The Cleveland Browns are never boring during the NFL Draft. The 2017 edition saw the Browns moving back from 12, up from 33, and selecting one of the top quarterbacks in the mid-second round.
Whether or not the Browns succeeded in the draft will not be known until the players see the field- if even then- but that doesn’t preclude the WFNY staff from sharing their intial thoughts.
Does Myles Garrett have a shot at the rookie sack record (14.5, Jevon Kearse, 1999)? What are your favorite things about Garrett?
Joe: I think Myles Garrett does have a chance to get 14.5 sacks, but I do not think he will reach that record. My favorite thing about Garrett beyond the pass rushing skill set is his patience, disciplined approach against the run game. He is just as good against the run as he is in pass rush situations. It makes him a complete player who can play all three downs immediately for the Browns.
Craig: Probably not. That’s a lot of productivity and getting after the quarterback. I’m just not sure that the Browns will be far enough ahead often enough to put opposing offenses in passing situations with a frequency enough for him to challenge for that record. Kearse’s 1999 Titans had Steve McNair, Eddie George, and went 13-3. They also sacked Tim Couch 14 times in two games that season. Kearse got four of those 14 sacks.1
Scott: I think it will be very tough to achieve, but if you factor in how much the Browns defense will be on the field and how many more passing plays there are in today’s game, the stars are aligning. The issues will be 1) game flow, as Craig mentioned, and 2) teams putting tight ends and running backs on him to throw more than one body in his way. I’ll be very interested to see what the over-under is for his sack total on the year. I’m guessing around 8.5.
Josh: That would be awfully tough, but then again, the first-overall pick has the talent to do so. During his rookie season, I see him taking up more blocks and allowing his teammates across the defensive line to get to the quarterback more than he would. Then again, if he does in fact break that record, the Browns have themselves one hell of a defensive end for years to come.
Dave: I don’t care if he sets a record, I want him to stay healthy and contribute to a good defense. I think his presence will help others on the d-line and linebackers have more production, so I’m not overly concerned with individual numbers.
Michael: There are far more important factors in the Garrett’s rookie season, but he does have a shot at achieving it. Emmanuel Ogbah is good enough as an opposite end speed rusher that offenses cannot structure their blocking to solely focus on Garrett. Staying healthy the entire season might be the biggest key. The more important factors are what is so great about Garrett. He is strong against the run, knows how to get in a quarterbacks lane to affect passes even when he doesn’t get there himself, and his athleticism allows him to pick the starting point to battle offensive tackles.
What role does Jabrill Peppers fill in the NFL? What are you concerns?
Joe: Jabrill Peppers will come in and be the starting strong safety for the Browns. He will be allowed to roam the line of scrimmage and impact both the run and pass game. My biggest concern with him is his size. His lack of size could hurt as a tackler and in coverage against the bigger receivers and tight ends. Hopefully his toughness and athleticism will cover up this concerning area.
Craig: Jabrill Peppers will be a strong safety and special teams star early on in his career. I’m guessing the Browns will try and do some gadgetry with him as well, but primarily he’s just going to be a strong safety and punt returner. I don’t think it will be nearly as exotic and crazy as some fans seem to believe.
Scott: If I were to buy any jersey in this class, it’d be Peppers. His “role” could very well be one we haven’t seen yet. He could be the perfect Swiss Army Knife for Gregg Williams, ranging from covering tight ends to blitzing in a variety of ways. His tape shows so much in the way of A-gap work and tackles for loss that it will be very fun to see what Williams does with a player of this mold. I hesitate to use a player of his caliber in special teams, but it sounds like that’s in the cards as well. Perhaps the Browns can finally return a few punts this season.
Josh: His primary role will be as the team’s starting safety and being the team’s kick and punt returner. But, I see him playing a little wildcat quarterback and nickel cornerback as well, showing just how versatile he is and allowing him to stay in the game when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams switches formations like he’s known to do. He’s a great tackler and run stopper, two things that the Browns badly need on the backend of the defense. My biggest concern is his size. If he’s counted on to cover tight ends, that could be a problem. Then again, he’s athletic enough to makeup for his size.
Michael: Peppers is such a fun player to have on defense because even when aligned in a base set as the strong safety, he has the speed to rush the passer, break for the flats, or cover the middle of the field. Defensive audibles are tougher than offense ones because so much relies on the personnel grouping. Peppers changes the grouping just on the basis of his role for that play. The biggest worry is the diluted sample from the combine and if it suggests there are some secrets for just how Peppers keeps up his athleticism.
Dave: I love the pairing of Peppers and new DC Gregg Williams. I think that Williams will find out how to get the most out of Peppers’ unique talents. Bode shared a great video that is required viewing for Peppers skeptics.
