The 2016 NFL Draft concluded a little under a week ago, and the Cleveland Browns came away with 15 new players (14 via draft picks, 1 via a trade), not including their undrafted free agents. This was the first draft that Sashi Brown, Andrew Berry, and Hue Jackson have collectively been a part of together, so how did they do? Here is a recap, along with my opinions, on how things went down last weekend:
The Browns' 2016 NFL Draft Class: The Browns had 14 draft picks. That is a lot of rookies that you expect to make the team. This franchise has been accumulating picks for awhile now -- Joe Banner tried it, and even Ray Farmer had 12 draft picks last year, including two first-rounders.
There was a big difference between last year's volume of picks and this year's volume, though. In 2015, 7 picks were 5th round picks or higher. In 2016, 13 of the team's draft picks were 5th round picks or higher. On top of that, the Browns already set themselves up to have great positioning in the 2017 NFL Draft, where they'll have two 1st round picks and two 2nd round picks. That is where they will be able to acquire some more of the "bonanza-like talent" who some people feel the team lacked in this year's class.
Here is how this year's draft class panned out:
- 1st Round (#15): WR Corey Coleman
- 2nd Round (#32): DE Emmanuel Ogbah
- 3rd Round (#65): DE Carl Nassib
- 3rd Round (#76): OT Shon Coleman
- 3rd Round (#93): QB Cody Kessler
- 4th Round (#99): LB Joe Schobert
- 4th Round (#114): WR Ricardo Louis
- 4th Round (#129): S Derrick Kindred
- 4th Round (#138): TE Seth DeValve
- 5th Round (#154): WR Jordan Payton
- 5th Round (#168): OT Spencer Drango
- 5th Round (#172): WR Rashard Higgins
- 5th Round (#173): CB Trey Caldwell
- 7th Round (#250): ILB Scooby Wright III
Only 53 players can make the regular season roster. If all 14 draft picks were to make the final roster, that means that at least 26% of the roster will consist of first-year players, and that doesn't factor in any undrafted free agent gems that the scouting department might have found. That's a significant roster turnover in one year, and while not everyone's draft picks make the active roster (see WR Vince Mayle, ILB Hayes Pullard, TE Randall Telfer, and CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu), the story this year will be different. First, three of those guys from a year ago were 6th round picks or later, while the draft investment was much greater this year. Second, the Browns have already cleared veterans off the roster and chosen not to re-sign their best free agents, creating roster vacancies.
Breaking Down the First Round: Heading in to the draft, the Browns had the No. 8 overall pick, but ultimately traded down to No. 15 overall to select WR Corey Coleman. Is there anybody they would have stayed at No. 8 for if they had still been on the board? As crazy as it might sound, had the Philadelphia Eagles done something bizarre and not taken QB Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall and he dropped to No. 8, I think the Browns still would've passed on him. Taking Wentz would be a franchise-altering move, and if they weren't comfortable with the investment at No. 2 overall, I don't think they would've felt much more comfortable six spots later (albeit with a bunch more draft picks in their pocket).
I think the only player Cleveland would've selected at No. 8 had he been on the board was DB Jalen Ramsey, with DE Joey Bosa and DE DeForest Buckner being a close second and third. Given what the Browns' strategy ended up being at the start of Day 2, though, I feel more and more convinced that Ramsey is the only player who would've been too tempting for them to pass up.
With Cleveland having ambitions to trade down to continue to accumulate assets, the resounding rumor out there was that a wide receiver would then be the target with a mid-round pick, a spot where they would likely get their first choice of a group of about 5-6 receivers who were expected to go in the back half of the first round. There were two players/positions teams were interested in trading up for: RB Ezekiel Elliot and one of the offensive tackles -- either Ronnie Stanley, Laremy Tunsil, or Jack Conklin.
We also know about some of the other first-round chatter via the Dallas Cowboys, thanks to the awesome article compiled by Peter King on MMQB. The Cowboys were set on taking Elliot, but thought they could work it out that they could move down to No. 6 and swap picks with the Baltimore Ravens. The thinking was that Baltimore would love to have Ramsey, but that Jacksonville at No. 5, sandwiched between the two teams, would take him ahead of the Ravens. According to the article, the Ravens were willing to part with a 4th rounder, but Dallas wanted a 3rd rounder. The Cowboys stalled while on the clock to see if Baltimore would give in, but no return phone call came so they took Elliot.
