Every fan of every NFL team has an opinion of how the college draft unfolded for their franchise at the conclusion of the annual event. Even though thousands and thousands of hours were devoted to these players evaluated by NFL scouts, coaches, general managers and player personnel staff, everyone has their thoughts on how their team actually did in order to improve.
Many players are considered steals by being taken in two or even three later rounds than expected, whereas many draft picks are head-scratchers the instant they are announced.
The Browns had many holes to fill this year – specific holes. And now that the draft has concluded, it appears each void is now occupied. Which is good for the franchise, but how do they compare to the rest of the division? Let’s take a look.
Below are the best assessment and the worst evaluations from numerous sports sites that have announced their grades for the NFL draft.
The Ravens are so good at talent evaluation every year and rarely have to trade to get the players they want. They basically wait for the draft to come to them, and it pays off. Up and down their new picks will add to both sides of the ball.
Draft picks: LB Patrick Queen, RB J.K. Dobbins, DT Justin Madubuike, WR Devin Duvernay, LB Malik Harrison, G Tyre Phillips, G Ben Bredeson, DT Broderick Washington Jr., WR James Proche, S Geno Stone
Best: Sporting News
Yes, purple did reign supreme in this draft with Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh also looking like two princes of prospects. Queen and Harrison were amazing gets to improve their linebacker weakness. Dobbins was an unexpected Round 2 steal who can be absolutely dominant in Baltimore’s league best-rushing attack. Madubuike is a key piece for the defense, too, after losing Michael Pierce in free agency and they have a couple options at guard to replace the retired Marshal Yanda. Duvernay gives Lamar Jackson another speed merchant and Proche is a nice sleeper at the same position.
Worst: Yahoo! Sports
I struggled grading the Ravens’ draft because they drafted a lot of my favorite players, but almost all of their picks were run-oriented. Queen at the top of the draft was their best pick. He’s only 20 years old, has 81st percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism, made 82 tackles, and only allowed 5.5 yards per target in coverage. That’s what a first-round linebacker prospect looks like, and they grabbed in at the end of the round. Queen starts immediately… Dobbins is a great running back prospect (2,003 yards as a junior at Ohio State), but I don’t think anyone watched the Ravens and thought they were a running back away from a Super Bowl. Mark Ingram, Justice Hill, and Gus Edwards were good enough to look at other positions in the second round… Madubuike was good value and fills a need on the interior defensive line. His 84th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism gives him quality-starter upside. He should make starts as a rookie… Duvernay was a sleeper of mine after compiling 1,082 yards last year at Texas and showcasing 93rd percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism at the Combine (4.39 forty). He’s more explosive and a lot more physical than most slot receivers, but he’s a little tight. Duvernay will compete with Willie Snead for starting slot duties. He could make starts as a rookie… Harrison has 72nd percentile Adjusted SPARQ speed and had above-average production (75 tackles) at Ohio State. He’s a low-end starter or quality depth option at linebacker… Phillips and Bredeson are O-line backups. Please protect Lamar Jackson, fellas.
The Bengals will be better this year, but this draft was more about building for 2021 and acquiring as much talented players as possible in order to compete in the future.
Draft picks: QB Joe Burrow, WR Tee Higgins, LB Logan Wilson, LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, DE Khalid Khareem, OT Hakeem Adeniji, LB Markus Bailey
Best: Sporting News
The Bengals lucked out in being in position to get Burrow and stayed at the top with a few more greatest hits throughout the draft. Higgins was an awesome get in Round 2 to pair with A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd. Wilson and Davis-Gaither turn their linebacker weakness into a rangy, playmaking strength. Khareem and Adeniji were recognition of upgrading edge depth on both sides of the ball. Put Zac Taylor and Duke Tobin on the honor roll, too.
