Grading the Cleveland Browns draft

When your Cleveland Browns entered the 2016 NFL draft at the Corner of 3rd and Lerner way, Executive V.P. Sashi Brown, Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta and V.P. of player personnel Andrew Berry knew they had a rather large task on their hands.

They had to restock a frighteningly empty roster, and do it with the type of talent and character that the Browns had been struggling to acquire for years. Notice I mentioned character. While there have been a variety of high quality football players in Cleveland in recent memory, the dirt and scum of Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon (among a few others) needed to be washed away before the Browns could move forward.

In other words, if there was a hint of gas mask bongs in your past, you weren't going to come to Cleveland.

Sitting at #2, the Browns had a commodity heading towards the draft, and other teams knew it. The Browns likely wanted a franchise quarterback, and while there would certainly be one sitting there for the Browns to pick in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, both are loaded with question-marks. The Browns also needed the aforementioned cupboards filled, so to teams looking to acquire one of those two quarterbacks, the Browns had a weapon, and they used it.

First, they traded their #2 pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the #8 pick in this year's first round, the 77th pick in the third round, the 100th pick in the fourth round, as well as a first and second round pick in next year's draft. For a team that needs to add talent, these are the kinds of moves that you make.

But the Browns brain trust wasn't finished yet.

They then traded the #8 pick (and their 6th round pick this year, #176) to the Tennessee Titans for the #15 pick, the #76 pick in the third round, and a second rounder in 2017.

Without making a pick, the Browns had acquired six picks in this year's and next year's draft, and likely still had their #1 target on the board when it was all said and done.

So how did the Browns do? Look, fans and front office won't know how these players will grade out for several years, so this piece isn't some sorta definitive on talent and ultimate play-making ability. It's just a look at where those players are now, coming out of college, and where they might fit on this Browns' team going forward. Evaluators rarely get it right, and we here at EHC are just like you.

We're fans.

It's important, as fans, to realize that precursors for the organization are just baggage from other regimes, and while Jimmy Haslam appears to be much of that baggage, the trio of Brown, DePodesta and Berry have the feel of something special. They're young, smart, and while they'll clearly make mistakes, and already have, these mistakes are based in the 'newness' of the job, not the idiocy of guys like Ray Farmer, who were just doing dumb things.

They'll punch the envelope, try new things, institute analytics, and hopefully, will be around for awhile. On top of that, their new coach, Hue Jackson, is a much-respected coach in NFL circles who really understands how to build an offence. In other words, these picks are going to get some breathing room to fail before they succeed, and build the foundation of a winner in years to come.

The Browns needs heading into the 2016 draft were, well, vast, but that's where we'll start:

NEEDS: Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Offensive Tackle, Outside Linebacker, and really...everything.

1st Round--#15 Overall--Corey Coleman--WR--Baylor

When I think of NFL wide receivers, I think of a 6'4" super stud, who can run a 4.3 40, and has hands that are naturally inclined to Spider-Man-like stickiness. So, you know, I equate the perfect wide receivers to unicorns.

The best wide receiver in football, the Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown, is a 5'10", 180 pound bundle of perfection. Brown is the type of player that was measured as a 4.7 40 runner, but plays faster once the gear is on. In other words, when you look at him in street clothes, you often don't see the player who ultimately puts on the football gear. Realize that Brown was taken in the sixth round, and most professional football execs had no clue how good this kid was going to be, let alone the fans that are looking for the 'next guy like Antonio.' Sometimes players are just immeasurable.

This isn't to compare Corey Coleman to Antonio Brown, because that would be insane. Instead, I mention Brown simply because he isn't a unicorn. He's an actual stud receiver, who isn't a prototype in tangible, measurable, non-NFL numbers.

