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2017 NFL Draft Grades: Cleveland Browns' first-round earns a B+ again

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NFL Draft Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

For the second year in a row, Sashi Brown and the Cleveland Browns’ front office earned a B+ for their efforts in the draft, although the type of drafts the team had were much different, which I will get to in my personal grade later on.

In the table below, you will find grades for Cleveland's first round from around the web. Each website is linked if you'd like to read more details about why the picks were graded the way they were, or if you want to see how other NFL teams compared with their grades. Most sites graded the picks individually, which I then averaged into a composite grade.

Site Grade Notes from Website on Grade
SB Nation B Garrett: Believe it or not, the Cleveland Browns made the smart move in taking Garrett instead of a quarterback with the first overall pick. Cleveland can pair Garrett with Emmanuel Ogbah, a second-round pick from last season, to give the Browns a nice developing duo of edge rushers. Garrett is not a flawless prospect – he needs to get better against the run – but he’s the right pick for the Browns. Simply, the best player goes first overall and fills a big need. What’s not to like? (Grade: A+)

Peppers:
Whatever you think of this pick is dependent on whether or not you think Peppers has a position. I do. "What do I look like? I’m a safety," Peppers declared at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s right. Michigan misused Peppers playing him as a hybrid linebacker/safety near the line of scrimmage. I had him rated as the 16th best player in the draft. With Garrett, Ogbah, Jamie Collins and now Peppers, the Browns are stacking their defense with athletes. (Grade: B-)

Njoku:
So much for the Browns needing to get a quarterback in the first round to get a fifth year rookie contract season. The Browns have an excess of picks, so we should see them continue maneuvering all weekend. But was this actually a good pick? Many thought Cleveland would take Howard, so it’s not a surprise from a positional standpoint. Njoku isn’t much of a traditional tight end. Instead, he’s more of a true replacement for what Terrelle Pryor brought to the offense. But now you’re left with Cody Kessler as your starting quarterback. That’s why the grade gets knocked. (Grade: C+)
Sports Illustrated B+ Garrett: There were a good 24 hours or so leading into Thursday when people started buying into the idea that Cleveland would take QB Mitchell Trubisky over Garrett. Wisely, the Browns stuck to the program and nabbed the top available prospect. With Garrett and Jamie Collins, the rebuilding Browns finally can start formulating something of a defensive identity. Garrett’s exceptional upside as an edge rusher also should allow Collins to play more of a free-flowing role—he’s best utilized as a movable part, not necessarily as a pass rusher. That the Browns even considered Trubisky so late in the process says a lot about their current situation at quarterback, but they could not risk leaving Garrett on the table. (Grade: A)

Peppers:
The Browns stayed the course at No. 1, grabbing Myles Garrett. And then … well, things got weird. After trading away the 12th pick and a shot at Deshaun Watson, the Browns dropped back 13 spots and nabbed one of the more divisive members of this draft class. Peppers is a freaky athlete, one who can contribute on special teams and even offense. But what will he be for the Browns beyond that? Probably a slot CB/safety hybrid with extreme upside, but this still came out of nowhere given the team making the pick. Keep in mind: Cleveland has three second-round picks, plus the extra 2018 first it added earlier Thursday. (Grade: B)

Njoku:
The Browns traded back into Round 1, coughing up picks 33 and 108. Surely, this had to be for the quarterback, right? Or not… The Browns chose a different direction, opting to snag Njoku to pair with Gary Barnidge at the tight end spot. That’s a potentially lethal 1-2 punch—Njoku is very raw, but he could be a dominant pass-catching TE down the road. There is, of course, the lingering question of who exactly is throwing the football to Njoku, Barnidge and the Browns’ receivers. Right now, it would be either Cody Kessler or Brock Osweiler. Cleveland had multiple chances to add another name to that mix Thursday and declined. (Grade: B)
Bleacher Report B+ Garrett: Watch Myles Garrett against a top offense and you will see the same thing. Opponents run everything to the right side of the field: sprintouts, rollouts, sweeps, swing passes. Anything that's headed in Garrett's direction is misdirection. Opponents like UCLA played as if the football field was slanted to one side like a warped pool table. Garrett was the top prospect in the 2017 draft class before he put up science-fictiony workout results at the combine. Then he became a generational prospect. He has the potential to be a Julius Peppers or Simeon Rice, if not a Bruce Smith. (Grade: A)

Peppers: So Peppers will be a return man who plays safety in nickel and dime packages as a rookie, often blitzing off the edge while he learns the finer points of coverage. After a season of experience, he will be an awesome NFL safety, albeit a Gregg Williams safety who blitzes a lot. And returns punts. And hey, a trick offensive play now and then would be fun. (Grade: A)

Njoku: The Browns are just sliding all over the board and doing whatever they want, which is fun. But a tight end is a real luxury pick for a team with so many needs. Particularly a prospect who is such an iffy blocker. (Grade: C)
NFL.com A Cumulative: Picking Myles Garrett as the difference-maker on defense made a world of sense. When looking at the second first-round pick, however, one has to remember that the Browns passed on Carson Wentz to grab the pick. Then, they got an excellent safety in Jabrill Peppers. He'll be a team leader for the Browns with the athleticism to handle nickel and safety. Then they moved back into the first round to land a playmaker, and they picked up a 2018 first-round pick in a trade. That's a great night for Browns fans.
Yahoo Sports B+ Garrett: The Browns made us sweat a bit, but they went as we thought all along in their selection of the best defensive game-changer in the draft. Players like Garrett don’t come along too often. He’s large and almost impossibly athletic, and he gives the Browns and their new defensive coordinator that crucial pressure piece it has lacked. The rebuild of the defense continues, but it took a big step forward here. (Grade: A)

