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Reviewing the Cleveland Browns' 2018 NFL Draft

Chris Pokorny breaks down John Dorsey’s first draft as general manager of the Browns.

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 2018 NFL Draft is officially over and the Cleveland Browns walked away with 9 new players (not including undrafted free agents). Here is a recap, along with my opinions, on how things went down this past weekend:

1. The Browns' 2018 NFL Draft Class: This year’s draft broke a trend that I had become accustom to with the Browns and their first-round draft picks. Instead of trading out of a premium pick, general manager John Dorsey stayed put. Since 2014, Cleveland has either had multiple first-round picks in the first round or traded down for future assets every year. This year, no moves were made to set them up for the 2019 draft, and in a way, that makes me feel like the original plan set forth by Sashi Brown and company is now complete. Here is how this year's draft class panned out:

  • 1st Round (#1): QB Baker Mayfield
  • 1st Round (#4): CB Denzel Ward
  • 2nd Round (#33): OL Austin Corbett
  • 2nd Round (#35): RB Nick Chubb
  • 3rd Round (#67): DE Chad Thomas
  • 4th Round (#105): WR Antonio Callaway
  • 5th Round (#150): LB Genard Avery
  • 6th Round (#175): WR Damion Ratley
  • 6th Round (#188): CB Simeon Thomas

For the past two seasons, Brown sacrificed the “win-now mentality” for the culmination of this year’s draft, and here it is. Dorsey may be the benefactor, but Brown’s contribution to the cause will not be forgotten. For the first time since 1999 when the team selected Tim Couch (who will, ironically, return to the franchise to call preseason action this year), Cleveland took a quarterback first overall. Baker Mayfield is our quarterback of the future, and now we can only sit, wait, and pray that he pans out.

2. Re-Living the Start of the First Round: This is the second year in a row that the Browns have owned the No. 1 overall pick of the draft, meaning it’s happened twice in the 13 drafts I’ve covered as manager of Dawgs By Nature. Hopefully it’s the last time I have to cover a pick that high for a long, long time. If we’re able to block out of the depression of losing so much, this franchise was able to secure a “generational” player in DE Myles Garrett last season and then their franchise quarterback this year. There are no more excuses about the personnel this team has or doesn’t have. Hue Jackson has been handed the building blocks to re-booting a franchise successfully, so now it’s time to start winning.

Let’s get back to the first round. My personal pick for months has been Sam Darnold, but I was fine with Baker Mayfield as well. The same thing goes with the fourth overall pick. I had a preference, but I also had a core group of four players that I felt I would be thrilled to come away with any one of them (that being either RB Saquon Barkley, DE Bradley Chubb, CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, or CB Denzel Ward). We had heard rumors about Darnold, Mayfield, and Josh Allen swirl back-and-forth before the draft, but on Thursday, 100% of the rumors pointed squarely to the pick being Mayfield. That reduced the shock-and-awe when Cleveland was on the clock, but when you watch the latest episode of the documentary, “Behind Baker (Episode 9),” you feel the gravity of just how tight-lipped Dorsey and company remained until the very end.

Who Says A Walk On Can't Get Drafted #1?! Send The Playbook - Episode 9

Shocking the media, Baker Mayfield is selected #1 overall in the NFL Draft, adding a thrilling chapter to his storybook career. Surrounded by family and loved ones, Baker gets emotional in this Exclusive All-Access look into the Draft Day experience of the new QB for the Browns.

Posted by Behind Baker on Friday, April 27, 2018

In the episode, you can hear Mayfield’s agent (hours before the draft) saying that they felt pretty good about him going No. 3 at the latest, but they were uncertain about the Browns because of how quiet Dorsey has been. And because of how quiet he had been, that made them wonder what the heck all the rumors on Thursday (about Cleveland taking him) were about. Were they legitimate? A swerve? They were in the dark until Mayfield fielded the call from Dorsey with just minutes remaining on the clock. With all due respect to Johnny Manziel, watch this episode and tell me that you think Mayfield is anything like Manziel character-wise. You’d be insane to the tenth power.

