Look I’m as shocked as anyone at the title of this piece, but yes, the Cleveland Browns came away as the big winners from the 2017 NFL Draft. The Browns entered this year’s draft with five picks in the first 65, and wound up making the most of those assets.
The Browns did the smart thing and took the draft’s best player, Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett at No. 1. It was simply the pick they had to make to get a difference-making playmaker on defense. Then at No. 12, the Browns resisted reaching for a quarterback and traded down, snagging an extra first-rounder in 2018 from the Houston Texans.
After moving down to No. 25 in the Texans deal, the Browns filled a need at safety with Jabrill Peppers, who was one of the best playmakers in college football last season. Peppers and Garrett will immediately gave Cleveland two big-time upgrades on a defense that sorely needs them. Then the Browns traded up from the first pick in the second round to No. 29 and grabbed Miami’s David Njoku, a big, strong, tight end with decent speed who could be a huge weapon in the passing game. To move up four spots, the Browns only had to give up a four-round pick.
After passing on a quarterback on Day 1, the Browns got one in the middle of the second-round. They grabbed Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer at No. 52. Kizer, an Ohio native, has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback, but he’ll need time to develop maturity, both as a passer and a person. It was a worthwhile gamble for Cleveland. If the Browns aren’t convinced he’s the guy by the end of the 2017 season, they can attempt to draft a signal-caller from a deep 2018 class.
The Browns also added Charlotte defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi in the third round. He’s a high-character kid with a ton of upside but he had really inconsistent tape. Fifith-round pick, Florida State offensive tackle Roderick Johnson has all the measureables but none of the technique. His tape is maddening. Johnson will need a lot of work but the upside is there. Fourth-round Houston cornerback Howard Wilson is an average defender who maybe went a round too high, but was an inoffensive selection at that spot.
Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley was probably worth the risk in the sixth-round. Brantley was at least an early second-round pick on most boards, but he’s charged with assaulting a woman. The public relations nightmare of selecting him hasn’t even begun for the Browns, but if he’s cleared of all charges, maybe things change. If not, they can cut him with virtually no adverse impact on the team.
It’s also worth pointing out that Cleveland’s third-round compensatory selection (No. 103) went to the Patriots in exchange for Jamie Collins, who is now one of the centerpieces of the team’s defense. Yes, that must be considered when grading this draft, as does the extra first-rounder the team picked up.
The Browns added a ton of talent over the weekend. No, they didn’t get a top quarterback, and that remains a big problem. Brock Osweiler or Cody Kessler will likely be starting in 2017 while Kizer sits. And even then, Kizer may not be the answer.
Still, whoever winds up being the quarterback will need talent around him. The Browns did work making that happen, while also securing future picks with smart trades. It’s astonishing to think the Browns actually did great during a draft, but that’s where we’re at.
Strange times indeed.