With the Browns releasing Gary Barnidge, tight end David Njoku becomes more important. Can he make an impact as a rookie? What do you expect from him and Seth DeValve?
Joe: I think David Njoku can come in right away and contribute because of his freakish athletic ability. Just give him the ball and allow him to make plays after the catch. The combination of Seth DeValve and Njoku is really exciting to me. The Browns may have the best young tight end combo in the league. They are both mismatches for a defense with the ability to make big plays. Not many teams can say they have one let alone two playmakers at the tight end position.
Craig: I think it will be difficult for Njoku to make an impact immediately. Obvously, he’s a better prospect than Jordan Cameron based on being drafted at the end of the first round, but Cameron’s development should be instructive. We were able to see the potential almost immediately, but even a supremely talented athlete needs to learn how to use their superior athleticism against larger linebackers and smaller safeties. I will just assume he’s going to average about a catch per game for the first four or five contests.
Scott: Tight ends are typically a huge safety blanket for young quarterbacks. Njoku would be wise to warm up to both Cody Kessler and DeShonne Kizer from Day 1, building a rapport with whomever may be throwing him the football. Interestingly, I think both Njoku and DeValve could have a positive impact on Corey Coleman who could see some single coverage if you have two tight ends working the middle of the field with any sort of effectiveness. Whether it was Jermaine Gresham or Tyler Eifert, Hue Jackson has always had an athletic play-making tight end. With all due respect to Gary Barnidge, he now has his version of this in Cleveland.
Josh: I have a feeling that the tight end position will be a big part of the offense in 2017. While he is still very raw (and young), Njoku has the athletic ability, size, and speed to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses if he’s used the right way. I expect both he and DeValve will be bigger factors in the offense than most people expect. I’m really excited to see just how good Njoku truly is.
Michael: Njoku worries me because the expectations are for an immediate contribution especially with Gary Barnidge shown the door. Rookie tight ends are notoriously low production players because the position is so difficult to learn at the NFL level. Njoku has his own issues as he is a willing but terrible blocker, runs poor routes, and too often bobbles the ball upon receiving it. His upper-level athleticism and ability for YAC made him worth the first-round gamble, but he needs to be seen as a work-in-progress.
Dave: The release of Barnidge was puzzling to me. Perhaps this was the Browns giving a veteran a good shot at landing on another team as a favor more than a shrewd personnel move. Barnidge seems like a great guy to have in the locker room to help a young TE learn the nuance of the position, as the one knock on Njoku is that is talent is very raw.
Where did DeShone Kizer rank on your 2017 quarterback draft list? Can he compete for a starting position? Was he worth the selection?
Joe: I had DeShone Kizer as my fourth rated quarterback, right behind Deshaun Watson. Those two were so close in my eyes. But, I think Kizer can definitely compete for the starting job. I am not of the thinking that young quarterbacks need to sit and develop. Quarterbacks can learn on the job and develop while playing. If Kizer outperforms the rest of the quarterback group, play him. Was he worth the selection is still an open question until we see what they have in Kizer when he hits the field. I was not mad about the selection. I thought it was not forced and that it was an OK spot for the Browns to take Kizer.
Craig: Kizer was my favorite. That had as much to do with Trubisky’s lack of experience and struggling to see Deshaun Watson’s skills translate to the NFL. I also never really liked the idea of Patrick Mahomes all that much. In Kizer, I didn’t see a sure thing, but I saw a guy with all the physical tools and perceived a superior maturity. We’ll see if it comes to pass, but I’m looking forward to seeing Hue Jackson work with him.
Scott: I had no rankings of any kind for any position, but I will say yes to both questions. I love the value at 52, and there’s something fun about having a 6-foot-4-inch quarterback with the pedigree Kizer possesses. It wasn’t that long ago where we were talking about him with a first-round selection, and while his season in South Bend didn’t go as planned, I think this only worked to the Browns’ advantage. He’ll compete in camp, but Cody Kessler will win the gig. He’ll have to stay ready, however, as the Browns have a tendency to need more than one quarterback in a given season.
Josh: I didn’t necessarily have a Big Board, but if I would have made one, he would have been the fourth-best quarterback, much like many others had. While the Browns have plenty of holes and needs, taking a risk on Kizer at No. 52 is absolutely worth it. Give him some time to develop and learn Hue Jackson’s offense and they may just have their franchise quarterback. He can compete for a starting position starting in 2018, but he needs too many improvements to his game to compete for one in 2017.