But what counts is on the field. Pro Football Focus had him far-and-away graded as their No. 1 overall player of the entire draft. Mike Mayock liked him, but had him fourth on his quarterback list. The DBN community was divided as well, but that’s fine. We’ll go on this journey together with him. If you’re still looking for scouting information on Mayfield, remember to look at this great feature that DBN’s Mike Krupka did on him in February.

3. Pick-by-Pick, Day 1: Let’s go round-by-round to talk about the talent Cleveland acquired on all three days. Ezweav also did his own recap of all the team’s picks, so make sure you check out his perspective on things too.

QB Baker Mayfield

If you’re not already following Baker Mayfield on Twitter, go ahead and do so. I get the feeling that we’re really going to get an up-close perspective into his life on-and-off the field. Some very high praise came from Rams young head coach Sean McVay, who was so enamored with Mayfield that he would’ve “done everything possible to get him” if his team didn’t already have Jared Goff.

After selecting Mayfield, GM John Dorsey told the media that they measured his hands at nine and six-eighths, which is “good for the elements in November and December.” They liked his accuracy, quick release, strong arm, efficiency in the red zone, and his ability to use his feet to extend plays. Asked if his height was a concern, Dorsey said, “If you look at the balls batted down at the line of scrimmage, guess what? He was the No. 1 guy who had the least amount batted down.” Dorsey credited that to his ability to mechanically get back faster than all the other quarterbacks, buying him a few extra yards to “see the field, extend the play, and make those plays downfield.”

Hue Jackson re-assured the masses that Tyrod Taylor is the team’s starting quarterback, with Mayfield behind both he and Drew Stanton to start things off. Dorsey added that it’s a very complicated game, and Mayfield will have the luxury of learning from those veterans to “understand the complexities of defenses, watch the game slow down and give him a chance to actually see what this game of football is all about.”

CB Denzel Ward

Born in Macedonia, Ohio and playing for Ohio State in college, it’s an early dream come true for Ward to not only play for his hometown team, but be held in such high regard. Out of all the Browns’ draft picks in 2018, Ward has the best chance of starting from Day 1.

Cleveland was fortunate to get half a season of shutdown play last year from Jason McCourty, but he was a veteran on a short contract who is no longer with the team. Even though Jamar Taylor was not traded during the draft, it’s tough to have a pulse on whether he is still in the team’s future plans.

The Browns signed T.J. Carrie to starter-level money (4 years, $31 million) in free agency. They’ve taken fliers on E.J. Gaines and Terrence Mitchell for depth. And while it’s possible John Dorsey will sour on Briean Boddy-Calhoun, I just like to imagine in the back of my head that this won’t be the case. The cornerback position has gone from an area of mediocrity to one of potential strength for Cleveland. The only question mark for the Browns in terms of where he fits is CB Howard Wilson, a fourth-round pick who was red-shirted last year due to a fractured patella suffered in rookie minicamp.

Dorsey says that he had about six teams that may have wanted to come up to No. 4 via a trade, but with all the offers, the player (Ward) out-weighed what they would’ve gotten in return. Something I found interesting about what Dorsey said was the following:

“I talked to some coaches here earlier this week, and they were telling me certain things about him, a great kid, loves the game of football, exceptionally fast with the change of direction and incredible ball skills.”

I don’t know if Dorsey was referring to his own coaches, or coaches from Ohio State. But we did hear that one report from Pro Football Talk that Cleveland was originally in on DE Bradley Chubb before changing their mind to Ward. Dorsey also made a comment later in his opening presser that, “I like [Ward’s] ability of being able to play in this defense where we need shut down corners because (defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams really wants more shut down corners.” Is it possible that Dorsey was torn on Chubb vs. Ward, but when he had his meeting with positional coaches (which happened a day or two before the draft), that Williams made the strong case for Ward?

4. Pick-by-Pick, Day 2: On Friday, the Browns were again in prime position to acquire future assets via trades, but opted to draft talent to improve the team here-and-now. Even though this is Dorsey’s first year in Cleveland, this is year three of the re-build, and its time to flat out cash in on all the assets the team owns here and now.

