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2017 NFL Draft: Categorical, ridiculous grades for the Browns

There is an art to grading football players who have been selected by a NFL team in the days following the NFL Draft. The athletes have yet to participate in an organized team activity. The front office spent the past 12 months analyzing every aspect of the vast array of college football participants, which are packaged all the way down to a solitary letter grade to judge their efforts.

Such musings about NFL teams and soon-to-be rookie players are categorically ridiculous. It is difficult to even judge first-year players who may initially struggle on the field. 2016 draftees Corey and Shon Coleman have large expectations as starting players in their second seasons. Will they join the ever-growing list of Cleveland Browns draft busts? Or might they use their rookie season as lessons learned to turn their careers into successes?

However, here at WFNY, something being categorically ridiculous has never frightened us away from a venture. Plus, grading a draft is also a pertinent task as it helps organize initial opinions and debate that has been a big piece of leading into the NFL draft. And hey, these grades provide some fodder for those who may wish to mock my abilities to prognosticate on prospects leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Just take a look at my 2015 or 2016 versions of this article.

As grading a draft is almost purely qualitative, the importance is in acknowledging that it is opinion and creating categories to separate the different opinions. Here, the grades are separated into four headings:

Filling needs: Did the Browns fill the needs that were identified before the draft?
Selecting the BPA: Did the Browns take the best player available according to general consensus?
Intelligent trading: Did the Browns make smart trades?3
Bode biased view: Did the Browns take players that I personally like and avoid the ones I did not like?

The Picks

  • Myles Garrett (Round 1, Pick 1) DE, Texas A&M
  • Jabrill Peppers (Round 1, Pick 25), S, Michigan
  • David Njoku (Round 1, Pick 29), TE, Miami
  • Deshone Kizer (Round 2, Pick 20), QB, Notre Dame
  • Larry Ogunjobi (Round 3, Pick 1), DT, Charlotte
  • Howard Wilson (Round 4, Pick 20), CB, Houston
  • Roderick Johnson (Round 5, Pick 16), OT, Florida State
  • Caleb Brantley (Round 6, Pick 1), DT, Florida
  • Zane Gonzalez (Round 7, Pick 6), K, Arizona State
  • Matt Dyes (Round 7, Pick 34), RB, NC State

Filling Needs

Positional Needs: QB, TE, WR, RT, DT, DE, LB, FS, SS, CB1, CB3
First three rounds: DE, SS, TE, QB, DT
Last four rounds: CB, OT, DT, K, RB

Any draft pick outside of the top three rounds has less than a 50 percent success rate, so it is important to not rely on any of the day three NFL picks to be considered more than depth for the moment. Those late picks aside, it does not appear that the Browns drafted a player to satisfy their need at linebacker, free safety, or cornerback in 2017. The team appears willing to roll with inexperienced players at right tackle and wide receiver too. It is unclear what the current plan is for the free safety position. The team did draft Zane Gonzalez out of Arizona State- the draft’s best kicker- which should provide another starting player.

The Browns hope they filled up to five of their most urgent needs in the first three rounds and perhaps some added depth to their secondary needs in the last four rounds (and UDFA). The Browns also prioritized strengthening the line of scrimmage through free agency (offensive line) and now the draft (defensive line). The most important position to solve is quarterback, and the team did manage to add a developmental player with an incredibly high ceiling there in DeShone Kizer.

There were so many needs on a barren roster that while the draft strategy was not necessarily need-based, the selections all fit into a specific need.

Need Grade = B+

Selecting the BPA

The good folks at Zone Coverage compiled a consensus 2017 NFL Draft big board for the Top 300 players among the industry leading draft experts. It is a fantastic resource especially when attempting to put together a consensus on whether a player was the best player available at a particular spot.

Steal = Ranked much better than slot taken
Wash = Ranked about where taken
Reach = Ranked much worse than slot taken

Myles Garrett (Round 1, Pick 1) DE, Texas A&M: Steal. Garrett was the obvious choice. A consensus by most all mocks except for a few attempts at adding some intrigue near the day of the draft. However, obtaining a player such as Myles Garrett is still a steal because not every year are such obviously gifted players available at the top of the draft. Anyone who followed the Cleveland Cavaliers when they selected Anthony Bennett already knows this to be true.

Jabrill Peppers (Round 1, Pick 25), S, Michigan: Wash. Peppers was the No. 29 player on the consensus board, but he had the absolute most variance of the players within his range. The experts were decidedly split on the Wolverine as many saw his athleticism and explosiveness a perfect match for the modern NFL, while others feared he was between positions and would not be able to deliver the impact a first-round pick should.

David Njoku (Round 1, Pick 29), TE, Miami: Steal. The No. 19 player on the consensus board has more explosive ability in the passing game than the famed O.J. Howard, but he has much more work to do on the blocking side of the game. He has the ability and desire, but he is still refining that technique.

Deshone Kizer (Round 2, Pick 20), QB, Notre Dame: Slight steal. Kizer fell in at No. 40 on the big board, which makes him falling into the Browns laps at 52 a slight steal. Especially since quarterbacks generally outperform their big board slot due to teams panicking to fill the position (Watson was No. 22, Trubisky No. 23, Mahomes No. 30).