Coleman was a three-year starter in a pass-happy offense at Baylor. Now, if you know anything about Baylor's offense, you know they like screens and in-cut patterns that take advantage of soft covering defensive backs. Coleman made a career out of doing this, which I suppose is a moderate concern in that NFL corners will be able to cover him a lot tighter, especially considering the fact that the Browns really don't have other receivers to take the pressure off, although they did draft some interesting ones that I'll get into in a minute.

Here's what I like about Coleman. He can jump high, and has a reported 40" vertical. He can run fast, and ran a 4.38 40. He's tenacious on the field, and strong as hell. He can play on the inside as a slot, but has more than enough burst to play on the outside. In other words, he should be able to line-up anywhere, you know, like that other guy I mentioned but won't mention again.

He is suspect in that he wasn't responsible for many routes in Baylor's pop-offense, but he does make things happen after he catches the ball. When he perfects his NFL routes with Hue Jackson's tutoring, I think he could actually be pretty good. Of course, who is throwing him passes is important.

I love this pick. Great kid, with a lot of upside in pure talent and intangibles. I'm also sure that he would have been off the board, had they traded down a few spots. Wide Receivers poured off the board from 21-23, and Coleman would have been one of them. The Browns got their guy.

I also want to mention the potential of Laremy Tunsil at the #8 slot, before they traded down. Look, Tunsil is loaded with talent, and honestly, as a teacher and developer of young minds, I want to see Tunsil develop into an amazing football player. Here's the thing: he's a PR mess right now. While a lot of that is likely social media crap, this is the world we live in. The Browns need to be clean right now. Some folks don't understand that, and there still could be fumbling around, but Tunsil can still get a chance with another club. They stayed away from him, and acquired more picks in doing so. Good for them.

GRADE: A- (He's a need, high character, lots of ups)

2nd Round--#32 Overall--Emmanuel Ogbah--DE--Oklahoma St.

I really loved this pick by the Browns, and maybe even better than the Coleman pick. He's got this huge frame, at 6'4" and 274 pounds, and just had a nose for the quarterback from either side of the line for the Cowboys. Hue Jackson got his shiny new toy with Coleman, and this clearly was the same for new defensive coordinator, Ray Horton.

I love these hybrid-like ends that play out of a three-point stance, but can stand up on the outside as well. If you get the right one in a 3-4 defense, it can change the whole complexion of your defense. Is Ogbah that guy? I honestly don't know.

What I do know is that according to everyone that talks about him says he has a High IQ for the game of football. When you start there with a guy that has talent, you are in a good place. Equally, he's a worker, and according to his college coach, Mike Gundy, he's the type of player that is first in practice, and last out.

His knock has always been burst, and talking heads talk 'lack of constant motor,' but I actually disagree with most. If you watch his video, it really appears that his burst is damn good, and that his lack of motor may be directly related to the amount of effort he puts into every play. In other words, when you take a high IQ, highly motivated player who lays it all out on the field, and combine him with NFL coaches and trainers, you could get something special.

He could be a steal.

So, I wanted them to trade up and get Paxton Lynch in the first round, so Ogbah will get slightly downgraded because of that...but still thought they took the right guy here.

GRADE: A- (He's a need, high motor and IQ, and ups)

3rd Round--#65 Overall--Carl Nassib--DE--Penn State

So I really need to get off of my utter disgust of taking players from Big 10 schools not named Ohio State. Honestly, I immediately hated this pick when they took Nassib. Based on some of the reaction that I saw, he took a hit from fans for the same reason.

So I'm going to try like hell to be un-biased here. I hate Penn State, so Nassib starts off behind the eight-ball. I'm a fan, just deal with it. If you want the perfect grading system, go to the main talking heads, who usually get it wrong anyways.

Here's what I like about Nassib. This is your typical kid that comes into a situation at Penn State with literally no hype whatsoever. I weighed more than he did when he was recruited to Happy Valley, and he literally worked his ass off over his four-year career to become a player on the radar. Like Ogbah, he is a worker, and an intensely smart player, who does whatever it takes to succeed.

