer Drango, and fellow Seminole Cam Erving for the open spot. A team should always be looking to develop linemen with late picks, and Joe Thomas won’t be around forever. I think this is another solid pick.
Pick #8 (Pick 185th overall, 6th round) – Caleb Brantley DT
Brantley is probably a second or third round talent at defensive tackle from Florida who fell in the draft due to off-field issues. He has been charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly punching a woman at a night-club. Sashi Brown said the team has been checking into it and will possibly release him if they don’t like what they find. I was disappointed in the pick because if these allegations are true, I don’t want him to be a part of the Browns organization, and I don’t understand why they would draft a guy that they have already said they may cut if they become uncomfortable with what they find. This was a puzzling pick.
Pick #9 (Pick 224th overall, 7th round) – Zane Gonzalez K
Gonzalez is considered to be the best kicker in the class as he won the Lou Groza award for the best collegiate kicker. He was also a unanimous first team All-American. The Browns kicking game has had some issues since All-Pro Phil Dawson went to the 49ers a few years ago. It’s difficult to kick with the swirling winds at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and this isn’t a bad place to address the position.
Pick #10 (Pick 252nd overall, 7th round) – Matthew Dayes RB
At this point in the draft, teams are mainly just trying to guarantee themselves first rights to a guy they may be interested in bringing into camp as an undrafted free agent. The Browns have decent running backs, but they have not been able to extend Isaiah Crowell at this point, and most people don’t consider Duke Johnson to be an every-down, feature back. Injuries and age are always a concern at the position, and there is a short shelf-life for NFL running backs. Bringing in a guy with some upside on a late round selection is not a bad idea.