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Browns Rookie Derby: Handicapping the field

Horse Racing: Preakness-Workouts Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As a proud resident of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we take this weekend just a little seriously. On Saturday Churchill Downs hosts the Run for the Roses, the most exciting two minutes in sports, the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.

This year’s Derby field is fairly strong, and there’s some really good value plays for the gambling folk. With that in mind, let’s apply this weekend’s festivities to our recent Cleveland Browns rookie class. We’re looking at who is going to have the most immediate impact of the rookies. There’s a few favorites, per usual, but don’t sleep on this year’s darkhorses, either.

Let’s take a look at the odds.

Myles Garrett, Edge (Round 1, #1):

Size? Check. Speed? Check. Strength? Check.

It remains to be seen if he’ll actually be American Pharaoh, like many people believe he can be. He has all the athleticism to be the best of this class, and the clear favorite. He’s a tried and true thoroughbred.

You’re not going to get much value from this play, but he’s the favorite for a reason. For perspective, American Pharoah went off in 2015 at 3-1.

Odds: 2-1

Jabrill Peppers, S (Round 1, #25):

If there’s an ultimate wildcard in this race, it’s Peppers. He could very easily be a big piece to the defensive puzzle this year, but it’s really hard to project his exact role. It’s likely he’ll play strong safety, or some type of hybrid role. He’ll also likely be the main punt returner, so there’s some added value there.

Odds: 12-1

David Njoku (Round 1, #29):

If there’s a guy that’s going to battle Garrett for the roses, it’s Njoku. The Browns bucked their trend of trading back in the draft, and actually traded up to get him. So there’s reason to believe they’re very high on him, and rightfully so. Another thoroughbred athlete, his athleticism is off the charts.

If the Browns wouldn’t have cut Gary Barnidge, he’d have taken a little bit of a hit. Instead, with Barnidge now gone, his value is trending up. Look for he and Seth DeValve to get a lot of run, with Njoku ultimately getting more looks.

Odds: 4-1

DeShone Kizer, QB (Round 2, #52):

Kizer’s stock can go a few different directions. On one hand, if/when Cody Kessler (or even Brock Osweiler *gasps*) wins the job, Kizer should sit this year. That is to say, until someone either gets hurt, or flops, both of which are very likely. On the other hand, Kizer could come in this fall and outright win the job, thus boosting his stock tremendously. I don’t think the latter is likely, so we’re adjusting the line accordingly.

Odds: 20-1

Larry Ogunjobi, DT (Round 3, #65):

A good sneaky-play in the middle of the pack. I’m pretty high on Og, and I love his versatility along the front line. Danny Shelton is the presumptive starter, but Ogunjobi gives them added depth and versatility. With the addition of Garrett plus bringing back Emmanuel Ogbah and Jamie Collins, the Browns front-seven doesn’t look awful on paper. Some might say it actually looks like a real front-seven.

Ogunjobi isn’t likely to start right away, but has a good chance to be a very good rotational player for the Browns.

Odds: 15-1

Howard Wilson, CB (Round 4, #126):

In the interest of transparency, I texted my father-in-law last Saturday morning saying I hoped the Browns took Wilson with one of their picks on Day 3. Turns out, they traded up to get him, a move I loved at the time, and still love. So, I’m obviously higher on him than some.

He’s a little buried on the way-too-early depth chart, behind the likes of Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. I do like him to push for some reps, and he has the size and skills to develop into a starter. It’s just hard to see him doing it as a rookie.

Odds: 25-1

Roderick Johnson, OT (Round 5, #160):

The Browns went out and invested heavily in their offensive line in free agency, signing JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler. They also extended G Joel Bitonio’s contract. That pretty much shores up all but one spot along the line, the exception being RT.

Johnson is massive. I mean, massive. He’s 6’7” and 300 pounds, with 36” arms, so he’s well-built to play tackle. He was also projected to be picked in rounds 3-4, and Cleveland got him in the 5th. He’ll have to beat out Shon Coleman, Cameron Erving, and John Greco in order to solidify a starting role. I imagine one of the aforementioned three will win out, but time will tell. He’s a longshot, for now.

Odds: 35-1

Caleb Brantley, DT (Round 6, #185):

Another wildcard here. If Jabrill Peppers is a wildcard for not knowing what position he’ll play, Brantley is a wildcard for a whole other reason entirely.

Despite being accused of misdemeanor battery before the Draft, the Browns went ahead and took the talented Florida D-linemen, falling to the sixth round.

It was reported yesterday that his attorney believes he’ll be cleared soon, which is a good thing for the Browns. He’s talented enough to get on the field early this fall, but it’s hard to not hedge this bet right now, all things considered.

Odds: 30-1

Zane Gonzalez, K (Round 7, #224):

If you’re looking for value, you’ve come to the right place!

All he did at Arizona State was set the FBS record for career made field goals with 96, hitting at an 83% rate. Last year he made 23-of-25 overall, including 13-of-15 from 40+ yards, with his only two misses coming from 50+, where he was 7-of-9. Many people thought he may go higher in the draft, but the Browns got him in the seventh round.

Back in March the Browns signed Brett Maher to compete with incumbent kicker, Cody Parkey. Tuesday the Browns cut Maher, opening the door for a kicker-battle between Parkey and Gonzalez. Last year with Cleveland Parkey made 20-of-25, which is fine, but I ultimately think Gonzalez’ upside wins out. He’s my sneaky play of this class.

Odds: 8-1

Matt Dayes, RB (Round 7, #252):

This is another darkhorse that I like, and many draft analysts agree he could be a good late-round pickup for Cleveland. Dayes was just one pick away from being Mr. Irrelevant.

Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. were already in the fold as starters. The Browns also have Darius Jackson and George Atkinson III on the roster, so it’s hard to see Dayes getting a ton of run early.

He’s a smaller back with great acceleration and quickness, combined with good agility. However, he’s smaller-framed and doesn’t have great top-end speed, nor great strength. That didn’t stop him from racking up yards in the ACC, though. In his four seasons in Raleigh, he amassed over 3,700 yards from scrimmage, and 40 scores. That’s getting it done. Dayes may be behind a few guys, but I would venture a guess he’ll make the 53, and we’ll see him at some point this year.

Odds: 30-1

So, who ya got?


Considering the aforementioned odds, who would you bet on for best rookie year?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Myles Garrett 2-1
    (372 votes)
  • 17%
    Jabrill Peppers 12-1
    (142 votes)
  • 17%
    David Njoku 4-1
    (141 votes)
  • 2%
    DeShone Kizer 20-1
    (21 votes)
  • 1%
    Larry Ogunjobi 15-1
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Howard Wilson 25-1
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Roderick Johnson 35-1
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Caleb Brantley 30-1
    (26 votes)
  • 10%
    Zane Gonzalez 8-1
    (83 votes)
  • 0%
    Matt Dayes 30-1
    (3 votes)
810 votes total Vote Now

For the record, tomorrw in the Derby I like Gunnevera at 8-1. Trifecta-boxing: Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Gunnevera.

Remember, kids, gamble responsibly this weekend!