As Cleveland Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam and every football fan *should* know, it's far too early to grade any team's draft performance. But it's never too early to speculate.
Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus released an article Tuesday afternoon ranking the best and worst selection by every team in the 2016 NFL Draft. You can read the full piece here, it's worth the read.
In the article, the PFF senior analyst called Rashard Higgins the club's best pick, and Ricardo Louis the team's worst.
The Browns drafted Higgins, a wideout out of Colorado State, in the fifth round with the No. 172 pick. The Dallas native fits the bill of the player the Browns were looking for this year – solid character, fits the scheme, and good stats in college. The 21-year-old wide receiver set several CSU records, finishing his career with 3,649 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons.
Higgins’ production the last two seasons has been obscene. In 2014 he trailed only Tyler Lockett and Amari Cooper in our grading. There are athleticism concerns, but Higgins already knows how to run routes like a veteran wideout. He was one of several values Cleveland landed, including at wide receiver.
Other draftniks have also spoken highly of the 6'2,190 pound prospect, including Mark Dulgerian of NFL.com:
"Hollywood" Higgins is the most pro-ready WR the Browns have selected in terms of experience in a pro-style system. He's QB friendly with separation savvy and sticky hands. He has potential to be a short to intermediate workhorse in Hue Jackson's offense.
Renner and others are not so high on Louis, a fourth round selection at No. 114.
The 6'1, 214 pound wide receiver did not catch many passes in a run-heavy Auburn offense. Louis caught 98 passes for 1,338 yards and 8 touchdowns in four seasons, not impressive stats.
However, the Browns did not draft Louis for his stats, in this instance. New Browns scouting director Andrew Berry calls Louis a "burner," an explosive wideout who can do damage in a Hue Jackson offense.
Louis didn’t make our final draft board of the top 250 prospects, which is why he represents the worst value in an otherwise impressive draft haul from Cleveland. That was in part based on him not grading particularly well in Auburn’s run-heavy offense, but Louis actually ranked fourth in the class in yards per route run average (3.51), meaning he offers some upside in the pros if he receives a larger workload.
As Renner wrote, I don't quite see Louis as a productive wideout unless he receives more work and a chance to grow as a route runner and pass catcher. Sure, Louis has the speed, but does he have the other traits that make a wideout successful?
At a position crowded with players, Louis will have to show his stuff, and quickly. It's far too soon to tell, but Louis has a tough road to earning a roster spot.
What do you think? Do you agree with PFF's selections? Let us know in the comments section below.