The debacle just minutes before the draft involving OT Laremy Tunsil might have actually helped the Browns. With Elliot off the board, offensive tackle was the only position teams would want to trade up for. Suddenly, instead of three offensive tackles possibly going in the top 10, that number was cut to two.OT Ronnie Stanley went to the Ravens, meaning Conklin was the only "non-troubled" top talent available. If the Titans knew two offensive tackles were available, maybe they pass on the opportunity to move up with Cleveland to see if somebody drops to them, or if they could give up less with a move up to No. 12, or something along those lines. "This is the only guy left and somebody could take him" might have upped the stakes for Tennessee.
So what about the actual selection of Coleman? I had pegged Laquon Treadwell as my top receiver, but I would've been content with either he, Coleman, or Josh Doctson. With the selection of any of those guys, the narrative can be written as to why it's a great fit for the team. For Coleman, the narrative matches the Browns perfectly: he's the pick that analytics favor.
Coleman possesses what Pro Football Focus labels as an "elite suddenness with his movement," which he uses to make big plays after the catch. PFF called Coleman the best receiver in the draft in the months leading up to it, and broke down a couple of more plays here. This isn't just a plug-and-play replacement for WR Travis Benjamin, who was very much a straight-line runner who improved his catching ability as a fourth-year player. If he can cut down on the drops, Coleman should lead the team in receiving as a rookie in Hue Jackson's offense, and I support a first-round pick that gives a boost to the offensive side of the ball as opposed to the defensive side. Cleveland's offense needed a playmaker, and they got one.
The Browns & Cowboys Connection: As revealed by the MMQB article I linked to earlier, so much of Dallas' draft ended up being affected by what Cleveland did. One of the first instances came after the Browns took WR Corey Coleman at No. 15. Presumably, Dallas wasn't willing to move ahead of Cleveland, but once they saw that the Browns weren't taking QB Paxton Lynch, they then began putting together the offers to move up to get him.
Around picks 17-23, the Cowboys were willing to part with their 2nd and 3rd round picks to move up. Starting at pick 24, the compensation turned into a 2nd and 4th rounder. They could have done the deal with Seattle at No. 26 had they been willing to part with their 2nd and 3rd rounder. While trying to decide for a couple of minutes, the Denver Broncos swooped in and got Lynch instead. If Dallas had made the trade earlier to move down to No. 6 to pick up an extra fourth rounder, they might've been able to ship both 4th round picks or been more willing to dish out their third.
Heading into Day 2 of the draft, all eyes were on Cleveland, who held the first pick of the day at No. 32. We heard rumors for awhile that the Browns would take the highest bidder and be willing to move down. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network believes that the Seahawks "stole" OT Germain Ifedi from the Browns when they selected him at No. 31 to end Day 1. We may never know if that was truly the case, but the fact that Cleveland stayed put at No. 32 shows how much they really believe in DE Emmanuel Ogbah. The team they were engaged in the most serious trade talks with was the Dallas Cowboys. Similar to round one, where the Cowboys wanted to move down two spots if their guy was still there, Cleveland wanted to do the same. The deal-breaker was the fact that Dallas really had their heart set on Ogbah too.
That wasn't all. If you recall, the Browns owned the first two picks on Day 3 as well at No. 99 and No. 100. After making the pick at No. 99, the Cowboys wanted to trade up to get QB Connor Cook to make up for not getting Lynch on Day 1. Dallas was on the clock one pick later at No. 101, so it shouldn't take much, right? Dallas offered a 6th round pick in 2017, but the Browns said "no." Dallas then offered a 6th round pick in 2016, and the Browns said "no" again. Why? Because Oakland's offer was better -- for moving down 14 picks, Cleveland could add a 5th rounder.
Dallas' offer, given that it was just one spot, was probably pretty equivalent on your conventional trade value chart. However, I'm a big believer in anything above a 5th round pick, and Sashi Brown seemed to buy into that as well. Oakland took Cook, and I'm sure Jerry Jones will be wondering for awhile what he could/should have done differently. They originally wanted Elliot & Lynch or Elliot & Ogbah, but instead ended up with Elliot and a flier on LB Jaylon Smith.