The Bengals obviously improved their roster with Joe Burrow, but I wasn’t a fan of their draft overall. I was disappointed that they didn’t address their offensive line until the sixth round. That was a huge mistake because protecting Burrow will be essential. Sure, they get Jonah Williams back from injury, but they also lost Cordy Glenn this offseason. That’s a lateral move, at best, so Burrow is likely to struggle with protection as a rookie. It would be a shame if Burrow got hurt because Cincinnati couldn’t figure out that it had to shield its rookie quarterback.
Rather than reaching on Tee Higgins, who can’t separate, the Bengals should’ve selected a pass protector at No. 33. The other picks were fine - the linebackers were nice choices, and they will help the Bengals not be completely embarrassed by Lamar Jackson for a change - but I can’t help but be underwhelmed by what the Bengals accomplished outside of obtaining their franchise quarterback, who just fell into their laps because the Dolphins won some meaningless games late in the year.
The new management and talent evaluators for the Browns did an excellent job in their first draft as an organization and addressed all of their needs. The offensive line was a sticking point and now is much improved with a new left tackle and a guard/center. Plus, the defense was addressed with several key pieces which was just as much a priority. GM Andrew Berry could have mortgaged the farm in Round 1 but allowed the draft to unfold and got their number one tackle prospect. He should be commended for his first draft.
Draft picks: OT Jedrick Wills, S Grant Delpit, DT Jordan Elliott, LB Jacob Phillips, TE Harrison Bryant, G/C Nick Harris, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
Best: Pro Football Focus
Day 1: There were some concerns that there may be a run of tackles prior to the Browns’ selection, but they were left with their pick of the top options sans Andrew Thomas. Wills came in as PFF’s OT3 — and the 11th player overall on PFF’s Big Board — and he was the top tackle on a lot of boards out there, drawing a player comp to Lane Johnson in the PFF Draft Guide. He has special explosion and agility for someone that large and should be able to immediately make an impact in the run game after earning a 90.5 run-blocking grade with the Crimson Tide in 2019.
“His ability to crush a double team then take a linebacker for a ride is special for a college tackle prospect.” - PFF’s lead draft analyst Mike Renner
Day 2: The Browns were able to pick up not one, not two, but three top-25 players on the PFF Big Board. Two of those players came at selections 44 and 88, which is a testament to the value Cleveland was able to get.
Delpit fell down boards largely due to his concerns as a tackler, but what he is able to do in coverage is special. He has tremendous instincts and ability to read and break on routes, he has smooth movement skills on the back end of a defense and he has the kind of length that can give bigger wide receivers or tight ends problems in the slot. That playmaking ability is apparent when flipping on the tape from his 2018 season when he recorded five interceptions and seven pass breakups.
Elliott was an even bigger steal in the third round. He has a solid combination of size and athleticism, and from a production standpoint, you can argue that no interior defender in this class has been better. Elliott has the highest overall grade of any interior defender in the class over the last two seasons. He is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he earned grades of 90.0 or higher as both a run defender and pass-rusher. Getting that kind of player — the 23rd-ranked player on the PFF Big Board — at No. 88 is tremendous value.
“He has all the makings of a player who can develop into a versatile starter with plenty of upside in the NFL.” - PFF senior writer Ben Linsey
As for Jacob Phillips, this looks like more of a reach than the other selections for the Browns, with guys like Troy Dye and Akeem Davis-Gaither still on the board at linebacker. From an athletic standpoint, Phillips has the explosion and burst that you like, but the change of direction ability isn’t quite there. That is something that’s likely to show up in coverage.
Day 3: Bryant isn’t athletic enough to pass for a receiver and not strong enough to be a traditional tight end. Unless he transforms his body one way or another, he’ll be in no man’s land in the NFL. He did, however, improve his overall grade every year of his collegiate career and finished the pre-draft process inside the top-150 on PFF’s Big Board.