OL Austin Corbett

The Browns’ first pick of Day 2 was a byproduct of the decision by left tackle Joe Thomas to call it a career. Now, one of the biggest storylines to watch this offseason — during minicamp, OTAs, and eventually training camp — will be who lines up where between Corbett and Joel Bitonio.

The idea of moving Bitonio to left tackle after Thomas retired has been out there for quite awhile. It was a thought I immediately jumped at last season when Thomas’ streak ended, but Hue Jackson didn’t want to shuffle multiple positions on the line. After free agency, Jackson seemed pretty adamant that the team’s big free agent signing on the line (Chris Hubbard from the Steelers) would start at right tackle, and an array of players, including Shon Coleman, would compete at left tackle for the job.

Corbett was penned all over the place by draft pundits as either a tackle, guard, or center. It’s still early, so Cleveland can mold him how they wish. After the draft, Jackson was asked if Bitonio could move to left tackle, and he replied, “You may see anything. When it is all said and done, my job is to make sure that we have the best group of guys out there. If it means that, then we will do that, too.”

Interesting. The point is that Cleveland has options, and it shouldn’t take them too long to figure things out. Corbett actually started all four years at left tackle at Nevada, and he’s been training with Bitonio. The chemistry factor of having those guys on the left side of the line is already there partially, it’ll just depend who is in what spot. Even though I haven’t conveyed it, over the past few weeks, I’ve thought to myself, “Man, with all these nice moves the Browns have made this offseason, I don’t want to be a downer, but what are we going to do about losing Thomas?” Now, we have legitimate options to consider.

RB Nick Chubb

I became more-and-more enamored with Chubb as the draft drew closer. Even if we weren’t going to get Saquon Barkley at the top of the draft, I knew that Carlos Hyde wasn’t going to be the team’s running back of the future. I’m glad that Cleveland didn’t invest in a pass-catching specialist, because I still believe so much in the value that Duke Johnson brings from that perspective. As an aside, look how excited offensive coordinator Todd Haley is to have Chubb in his arsenal now:

Chubb is a power back. He compared himself to Frank Gore. Vice President of Player Personnel Alonzo Highsmith compared Chubb to Jamal Lewis, citing his “quick feet, powerful lower body, balance, and body control.” In an ideal scenario, I think Cleveland this season will envision using Chubb as their starting running back, with Hyde also taking carries, but Johnson being the third-down and up-tempo back as a receiving threat.

DE Chad Thomas

Instead of being the final pick of the second round, Cleveland traded down three spots (into the start of the third round). That allowed them to temporarily pick up a high 6th round pick, which they (on Day 3) would flip to improve their draft position in the 4th round. Vice President of Player Personnel Andrew Berry confirmed that the team felt comfortable that Thomas would still be available despite moving down three spots.

Berry called Thomas “one of the most physical defensive linemen in the draft,” citing that “his run defense will (allow him) to play immediately in the NFL as a left defensive end.” Berry also says that Thomas can rush the passer from the inside. Last year, the best thing we saw out of Gregg Williams’ staff is the production they got across the entire defensive line. It’s good that they’ll have someone who can fulfill a niche role when Myles Garrett or Emmanuel Ogbah have to step out for a few plays, because I didn’t think Carl Nassib was quite cutting it after two years of seeing him.

Of all the players the Browns drafted, I feel like Thomas is the most “I have to see it to believe it” player in terms of wondering what type of impact he’ll have on gameday. And it did sting a tad wanting another Ohio State product (Sam Hubbard), only to see him come off the board ten picks later to the Bengals.

5. Pick-by-Pick, Day 3: On Saturday, the Browns wrapped things up with their final four picks.

WR Antonio Callaway

The Browns traded up a little in the fourth round to grab Callaway. As for the reason for the trade up, Dorsey said, “I had a few birdies call me and say, ‘OK, this may happen so be prepared.’” The biggest headlines with Callaway begin with what has happened off-the-field, though. I tried to screen cap this on ABC (and failed), but Waiting for Next Year had it covered:

Immediately after selecting Callaway, Dorsey had a press conference in Berea to discuss the pick, where he was emphatically confident that his position coach Adam Henry will help keep him in line. We also know that Callaway is being mentored by Antonio Brown of the Steelers. You hate to say fourth round picks are “throwaways,” but I’m willing to accept that risk in the fourth round or later if a player has borderline first-round potential. Dorsey had some recent success with Tyreek Hill too, which had to play a factor in making him believe he can do it again.