Committing to the Pass Rush: One thing we have to remember about defensive coordinator Ray Horton is that Cleveland isn't going to be pigeon-holed as a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. If you don't remember hearing the word "hybrid" or the phrase "multiple fronts" during Horton's first stint with the team, it won't be long before you are well-versed with them again. The Browns' two premium picks as part of that hyrbrid-look came on defensive end/edge rush players in the form of DE Emmanuel Ogbah (2nd round) and DE Carl Nassib (3rd round) to start Day 2. On Day 3, they went with LB Joe Schobert to kick off the 4th round. Schobert has been pegged to get some work at both inside and outside linebacker.
PFF had Ogbah as their 8th best pass rusher heading into the draft. The top two players in pass-rushing productivity? Schobert and Nassib. They do sacrifice some production in the run-stopping department, but Horton clearly wants to improve this team's ability to get after the quarterback. We've already seen the team part ways with OLB Scott Solomon, and I wouldn't be surprised to see OLB Barkevious Mingo on the chopping block if he doesn't have a solid camp. Given the legal issues that came under OLB Armonty Bryant this offseason, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him shown the door too. Randy Starks' starting role from a year ago was open, and between Ogbah and Nassib, the team will have no problem filling it.
The Surplus of Wide Receivers: The biggest overhaul in 2016 is going to come via the wide receiver position. Not including the fact that WR Josh Gordon could have his suspension overturned at some point, here is who Cleveland currently has at the position:
None of the team's undrafted free agent signings were at the receiver position. It's probably unrealistic to think that all four rookies will light the world on fire and flat out beat out a couple of the veteran receivers, but they are going to be given favoritism on the back end of the depth chart. Despite his multiple concussions a year ago, Hawkins should be the team's best fit as a slot receiver still. Hartline should stick around for training camp, but whether he makes the roster will depend on how well the rookies performed.
It should be the end-of-the-road for Gabriel, Jennings, and Hall. Moore still has a legitimate chance of sticking as the core special teamer, especially since special teams coordinator Chris Tabor has already lost DB Johnson Bademosi. The one wildcard is Pryor, who at 6-4, 233 lbs. is still far-and-away the team's biggest-bodied receiver. There is enough potential there to give him a full offseason of work with Hue Jackson.
In summary, what are we looking at? The team will keep seven receivers, with one of them being Moore as a special teamer. I think the other six are split down the middle between the rookies and veterans -- three players each. If Gordon is re-instated and the team doesn't trade him, one of the veterans will get the boot. There is no way the Browns will sacrifice the roster spot of a 2016 draft investment for a guy they have no faith they can rely on.
Before I go on, let me quickly touch on each of the team's drafted receivers after Coleman. Rashard Higgins had a 2nd round grade but fell to the 5th round because some feel he doesn't have the measurables to stand out at the NFL level. His college production was very good, and he could be the best of the later three receivers in terms of route running and ball skills. Can he separate at the line of scrimmage quick enough to show off those skills, though?
Jordan Payton, taken early in the 5th round, has some better measurables than Higgins but seems to fit the bill of a possession receiver who can also be a strong blocker. If you have a guy like Payton who starts producing at a consistent level, then you don't really need a Brian Hartline on the roster too. Despite being taken in the 4th round, Ricardo Louis seems to be the least ready receiver of the group, to the point where some draft experts wondered before the draft if he would be switched to running back or defensive back. He's the biggest receiver Cleveland drafted at 6-2, 215 lbs. and has good straight-line speed, though, and players with the more impressive measurables sometimes get drafted ahead of guys with better production.
If I had to rank the four receivers in terms of preference, it would go like this: Coleman, Higgins, Payton, and Louis.
Was four receivers too many? I don't think so. 14 draft picks allowed the team to be both versatile with their picks, while also over-addressing areas of need. The reason you over-address is because you know you aren't going to hit on very many picks after the first couple of rounds. Heck, even if just one of the rookies after Coleman can develop into a No. 2 receiver while the other two are complete busts, playing the numbers game and investing three mid-round picks in finding that No. 2 receiver was well worth it.