Now, he's a "developmental player," and honestly, I think he was a reach with this pick, but when a guy like Horton is thinking, 'I like him,' you tend to listen. Horton really is that good.

What don't I like? This kid honestly never started a day in his life until his senior year at Penn State. This isn't a death knell, but there really is a talent level structure that has to be taken into account. Nassib may not have that talent, even with the IQ, mentality, and ethic.

But, he is 6'7", and at 280 pounds, there's more to put on that frame. But he doesn't have explosiveness to get around the edge in the NFL. In other words, while the knocks on Ogbah aren't real, for Nassib, they are. This isn't to say he isn't athletic, but I would say he's going to be a run-stopper early, with a long-term plan to make him an effective pass rusher.

In the end, I think they could have had Nassib much later in this draft.

GRADE: C (on a team that needs NOW, he's long-term)

3rd Round--#76 Overall--Shon Coleman--OT--Auburn

I really loved this pick.

When I first started paying attention to Coleman this offseason, I saw a lot of projections that had him going late first round, or early second round. In general, when I see this, I think that he could go anywhere from the second through fifth round, depending on need. I just have no faith in 'late first round, early second round lineman' in that you hear that about 100 guys. It doesn't always play out.

But, Coleman, coming from an SEC school for a run-heavy team, caught my attention. He's 6'6", and a legit 313 pounds, which immediately means he can play in the NFL.

The story is even better when you consider that Coleman is a cancer survivor, who over five-years ago was diagnosed with having Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. He spent 30 months fighting this disease with everyting he had, and dealt with chemo, and every hardship you can ponder that comes along with cancer. 

He was a top recruit in 2010, and literally put everything on hold to recover from cancer. Ponder that

He also is coming off of knee surgery to repair his MCL.

Again, this is a kid that has an ethic that coaches rave about. He can struggle with technique, which will likely hurt him in the NFL early in his career, but he's not a kid you worry about down the line. With Mitchell Schwartz and Alex Mack gone, he's going to get a shot to start right away, and while there will be growing pains, this is a great pick.

Because of his missed time, he still has some learning to do, but he'll get that training in Cleveland. Honestly, if he was a year or two younger, and had another year in college, he'd likely be a first round pick. This is a potential steal for the Browns.

GRADE: A (He slid because of the knee injury, real ups here)

3rd Round--#93 Overall--Cody Kessler--QB--USC

The Browns traded out of their 77th pick to take Kessler, and moved down to the 93rd pick. They also traded away the 141st pick, but acquired the 129th pick and the 168th pick.

I'm pretty sure the Browns earmarked this pick for quarterback, and I have to believe that Kessler was their guy from jump. If all things were equal, I'd grade this a C, but in the end, I'm not, and I'll get to why in a second...and I wanted Lynch really bad.

So shoot me.

Let's start with Robert Griffin III, who many destroyed the Browns for taking. I wasn't one of them. This isn't to say that I think RG3 is elite, or even can be at this point. What I am saying is that for the cost, they really potentially grabbed a guy that could be successful with the right coaching and control. I also like Griffin's chip on his shoulder. He has a big one, and Hue Jackson is such a good coach.

On to Kessler.

He played at USC, which really has been a mess over the years. But, he's played in an NFL-style offense over the length of his career, and while he doesn't have the 'prototype' NFL body, at 6"1' and 215 pounds, he's still sizable enough to be a quality NFL player.

Where does he grade high? You can likely guess. Everyone talks about his High IQ and work ethic, and while you have to have skills to be developed at USC as a starter, regardless of regime. He has pinpoint accuracy, and in the right offense, could excel. Honestly, you can see what Hue Jackson is looking for in his quarterbacks, including RG3. If he has protection, he can decimate a defense. Of course, you can say that about most NFL QB's.

But that's for another day.

What's fun with Kessler is that a year ago, many players graded him extremely high, and had him in the Mariota range. Since then, he's stagnated a bit, but you have to wonder how much of that is due to the crazy turns in the USC program.

