One of the glimmers of hope for the 2016 Cleveland Browns was that the team had 14 rookie players selected from the NFL Draft. The Browns front office is banking on those rookies forming the foundation upon which to build a new era of successful Browns football.
One season is an incredibly small sample size especially for players new to the NFL. Still, the collection of draft picks by the Harvard Brain Trust has left Browns fans saying a collective “Meh” thus far.
Best hopes for star players
Emmanual Ogbah is one player that might need an exclusion from this discussion. After having a few good moments early in the season, Ogbah broke out over the last few weeks when defensive co-ordinator Ray Horton started moving him around and giving him more responsibilities. His strength was his ability to get into the backfield as his six sacks and numerous quarterback hurries demonstrated. He finished fourth among all rookies in sacks for 2016 and fourth in tackles for a rookie defensive end. There are still some lingering concerns as 3.5 of his sacks came against one team (two games versus Cincinnati Bengals).
Corey Coleman had a disappointing year especially after a big Week 2 five reception, 104 yard game against the Baltimore Ravens. Coleman would miss the next six weeks and never match those numbers (three receptions, 41 yards would be his game high after returning from injury). He would even show some frustration to the media when he noted the problems of having so many different quarterbacks. Still, he has a potentially good skill set that could be refined to make him worth that first-round pick.
At least they got playing time
Cody Kessler wound up having a better season statistically than both the Top 2 picks in the NFL Draft; Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Both of those quarterbacks still have a much higher ceiling than Kessler, who had issues making plays down the field. But, for one season, he can say with confidence that the only rookie quarterback that was better than him was Dak Prescott.
Carl Nassib had sacks in both the first and last week of the season, but only a half sack the rest of the year. After many hoping he could show up as a mid-round steal, Nassib was largely invisible on the field on the whole the vast majority of the season.
Joe Schobert wants to prove he can be consistent. Sure, he only had 11 tackles on the season, but they came in eight different games. He was active and appears he can be a useful backup but expecting anything more might be folly.
Ricardo Louis was the best of the late-round wide receiver picks. He returned kicks and he caught more passes than any other rookie outside Coleman. Of course, that still only netted him 18 for the year. After a somewhat promising four-game set from Week 3 through Week 6, he struggled before being phased out of the passing game.
Derrick Kindred arrived early in the year by laying some hard hits on opponents. It was obvious early on that coverage would not be his forte, but, man, he can lay some licks. The problem is that Horton’s schemes often utilize both safeties in rotating roles, which put him in precarious positions for his skillset.
Seth Devalve can bank on the fact that learning tight end at the NFL is a difficult proposition that can take some time to master. There was still some hope he could provide more in the passing game though he was the offensive version of Schobert. He might not have put up big stats (10 receptions on the season) but he caught a pass in each of the last seven games for the Browns.
Spencer Drango was the offensive version of Kindred in that he had an obvious strong suit (run-blocking), but his weakness (pass-blocking) was a big part of the required job.
Not sure how to evaluate players who didn’t play
Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton couldn’t beat out Ricardo Louis or Andrew Hawkins for playing time, so they did not see the field much.
Shon Coleman couldn’t beat out Austin Pasztor, Spencer Drango, Alvin Bailey, Cam Erving, or Jonathan Cooper for playing time. An Erving injury in Week 17 finally saw him get his first extensive look at right tackle. He did not fare terribly, but one half of football does not a season make.
Gone before we got to know them
Trey Caldwell and Scooby Wright were cut.