That entire philosophy isn't possible if the Browns stay at No. 2 and take their franchise quarterback. It would've left the Browns without a No. 1 receiver (Coleman) and probably taking one or two fliers on No. 2-ceiling receivers. Former Browns CEO Joe Banner told MMQB that he loved the Browns' strategy and execution -- and he should, because as much as the fanbase didn't care for his reign, Banner was a bit of a visionary when it came to this type of thing:
"You can pick one player at No. 2 who has a 50-50 chance of being successful, or you can trade back and leave with a whole package of present and future picks," Banner said. "And in that sense, that’s why what the Browns did was so smart, compelling and, frankly, different. The philosophy, a lot of teams have been doing for a long time. But the actual execution of it, the degree of what they got, I haven’t seen that done."
Pre-Labeling Players: The most polarizing player from this draft, and the guy who will stir up some heated training camp discussions, will be rookie QB Cody Kessler. I would have been against the Browns taking a quarterback in the first two rounds -- there is too much premium talent there. The first pick of the third round would have been a bit of a stretch for me too. After that, while I still didn't expect a quarterback, that is where I went with the following mindset: "Alright, guys [the Browns front office] -- it's time to take the players you really want to make sure you don't miss out on them for the sake of predicting where other teams value them."
Mid-way through the third round, I think the Browns were of the mindset that they would take their quarterback with one of their first two picks in the fourth round. When the New England Patriots selected QB Jacoby Brissett at No. 91, the Browns might have shifted gears at No. 93. The good folks over at The OBR have hinted that Cleveland really liked two lower-end quarterbacks in the draft: Brissett and Kessler. When the Patriots suddenly took one of those guys off the board, the Browns didn't want to come up empty on both of them. Whether they preferred Brissett or Kessler, I don't know -- but Hue Jackson comes off as very convincing that Kessler was his guy.
If Kessler's going to be the most polarizing, then the most intriguing player will definitely be TE Seth DeValve. He's only 6-2, 244 lbs, so he doesn't have the height that your "Rob Gronkowski" or even your "Gary Barnidge" type of players have. DeValve was a surprise coming out of the fourth round as, quite frankly, no one had really heard anything about him. Jackson is going to have the ability to do a lot of motions at the line of scrimmage with DeValve to try to create some mismatches on defense. The big question mark will be whether he can block well enough to the point where the team can shave two of the following three players off the roster by the time final cuts are named: Malcolm Johnson, Randall Telfer, and E.J. Bibbs.
The fan favorite is already the team's final pick, ILB Scobby Wright III. His emotional reaction to being drafted, coupled with his name and the fact that he was sporting a Browns shirt about an hour or two after being drafted, won the fans over.
Wright isn't the best athlete, so you shouldn't expect him to be playing man-to-man coverage with a tight end downfield. He's a tough, hard-working kid who plays the run well, which could make him a candidate to play in some short-yardage run defense situations. Although I don't mind Tank Carder, Wright could also end up taking his roster spot, which would please a lot of fans.
The Remaining Picks: So far, I've touched on 10 of the team's draft picks, so let's look at the other 4 guys briefly, starting with the team addressing the vacancy at right tackle. Shon Coleman (3rd round) and Spencer Drango (5th round) will both compete for the starting right tackle job along with veterans Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey. I would not be surprised in the least if Bowie ends up getting cut soon to make it a three-way competition. He's basically been removed from football for a couple of years now and is a product of the former regime.
Coleman's college football career was interrupted when he had to undergo 30 months of chemo treatments. He persevered and is cancer-free and played left tackle at a pretty high level for Auburn. Due to his time off, he's still a bit of a work-in-progress, but Cleveland feels they can develop him with their veteran coaching staff. Will he be "ready enough" to start Week 1, or will Bailey or Drango get the nod instead? Again, that's the benefit of having multiple picks at a position of need: even if you miss on one, you're not completely S.O.L.
The final two picks I haven't touched on come via the secondary and are probably the most underwhelming for me: S Derrick Kindred in the fourth round and CB Trey Caldwell in the 5th round. The Browns will carry at least four safeties this season, so Kindred will definitely have a roster spot, with the other three safeties being Jordan Poyer, Ibraheim Campbell, and Rahim Moore. Kindred showed a lot of toughness by playing through a broken collarbone last year, but he had an alarming number of missed tackles. He's better in coverage, but not enough to be a starting-caliber player, and I don't know how much I like having a guy with so many missed tackles on special teams.