He has many knocks. He struggles under pressure, but does have moments in which he looks fantastic. His arm strength is in question, but he does play with anticipation and smarts. He commits to a playbook, and can read defenses. To be a starter in the NFL, he'll have to be elite in this regard.

Honestly, right now, I'd say he's the perfect long-term NFL back-up, and under the right circumstances, could be a phenomenal starter.

But Hue Jackson had me at, "you have to trust me." I do.

GRADE: B- (They could have waited longer, but didn't want to chance it, or I'd grade it higher)

4th Round--#99 Overall--Joe Schobert--OLB--Wisconsin

Ugh, another Big 10 pick that's not from Ohio State. My gut is screaming worthless, but at least it's not a pick from ^ichigan. Alright...alright...unbiased hat.

To be clear, I was hoping for a Joshua Perry selection with one of these two picks, and yeah, he's from Ohio State. That said, if I'm to be fair in regards to talent level, Schobert is probably somewhere close.

What's good about Schobert? He honestly fits the mold of every other selection the Browns have taken so far. As a Walk-On for the Cheeseheads, the kid was motivated, worked hard, and had that mental acumen that you are seeing, player-after-player. This is the guy that ran offensive lineman ragged, because he never, ever stops.

Now, if he comes at a true professional lineman head on, he's going to lose that battle every time, but under Horton, when he runs a scheme, Schobert could really become special under the right circumstances. Yeah, I said special, and I meant it. His attacking skills off of delays and stunts is special.

Some folks have pondered whether or not he's going to play on the inside, and I say no. He'll get busted up in the run going head on, but as an outside player, I think his nose for the football, and his ability to overwork others could make him a really solid player going forward.

GRADE: A (Just a steal at this location in the draft. He should have been taken 20-30 picks earlier)

4th Round--#114 Overall--Ricardo Louis--WR--Auburn

The Browns traded the 100th overall pick to move down the #114, and also acquired the #154th pick.

I'm pretty sure the Browns were in Best Available at this point, and were going to start going after Wide Receivers if they rated high, or whatever else was there if they thought they could wait.

Ricardo Louis was just too hard to pass up.

Remember when I talked about the unicorn regarding Corey Coleman? Louis more fits that make-up, as a 6'2",  215 pounder, with 4.4 speed and pure athleticism, you have to wonder how in the hell he fell this far.

That said, most prognosticators figured Louis wouldn't get drafted until the 6th or 7th round, and his intangible skills at the combine likely bumped him up this high. Like Coleman, his knocks are route running, but he's certainly much more raw a player than Coleman in that Auburn is a run-heavy team.

Most consider him an unknown, but a guy that works hard, has that IQ we've been talking about, and if things tilt up, could do some damage with the right coaching. I'm of the belief that the Browns' current coaching staff is fairly elite, and if the players buy in, and if they're given time, could turn some of these guys into something special.

I like the pick, just think they should have waited to take him. There were better receivers here, but perhaps the more prototypical frame and elite skill-set at the combine bumped him up higher.

Grade: C- (they could have waited until the fifth or sixth here, and while they reached for others, this was too far)

4th Round--#129 Overall--Derrick Kindred--FS--TCU

The only reason why I knew about Kindred was a story I read in December that mentioned how he played through a broken collarbone.

I repeat: he played the entire 2015 season having broken his collarbone a week prior to the season starting.

So if you're wondering about character and work ethic, you can stop right there. While the Browns clearly drafted high character and IQ guys, Kindred sits right at the top of the list, with several others thus far.

TCU didn't report the injury, and Kindred went on to play brilliantly, becoming all conference. He didn't miss a game...not one freakin' game. What I love about Kidnred is that he can play both safety positions, and has lined up as a linebacker, on occasion, for the horned frogs. No, at 5'10" and 210 pounds, he's not likely to do that in the NFL, but he's clearly fearless, and will add some nice depth to a team that needs safeties.