In terms of position, the Browns decided to keep Corey Coleman, so the team’s top three receiving spots are locked in with Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Coleman. At best, we’re talking about Callaway being the fourth receiver this year. His more immediate contribution will be as a punt returner, which Dorsey emphasized a couple of times.

LB Genard Avery

With the team’s only fifth round pick, they selected Avery, a player who a lot of people are high on for his potential to be a factor at the middle linebacker position. Hue Jackson already said that they are going to start him off at the MIKE, where he will bring a pass-rushing presence.

Pro Football Focus said that Avery “had the highest pass-rushing grade in the class (83.5) at his position, more than 6.5 points higher than the next closest.” I know Cleveland was unique for having two of their linebackers play 100% of the snaps last season, but in an ideal world, those guys need to be kept fresher and a guy like Avery, with a specific skill set, can impact the defense better in the right situations.

WR Damion Ratley

Down in the sixth round, this is where you really don’t expect much of the players taken, other than the fact that they will be given a little more leeway than your undrafted free agents. Ratley didn’t stand out with his play at Notre Dame, but he has impressive measurables and speed. I think Ricardo Louis is the guy who will be out the door first:

Ratley knows there isn’t much production on tape out of him, but here is how he assessed his strengths: “I can go deep. I can run a curl route. I have hands. I catch the ball away from my body. I can get off pressure. I faced it all year and my whole career in the SEC. I bring everything. I’m the type of guy who will do anything special teams wise. I’m good with playing special teams if they want me to. I can do anything you want me to so I think that I bring everything to the table.”

DB Simeon Thomas

Remember when the Browns traded QB Kevin Hogan? That pick ended up being used on Thomas, who early on will be tested as either a cornerback or free safety. He is one of the players who took a visit with the Browns in Berea and we had on our tracker. His wingspan pops off the chart:

PFF said the following about him: “Thomas graded well in his final season, allowing just two touchdowns while breaking up eight passes. He allowed 1.34 yards per cover snap and only intercepted two passes the past two seasons, both in 2016.”

6. Nearly Every Position Addressed: When you combine the Browns’ efforts in free agency and the draft, which positions are left unaddressed? The only question mark I really have is at safety, where I don’t know what to expect out of Gregg Williams’ year two utilization of Jabrill Peppers, or how well Damarious Randall will transition to free safety. But at the very least, we have some personnel in place that is compelling.

The same goes for every other positional unit — people are in place who look like NFL talent. The quarterback room was wiped clean, and we have a good free agent and the No. 1 overall pick. At running back, a free agent and the 35th pick were used to complement Duke Johnson. The receiver room was upgraded significantly with Jarvis Landry in the slot. Everyone expects David Njoku to be a second-year breakout at tight end. On the offensive line, the team addressed Joe Thomas retirement with one big free agent signing and the 33rd pick.

The defensive line depth remains a push from a year ago, with Danny Shelton out but Larry Ogunjobi expected to be a little more unleashed. The team’s biggest mistake (from the Sashi Brown era) could be what they invested so heavily in with Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey as their outside linebackers, but for now, Dorsey can’t do anything about that. And then the secondary was completely revamped with Denzel Ward at the 4th pick and various signings in free agency.

It may not be perfect, but the remains of thinking this is an 0-16 team have been left in the past. Let’s see how these 2018 Browns perform.

We also looked at the team’s potential list of undrafted free agents. Once the signings are confirmed, we’ll profile each player a little more.

7. 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 25 posts with a total of about 7,254 comments!

  • 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
  • 2017: 344,096 pageviews, 150,190 visits
  • 2018: 343,647 pageviews, 154,165 visits