Harris ground out 2,921 snaps on the Huskies’ offensive line over the past four years. During his true freshman campaign in 2016, Harris saw four starts but was mostly rotated in at both left and right guard and earned just a 47.6 grade in pass protection. He was then moved to the starting role at right guard in 2017 and improved his pass-blocking grade to an average 63.3. He was moved to center after that, where he has thrived as a starter over the last two years. Harris improved in both pass protection and in run blocking, leading to a PFF overall grade that was among the 20 best FBS centers in both 2017 and 2018. If there’s a center you want playing out in space either in the running game or on screens, it’s Harris. The scary thing is that he’s just scratching the surface technique-wise.
The physical tools may be there from a testing perspective, but we never saw them consistently translate to separation down the football field with Peoples-Jones. Without another trump card, it’s difficult to be convinced with his lack of production.
Worst: Sports Illustrated
The Browns must have been thrilled: The Giants’ surprising selection of Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and the top three quarterbacks getting snatched up in the first six picks left the man they likely had at the top of their board still available at pick No. 10. Jedrick Wills played right tackle at Alabama but has the light feet and athleticism to transition smoothly to the left side. That would allow expensive free agent pickup Jack Conklin to stay at right tackle, where it took him four years to locate a comfortable set of mechanics as a Titan. In today’s NFL, the delineation between left and right tackles means very little (if anything), so the Browns can base these decisions strictly on what’s best for their two players.
If Wills pans out quickly, this Browns offense could suddenly meet the expectations that were placed on it a year ago. Quarterback Baker Mayfield will have the protection he lacked last season and he’ll be playing in a smart, QB-friendly scheme under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, throwing to a more familiar Odell Beckham Jr. and working with a balanced run game headed by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. That’s a 25-point-per-game type lineup.
On defense, the Browns signed ex-Raider Karl Joseph and ex-Viking Andrew Sendejo in free agency, but only because they wanted to be sure to have a couple of hard-hitting veterans who can immediately patrol the alleys against the run and play match-zone coverage out of the Cover 4-heavy scheme that this new coaching is likely to install. Both Joseph and Sendejo are on one-year deals and it’s likely at least one will be allowed to walk in 2021, given that Grant Delpit is expected to be a full-fledged starter by then (if not sooner). Delpit is rangy and athletically diverse. His draft stock tumbled from a high first-round projection last season after missing too many tackles and taking too many poor angles in run defense. Such mistakes are especially problematic in Cover 4, where the safeties are often solely responsible for a run gap along the edges.
Up front, Jordan Elliott intrigues with his potential as a pass rusher, where scouts believe his development hinges on whether he can continue to build on his effective hand usage. One concern: The Browns don’t have a lot of gap-penetrating depth at D-tackle, and Elliott might not have the initial quickness to change that.
What was really odd was that Pittsburgh didn’t seek out a running back until the fourth-round. Big mistake. The Steelers could have had RB J.K. Dobbins in Round 2 but passed. He was then taken by Baltimore and will now face him twice a year - something they may rue for a long time.
Draft picks: WR Chase Claypool, OLB Alex Highsmith, RB Anthony McFarland Jr., G Kevin Dotson, S Antoine Brooks Jr., DT Carlos Davis
Day 1 grade: B
Day 2: grade: A-
Day 3 grade: B
Overall grade: A-
Last year’s trade with Miami for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was worth the first-round pick it cost. And I liked the decisions to add Claypool at receiver and Highsmith as depth at edge rusher with their second- and third-round picks, respectively. That’s a solid couple of days for GM Kevin Colbert.
Colbert went with another mid-round back in McFarland after using similar picks on James Conner (No. 105 overall, 2017), Jaylen Samuels (No. 165, 2018), and Benny Snell (No. 122, 2019) the past three seasons. He does have speed, though, which the team needed at the position. Dotson gives the team depth for now, and could develop into a future starter at guard down the line. The team needed a nose tackle and Davis fits that bill well.
They weren’t in a great spot from the beginning with just one pick (49th) in the first 100. Chase Claypool was a value get in the second round though for a team that otherwise had a drab draft.
Pittsburgh’s first-round pick is already a success considering it was dealt last year for Pro Bowl free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. That takes a bit of the sting out of the possibility that no one from this draft class will make major contributions in 2020.