He's aggresive, he drives through on his tackles, runs a 4.46 40, has a 38" vertical, and that drive and mentality that can be transcend draft positions.

Now, he's not a great tackler, and his coverage is questionable, but the promise is there. I wonder if they didn't take him to play on special teams, while hoping for the best. A good pick, but like Louis before him, I think they could have waited.

Grade: C+ (I suppose I'm ticky-tacking here, but I think they could have drafted him later)

4th Round--#138 Overall--Seth DeValve--TE--Princeton

Well, he's from Princeton, so I can just get the IQ thing out of the way. What I really like about DeValve is that he's got props athletically coming out of the combine as well.

He's 6'3" and 245 pounds, with a wide frame to add more weight. He grades as a tight end in the NFL, but played wide receiver for Princeton, which really has my attention. He runs clean routes, and obviously will understand the playbook quickly. He can run a 4.7 40, and has an elite vertical at 40", if you're to believe the hype. Imagine that as a tight end, and he'll have time to develop.

Can he block though?

He's rough, but honestly, I think he could become a freakin' steal if he learns under Gary Barnidge. My only issues with DeValve is that again, I think they could have waited here. With this pick, it's pretty clear that the Browns have a value asset management system that is different from most, and maybe more importantly, they're sticking to it.

I can't grade this high because perceptually, I think they could have waited, but I do like the pick.

GRADE: C+ (again, coulda had him in the 6th or 7th)

5th Round--#154 Overall--Jordan Payton--WR--UCLA

This is likely why, looking back, Ricardo Louis rates as a C- for me. I like Jordan Payton better. Now, I'd feel safe in saying that Payton was a surprise to the Browns here in the fifth, but there are always surprises like this. When you are working on building a foundation, I'm not a fan of reaching at certain positions. How it all pans out in the grand scheme is easy to have hindsight on, this is one of those deals where had Payton been in the fourth, and Louis in the fifth, I'd have no doubt rated Louis higher.

I know, dumb.

Honestly, Payton was another guy that likely would have slid down to the 6th or 7th round.

Payton isn't a particularly fast guy, and he's not a guy that is going to wow you with intangible athletic skills. What he does is simply catch the football, which is sorta what the Browns need. You know...guys that catch the football.

When you ponder possession receiver, you get Payton, and for this reason, and this reason alone, I think he'll end up ahead of Louis on the tandem of things to come. He's the all-time receptions leader at UCLA, loves going down the middle to make tough catches, and doesn't mind sticking it to players while blocking.

These are the types of players that great teams always have. I love this pick, and again, a high IQ guy just loaded for bear with grit and determination.

GRADE: A (Third receiver taken, and fourth, considering DeValve. As a package, I'd grade this position a strong A draft-wise, for the Browns)

5th Round--#168 Overall--Spencer Drango--OG--Baylor

The Browns clearly scouted Baylor. I'm pretty conflicted on that, because Art Briles is a douchebag.

I do like the pick though. He's HUGE, at 6'6" and 315 pounds, and is a four-year starter on a team that can run the football. He absolutely dominated college players on a regular basis, and just looking at him, you wonder how in the heck he could drop this far...other than playing for a douchebag.

With all of that said, his problem is pretty simple. He has slow decision-making, and will likely get burned by faster professional defensive lineman. He's not going to get overpowered by sheer strength, and he does have good basic skills, but the speed is going to just eat him up.

But...he started for four years, and I can't get that out of my head and think there's upside there. I actually think he should have gone earlier, based on size alone, and is one of those players that you can put a 'wait-and-see' tag on.

I just don't like slow though. It bugs me, but if he gets in the weight room and works on it, he could be a monster steal. I like him as a fifth round flier, and he provides needed depth if he makes the team.

GRADE: B (Not sure about long-term, but like the pick in the fifth)

5th Round--#173 Overall--Rashard Higgins--WR--Colorado St.