Caldwell is underwhelming not because of how he rates as a player, but because cornerback is still pretty stacked for Cleveland. That should sound ridiculous given how awful the cornerbacks played last year, but Ray Horton should coach them back up this year and hopefully Joe Haden can stay away from the concussions. Unless the team decides to part ways with Tramon Williams at some point, the depth chart isn't in favor of Caldwell with Haden, Williams, K'Waun Williams, and Justin Gilbert likely having roster spots locked down. The team could have a three-way battle between Caldwell, Pierre Desir, and Charles Gaines for one or two roster spots. At 5-9, 185 lbs, Caldwell projects as a nickelback. He's not going to take Williams' spot, but he could make the club if he can beat out Gaines for that backup nickelback spot.
Analytical Breakdowns & Quotes from Scouts: A major thanks to DBN user CoyG Biv, who has been posting a series of analytical breakdowns of the Browns' draft picks. I don't know if the FanPosts get enough exposure, so I'd like to link to them here for those who are interested in checking them out:
Series Title: Analyzing the Analytics of an Analytical Draft
- Part 1- Corey Coleman
- Part 2- Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib
- Part 3 - Late Round WR's
- Part 4 - Joe Schobert and Derrick Kindred
- Part 5 - DeValve, Caldwell, Drango and Scooby
Also, every year before the draft, Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel reviews some of the top talent in the draft and directly relays some quotes that were provided by scouts. Here they are:
- On WR Corey Coleman:
Scout 1: "He is a slot but he could play outside. He's a No. 2. His play speed is good and he's athletic. Baylor guys have a lot to learn because of the way they play. On their backside, they don't even come off the line and you don't really block."
Scout 2: "He's very thick and strong and short. Explosive run after the catch guy. He's like Anquan Boldin."
Scout 3: "He doesn't have great hands but he has solid hands. Part of his (catching) issue is they went through four quarterbacks this year at Baylor."
- On DE Emmanuel Ogbah:
Scout 1: "Prototypical 4-3 defensive end. He's got a high ceiling and he’s made of the right stuff. Just starting to figure out how good he can be. He's a pretty darn good total package."
Scout 2: "That Big 12 is like Arena football. It’s no huddle, and these pass rushers are asked to mush rush because they’ve got these quarterbacks that can slip through there. That’s an old (Bill) Belichick word. It slows down the rush. It’s hard to show pass rush. Emmanuel Ogbah, I love him."
Scout 3: "He’d be better standing up. One of those guys with phenomenal height, weight, speed. Tested tremendously well. But he doesn’t play hard all the time, he’s stiff and he’s not naturally instinctive. There’s probably a 65% chance he busts and a 35% chance he’s a double-digit sack guy. Boom or bust type."
- On OT Shon Coleman:
Scout 1: "I want to give Shon the benefit of the doubt. He was away from football for two years and has gone through (cancer) treatment. He's a developmental left tackle. Has some length (35 1/8 arms) and movement but needs more strength (22 reps on the bench press) to play in the league. I like his height and his demeanor."
Scout 2: "Prototypical dimensions. He's talented enough (to start). Needs to work on his bend and anchor."
Scout 3: "I didn't like him. Waist-bender. I hate waist-benders."
- On LB Joe Schobert:
Scout 1: "Shea McClellin comes to mind. Very similar in a lot of ways. Just a good football player."
Scout 2: "He can rush a little bit, play outside a little bit, play 'mike.' He'd be a great guy to have training and being your first one off the bench as a rookie and then developing into one of the starters in his second, third year."
Scout 3: "I bet you he gets drafted in the bottom of the fourth as a weak inside backer in a 3-4. He's athletic. Modern day football, baby."
By the Numbers: I want to thank everyone who tuned in to Dawgs By Nature during our draft coverage! For the three days of the draft, we had 33 posts with a total of about 12,332 comments! We set a new record for number of posts in a three-day span. Also, we continued to break DBN draft records in terms of traffic, as our streak continues to go upwards.
- 2011: 88,545 pageviews, 37,381 visits
- 2012: 142,533 pageviews, 55,975 visits
- 2013: 188,009 pageviews, 75,985 visits
- 2014: 287,972 pageviews, 120,737 visits
- 2015: 295,170 pageviews, 154,091 visits
2016: 445,864 pageviews, 232,574 visits
In addition to all of our readers, I'd like to give a big thanks to Zach Miller, Jon Stinchcomb, rufio, Joe Ginley, Matt Wood, Dan Lalich, and Josh Finney for all of the assistance they provided, both behind-the-scenes and in terms of coverage.