Draft class amounts to a ton and a half of talent

draft class
Receivers and pass rushers were the focus of the Browns' huge draft class. Photo via clevelandbrowns.com

Assorted facts, notes, and opinions about the Browns’ 2016 draft class and their freshly restocked roster:

The total of 14 players drafted is the most for Cleveland since 1979, when they made 15 picks. (The draft was 12 rounds then; it shrank to seven beginning in 1993, though the expansion Browns were awarded seven extra picks in 1999 and three in 2000.)

By making five trades involving this year’s picks, they also picked up

  • CB Jamar Taylor, a former second-round pick of the Dolphins, who has some starting experience but was considered a disappointment, especially given some glowing pre-draft reports. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract.
  • Extra first- and second-round picks next year, and a 2018 second-rounder. The more the Eagles and Titans lose, the higher those picks become. Next year’s draft figures to be busy too, and the Browns will undoubtedly get several compensatory picks for the net loss of so many of this year’s unrestricted free agents.

The trade with Carolina was the only one where the Browns came out behind, slightly, in terms of theoretical draft value. Cleveland gave up the 77th and 141st overall picks for the 93rd, 129th, and 168th). They’re more than OK with it though, because the plan was to pick a quarterback next, and they knew they were safe waiting until late in the third if not the top of the fourth. So they acquired an extra fourth-rounder in the process. When New England chose QB Jacoby Brissett 91st, the Browns then had to take their man, USC’s Cody Kessler, two slots later. We may never know for sure whether the Browns’ board had Brissett above Kessler, but they were definitely interested in him.

As their careers unfold, this draft’s quarterbacks will be a discussion point for years, as both Carson Wentz and Connor Cook were drafted with picks the Browns once owned.

With each move, the new front office’s plan became evident, and I give them credit for executing on a coherent set of priorities and values, which seem to have amounted to the following:

  • flood the field with competition and a diversity of traits at wide receiver (speed & agility with Corey Coleman, size/speed combo of Ricardo Louis, possession types Jordan Payton and Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins)
  • attack the pocket with productive pass-rushers (Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, and Joe Schobert), regardless of how some experts try to pigeonhole them as 4-3 DEs or 3-4 OLBs.
  • bolster every other position of identified need: QB, TE, OT, S, CB, ILB, G. The current stable of running backs got a huge vote of confidence when none of the picks were used at that position.
  • stay true to the internal scouting, and don’t shy away from picking a guy that other teams might have undervalued or overlooked (e.g. Princeton TE Seth DeValve and TCU S Derrick Kindred in the fourth round, as well as Kessler in the third).
  • favor proven producers over projections based on athletic potential
  • avoid character red-flags and upgrade players whose stories bespeak personal determination, grit, and passion for the game, including one-time walk-ons Nassib and Schobert, Kindred (who played last season with a broken collarbone), and cancer survivor Shon Coleman
  • trust in this experienced coaching staff to develop their players’ desired qualities into known quantities on the field. If the 2016 Browns season won’t be remembered for wins, it should be remarkable for how much progress is spurred by the coaches in motivating, challenging, teaching, evaluating, refining, scheming, and persisting. The cultural change should be palpable by year’s end, regardless of the record.

I’m not high on the instant analysis of draft grades. But this take from Pro Football Focus is well-founded and well-presented, and not just because the Browns were one of just two teams to earn an A.

Browns fans have a tendency to get infatuated with a late-round or undrafted rookie who flashes promise in camp. Past fleeting favorites included folks like Josh Lenz, C.J. Jones, and Ben Gay. The early pick here is Arizona ILB Scooby Wright, who has already made a splash as a late seventh-rounder. It may just be the memorable nickname (he’s now one of three Browns whose real first names echo both their fathers and grandfathers), but he was among the more popular picks in my Browns draft prediction contest. He’s the perfect player to take a flyer on, as he was ultra-productive in 2014 and lost mojo due to injury in 2015.

Even after the hefty haul from this draft class, the Browns have room for nine more signings, most likely undrafted free agents. The reporting of these is a bit fluid right now, but here’s a succinct round-up of the Browns’ targets, which include a OL Mike Matthews, a nephew of Browns great Clay Matthews. When new signings are verified, I’ll add them to this site’s roster spreadsheet, which has the most Browns player data on one page anywhere on the internet. Feel free to download it to do your own sorts, filters, and other analysis of Cleveland’s revamped roster.