So, Higgins has some numbers that you wouldn't blink at in Techmo Bowl, but his intangibles kind of suck. He's slow, running a 4.64 40. His vertical is 32 1/2 inches (mine was higher in high school, and that's not a compliment to Higgins). He played in the Mountain West.

Those are all knocks.

But boy does he catch the football, and Colorado St. runs a pro-heavy offense, which has Higgins at the top of many, many lists for sleepers at wide receiver, and honestly, had you put Higgins, Payton and Louis side-by-side-by-side, I'd have taken Higgins first. He's a steal at the bottom of the fifth round, for the simple fact that you could probably pop him in the starting line-up right now, in the right system, and expect some catches.

He has bravado. He has skills. He can catch the football. What I love the most is that he's the guy that will break a quick route when he sees open field. He's like Dennis Rodman finding rebounds, regarding receptions. If you have a quarterback that likes to check down to a second or third route, or is rolling out of the pocket, Higgins could be special.

Yo, have any of you met RGIII?

But does he have what it takes in the NFL to bust up defenses? This is where I hesitate.

Honestly though, Higgins, as a possession receiver, should rate as high, or higher than Payton. I love the pick. I love the IQ. I love the bravado. This is a kid you go all in on, hope for the best, and understand that if he pans out, it's all icing on the cake.

GRADE: A (Could easily have been drafted two rounds earlier)

5th Round--#173 Overall--Trey Caldwell--DB--Louisiana-Monroe

I have no clue who this kid is, and have no real tangible thoughts on him going forward, other than to say that I doubt he makes the team.

Of course, what the hell do I know.

He's short, plays at a small school, and will provide depth if he makes the team. I'll just leave it there, rather than speculate. He's a typical guy that nobody grades that is either way better than people know because nobody covered him, or simply a guy on someone's radar with a tangible skill they like, that they throw a flier at because he's so far down the line.

GRADE: D (Honestly, don't know where else to grade him, simply because I'm 100% sure he'd have been available either in the 7th, or as a free agent)

7th Round--#250 Overall--Scooby Wright III--ILB--Arizona

He had me at Scooby.

He also slid way-the-hell down the draft board, which is hard for me to fathom, because his name is Scooby.

I grew up watching Chris Spielman, and what I loved about the Buckeyes' great is his nose for the football. While Scooby Wright isn't Chris Spielman by any stretch of the discussion, he certainly has a nose for the football, and just does whatever the hell it takes to get there.

But he's slow.

He's really slow.

I love players that overcome 4.9 40's and become great. There's nothing more wonderful than discussing underdog, scrappy (not scooby) players. There are guys like that every single year in the NFL that get drafted, and then disappear.

Is that Scooby?

It's possible.

But I love his nose for the ball, and honestly, he's a great pick here. If he makes the team, the value commodity that he provides is scintillating.

GRADE: A (Here's a guy that a lot of experts figured 2nd or 3rd round, and the Browns get him in the 7th. Holy Cow is that awesome)


My hinting suspicion here is that most teams will really knock the Browns for their reaches for Coleman early, and their middle round reaches, starting with QB. I can't disagree there. But I honestly think they have several home runs that will overwhelm the misses down the road.

The Browns are clearly committed to scheme, and are clearly focused on players that fit that scheme. They drafted high character guys that the coaching staff are high on, and never wavered once. It could prove folly, if I have overrated the front office and coaching staff, but in fairness, I've hated every front office and coaching staff this team has had over the past several years...until this one.

I love them, and love this draft for the Browns.

My only concern defensively, is where the lineman end up rating in what I have to assume is a 3-4 Horton defense. A lot of these guys graded as 4-3 defenders, so what happens next is kind of suspect. Still, I believe Jackson and Horton to be elite-level coaches, so my faith is strong...for the first time in years.

Of course, this won't play out until they start playing games, and potentially, get a long-term QB. Until then, it'll be a waiting game.

And in Cleveland, that's akin to torture.
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