I’m always an advocate of NFL teams (particularly our Cleveland Browns) taking a risk on players with potentially high-value in the 6th or 7th rounds of the draft. We saw it a few years ago with CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who had an injury that would keep him out for a year. Ultimately, things did not work out for the prospect who had “1st round potential” according to some. For a 7th round flier, it wasn’t a big deal.
The same goes for this year, when the Browns used their 6th round pick on DL Caleb Brantley. The pick was met with criticism, but less than a week later, a report came out that he was expected to be cleared. And then on Wednesday, just two and a half weeks after he was drafted, the battery complaint was dismissed by the State Attorney in Florida due to “insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.”
Statement from Sashi Brown
“Based on our information, we understood there was a reasonable chance that the charges would be dismissed. As we have previously discussed, the allegations made regarding the incident were not something we take lightly. Caleb understands that we have an expectation and standard for every member of our organization. He’s a talented-young man with a great opportunity in front of him. Caleb must grow as a person from this situation. He is now able to move forward and focus on earning a spot on this roster.”
Statement from Caleb Brantley
“I'm grateful for today’s ruling. I won’t take the opportunity the Browns have given me for granted and now I can shift all my focus on working hard to make this football team while also showing my teammates, coaches, the organization and this community the type of person I really am.”
And a little humor about how the Browns must feel after all of this:
Browns drafting Caleb Brantley in the 6th round (charges dropped) pic.twitter.com/n5Prqj8g4s— TruBlu Sports (@TruBluSports) May 17, 2017
Why Were Charges Dismissed?
You can read the full statement from the State Attorney here, but let’s highlight the four reasons discussed for the dismissal.
- First, the alleged victim, who had been drinking heavily despite being underaged and was initially un-cooperative and denied having even been assaulted, has little to no memory of anything involved in the incident and cannot provide any credible testimony upon which a prosecution could go forward.
- Second, witnesses on her behalf had been drinking as well and have provided internally contradictory testimony that calls into serious question the accuracy of what they say.
- Third, that testimony is significantly contradicted by the statement of Brantley, witnesses on his behalf, and most importantly an apparently neutral witness who supports Brantley's version of events.
- Fourth, reports of a significant injury to the alleged victim are inaccurate and any injury she sustained is relatively minor and inconsistent with any great force having been used against her. In essence, the facts suggest that the alleged victim's friends engaged Brantley in an unpleasant verbal exchange, during which the alleged victim began to physically punch or assault Brantley, causing him to shove her away. It is legally clear that under Florida's Stand Your Ground law Brantley had the legal right to defend himself by pushing away someone who was punching and assaulting him. While it may not be popularly approved of or morally appropriate, that the alleged victim is a female of smaller stature than he does not change that.
That sounds pretty convincing in Brantley’s behalf.
What it Means for the Browns’ Depth
It’s not often that 6th round picks are viewed as serious contributors right away, but I think Brantley and 3rd round pick Larry Ogunjobi will both be viewed as regular rotational players from day one. Brantley still has to work on some things that caused his draft stock (pre-incident) to drop a little bit, but I think he’ll get there.