Peppers: The Browns moved down from No. 12 to here and now have — are you ready for this? — two first-rounders, three second-rounders, two fourth-rounders and two sixth-rounders in 2018, plus all their remaining picks this year. And now they have Garrett and Peppers, elite prep prospects who were decorated defenders last season. Is Peppers a safety? We’ll find out; he was a slot corner and a linebacker in college and likely can’t play the latter in the NFL. But he’s a Day 1 star as a returner and a fascinating risk. Gotta do something with all these draft choices, right? Still no QB, though. Sad! (Grade: B-)

Njoku: The Browns moved up four spots for a third first-round pick — is this truly "Draft Day" playing out in real life? This was a savvy move for the player many believed was the second-best tight end in this class behind O.J. Howard but who went after Evan Engram. Njoku is starting to scratch the surface and has insane athletic gifts. Is he the next great Miami Hurricanes tight end in the NFL? He certainly has the skills to do that in time … once the Browns add a QB, anyway. The cost of a fourth-rounder to move up was a pittance. (Grade: B+)
USA Today A- Garrett: Garrett was always going to be the Browns’ pick. Some thought they might reach for a quarterback. Some thought they might trade down and add to their ever-growing cache of draft picks. But no, Cleveland did the right thing and picked up the only true blue chip prospect in this class. Garrett is a physical marvel. He has long arms and an explosive first step. That combo alone will get him a ton of sacks at the next level. If he’s able to refine his arsenal of pass rushing moves, he’ll wear a gold jacket in Canton one day. (Grade: A+)

Peppers: Peppers is going to do it all for a Browns defense that needed to add talent in this draft. He can set the edge against the run, cover slot receivers and he’ll make an impact as a blitzer in Gregg Williams’ defense. We’re going to look back at this pick in a few years and wonder how he slid this far. (Grade: A-)

Njoku: The Browns nailed all three of their picks. Njoku is the most physically-gifted tight end in this class. He’s still developing as a run blocker and he could improve as a route runner, but he’ll be a huge red zone threat from the jump. He also has great run-after-catch skills, which is rare at the tight end position. (Grade: B+)
CBS Sports C Garrett: It was the right pick to take Garrett, but there are concerns. They better hope he's not Courtney Brown 2.0. (Grade: B+)

Peppers: I don't like this pick at all. Where does he play? (Grade: F)

Njoku: He has pass-catching ability, but he's raw. Who gets him the ball? (Grade: B-)
Average B+ Using a GPA scale, grade converted to a 3.23. Rounded up to B+.

Chris Pokorny's Grade

As I stated in my first-round recap late last night, the scenario I would’ve preferred is if the Cleveland Browns had stayed at No. 12 overall to select S Malik Hooker. That would have given the Browns the top two players on my personal draft board without having to do any maneuvering, and then they also could’ve still traded up later to get TE David Njoku. Instead, the club still got the same three positions (defensive end, safety, tight end), but instead of Hooker, they picked S Jabrill Peppers at No. 25 overall.

The compensation in making the move for Peppers was an extra first round pick in 2018 from the Houston Texans. That team could be a borderline playoff contender again, but even though they selected QB Deshaun Watson this year, I think the position will still hold them back this season to keep them around a 7-9 type of record again. So that could mean that Cleveland will be set up with two Top-15 picks again in 2018. Instead of rooting against the Eagles every week this season, we’ll be rooting against the Texans, especially since we also own their second-round pick.

Back to the grades. Almost everyone had Garrett ranked as the No. 1 player, so that is an automatic A+ type of pick. On my personal big board, I had Njoku and Peppers ranked higher than most — No. 12 and No. 23, respectively. They also got an extra first-round pick for 2018. I feel the ultimate outcome of the draft they had is worthy of an A-, but because they could’ve had Hooker (and possibly failed on a speculated intent of acquiring QB Patrick Mahomes), should I tick it down to a B+?

I understand why the club did what they did, but I can’t go against the potential I feel they missed out on, so I agree with the consensus grade of a B+.

DBN Browns Fan Grades

Here is how Browns fans on DBN instantly graded each pick after it was made. Converting to just one composite grade, Garrett got an A, Peppers a B-, and Njoku a B+, which also forms a combined B+ grade.

Poll

How do you grade the Cleveland Browns’ selection of DE Myles Garrett at No. 1 overall?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    A
    (702 votes)
  • 5%
    B
    (40 votes)
  • 1%
    C
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    D
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    F
    (14 votes)
773 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How do you grade the Browns’ selection of S Jabrill Peppers at No. 25 overall?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    A
    (463 votes)
  • 36%
    B
    (795 votes)
  • 23%
    C
    (511 votes)
  • 8%
    D
    (185 votes)
  • 9%
    F
    (204 votes)
2158 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How do you grade the Browns’ selection of TE David Njoku at No. 29 overall?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    A
    (803 votes)
  • 40%
    B
    (733 votes)
  • 10%
    C
    (196 votes)
  • 2%
    D
    (54 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (41 votes)
1827 votes total Vote Now