Larry Ogunjobi (Round 3, Pick 1), DT, Charlotte: Reach. Ogunjobi is listed as a three-technique defensive tackle where the Browns had a hole, but he was considered a consensus fourth round pick meaning the Browns might have drafted him more on need.

Howard Wilson (Round 4, Pick 20), CB, Houston: Wash. The No. 124 pick was drafted at pick No. 126, which pretty much defines the wash category. There were other players who slipped and might have had better value here but the Browns had neglected cornerback to this point.

Roderick Johnson (Round 5, Pick 16), OT, Florida State: Steal. Experts had the raw tackle with the professional skillset as an early fourth round pick at No. 110. The Browns did not necessarily need a backup tackle, but they gained good value by grabbing him.

Caleb Brantley (Round 6, Pick 1), DT, Florida: Wash. Sure, Brantley was the No. 61 guy on the big board, but his off field red flags have made him a boom-or-bust risk selection.

Zane Gonzalez (Round 7, Pick 6), K, Arizona State: Wash. Drafting a kicker before the bidding goes underway in UDFA territory is a solid idea, but it does make that player a steal either.

Matt Dayes (Round 7, Pick 34), RB, NC State: Steal. Once again the Browns took a player who slipped far past his consensus mock positioning. Dayes was by consensus worth nearly 100 picks better than where he was taken. The Browns potentially filling their third running back with a seventh round pick is nice.

Final Tally:
5 Steals
4 Washes
1 Reaches

BPA Grade = A

Intelligent trading

Trade with Texans

Cleveland Browns received: No. 25, 2018 first-round pick
Houston Texans received: No. 12

Draft Chart Says…
Cleveland Browns 720 + 420 = 1140 points
Houston Texans 1200 points

Trade with Packers

Cleveland Browns received: No. 29
Green Bay Packers received: No. 33, No. 108

Draft Chart Says…
Cleveland Browns 640 points
Green Bay Packers 580 + 78 = 658 points

Trade with Broncos

Cleveland Browns received: No. 126, No. 252
Denver Broncos received: No. 145, No. 175

Draft Chart Says…
Cleveland Browns 46 + 1 = 47 points
Denver Broncos 33 + 21 = 54 points

Intelligent Trading Grade = C+

Bode biased view

This category is simply what I thought about each player in the draft and the strategy of picking them in the spot.

Love: Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers

The Browns defense was pathetic in the 2016 season with the lack of playmakers obvious. Obtaining two of the most prolific defensive playmakers in the draft will not solve all of the Browns woes on that side of the ball. It will, however, make the team much more enjoyable to watch with some hope for the future there.

Like: DeShone Kizer, Howard Wilson, Zane Gonzalez

Kizer was the fourth quarterback on most boards, but he was the second on mine. He has the experience, size, and character that I value (future column will detail more thoroughly). He has the potential to be a Ben Roethlisburger type quarterback for the Browns though he has quite a bit of development to get there.

Howard Wilson is a quick corner with good hips. He should be able to immediately be plugged in as a slot corner, which is needed more and more as defenses move to nickel in order to counter all of the three receiver sets.

I lambasted the Browns for the past two years for not allocating any of their vast draft resources to solving the kicker riddle. Gonzalez has a ridiculous leg with good accuracy from everywhere, so we have that position nailed down for the forseeable future.

Mixed Feelings: David Njoku, Larry Ogunjobi, Caleb Brantley, Roderick Johnson

Njoku was good value where we drafted him and getting him ahead of the Steelers who were rumored to have wanted him greatly is all the better. It is just that tight ends take time to develop at the NFL level and there are going to be massive expectations he will contribute right away. Plus, I would sort of rather him flex out to receiver and use him as a mismatch guy there (also not a huge fan of how often he initially bobbles the ball on catches).

Ogunjobi is not someone I had watched a bunch. From all reports, he should be a serviceable 3-tech, which is a good thing. There were better options at defensive back there though. The Browns still are pretty empty in the secondary so I hope that the defensive line can help hide them.

Obvious reasoning for mixed feelings on Brantley.

Johnson was not a true need despite having some good value where we took him. He seemed to have good lateral movement but had some bad plays when I watched the Seminoles too. He needs to be on the Shon Coleman slow development train.

Didn’t Like: None

Didn’t care one way or another: Matt Dayes

I want to like Dayes and maybe I will, but I just am apathetic about a seventh round running back who will fight for time behind Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell (assuming he ever signs).

Bode Biased View Grade = A

Overall

The Browns completed a solid draft. They filled needs, while not reaching for many players to do so. They followed a big of a new-age old school Raiders approach to the draft where measurables with added football skill trumped some possible red flags with players (either on field or off field). As the team continues to acquire more youth, the question will be if they can develop into a consistent, competitive team. The Browns should be one step closer to such today.

Grade Recap
Need Grade = B+
BPA Grade = A
Intelligent Trading Grade = C+
Bode Biased View Grade = A

Overall Grade = A-

  • mgbode

    Since we are being difficult, one more possibility is the Giants realized they can intercept the ball for free here and the non-mobile Weeden isn’t getting into the end zone on foot. Decline penalty, take ball if they can get their hands on it.

  • JNeids
  • Frank

    I think it depends on which draft chart you use. If that is the JJ draft chart, it’s likely the browns use one that values high picks less

  • mgbode

    Relatively less on high picks. It is more they value later picks more. The Kevin Meers chart.