Michael: Kizer was ahead of Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky to me. His size, athleticism, and ability to thrive under pressure were key factors that helped him push passed his inconsistencies and struggles in the screen game (a bigger deal for college offenses than NFL ones). As Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and others have shown, there is no need to sit a rookie quarterback if they are capable of winning the starting job. Offenses will be more rudimentary if they do start, but can quickly expand as the player learns the nuances. Cody Kessler is no slouch himself, so the Browns will have a tough decision to make, which is exactly what fans wanted/deserved from the position for 2017.
Dave: I initially didn’t like Kizer, but most of that was in the context of picks No. 1 and No. 12. When I saw that we drafted him as late as we did I came around to the idea. His size, arm, and athleticism are exciting, and with his late pick up, we don’t have to worry about him being an instant starter. I expect Cody Kessler to surprise people this year, but having Kizer there learning, with ample time to learn will be a big help.
The Browns have most of their haul now from the Carson Wentz trade.2 They have Corey Coleman, Cody Kessler, Shon Coleman, Derrick Kindred, Ricardo Louis, Spencer Drango, Jordan Payton, Jabrill Peppers, and DeShone Kizer with 2018 additional picks in the first and second round. Do you feel the Browns are winning or losing that trade right now?
Joe: Like most draft evaluations, it is hard to grade it out fairly until three years down the road, but I do like what I see from the Browns side of the trade. I was never a big fan of Carson Wentz and after his up and down rookie season, I am still not sold that he is a franchise-level quarterback. If he does not reach that level, then the Browns will automatically win the trade. The Browns’ haul may produce their starting quarterback, receiver, right tackle, strong safety, along with some nice players who help the depth of the roster. Plus the team still can bring in more top tier talent next year. I liked the trade last season and nothing has changed my mind, even after many have proclaimed Wentz a soon-to-be franchise quarterback. He still has a lot of work to do to ever reach that.
Craig: I think the Browns are doing fine, but I wouldn’t say they’re winning, necessarily. I don’t think every trade has to have a winner and a loser. I think Philly might be winning the trade and the Browns might win over time as well. At this point, do you think Philly fans would trade Carson Wentz for all the things the Browns fans have, or would they just be satisfied watching Wentz develop and play his second year in the NFL? I think they’re good on their end. We’ll see if the Browns are good on theirs. We’re talking about a one-win team until proven otherwise.
Scott: It’s tough to say the Browns win anything until they find their franchise quarterback. If it’s Kizer, they win. If it’s whomever they get next season, perhaps using that 2018 pick, they win. But if the Eagles continue to ascend and the Browns spin their tires with a cavalcade of guys, they continue to lose.
Josh: If Wentz is indeed a franchise quarterback, no price is too high for him, even if it means losing as much as the Eagles did. But, the fact that the Browns were able to get this much and still have a first and second rounder in the 2018 draft is truly impressive. Getting guys such as the two Colemans, Kessler, Peppers, and Kizer, along with those two additional picks could prove to be a great move for this team moving forward. It’s too early to tell if the Browns won or lost this trade though.
Michael: No clear winner yet, but the Eagles better be hoping Wentz shows some true development in Year 2 or the skies will darken for them on this deal. The Browns side of the ledger has much to prove, but the deal itself is more important because it is indicative of the philosophy of the front office. Having this trade pan out could be beneficial to them as a talking point about why having more selections in the NFL Draft is a good thing.
Dave: I agree with Craig, there doesn’t have to be a clear “winner” to a trade. A mutually beneficial deal is really the best kind of trade. I don’t think that Carson Wentz would have had much of a shot at greatness here in Cleveland had he been taken at 2. At this point in the development of the team there were too many holes to fill. Yes you need a franchise QB, but until you fill some other holes you can never tell if you had one or not.
Had you heard of Larry Ogunjobi or ever seen him play? What do you think about the Browns new defensive tackle?
Joe: As you probably know, Larry Ogunjobi was my No. 4 rated interior defensive lineman in the draft. I was really familiar with him and love the pick for the Browns. I think he has the talent and fit to start right away at the Browns three technique spot on the defensive line. His quickness and athleticism is rare to find in a defensive lineman. I loved the pick and believe the Browns got a huge steal.
Scott: I had not known of Sir Ogunjobi until I read Joe’s interior linemen rankings. It will be interesting to see what the team does with him as I was under the impression they would be rolling with Danny Shelton and Jamie Meder as the two tackles in a 4-3, or just Shelton if they ever used three down linemen. I’m a huge fan of depth and Ogunjobi is a 300-pound beast who tore up the Combine. If he somehow becomes a starter, this draft became even better.
Josh: If it weren’t for Joe, I would have never heard of Ogunjobi prior to the Browns selecting him. After reading what Joe had to say about him and watching a handful of videos, he’s a good pick. The only problem is that there may now be a logjam in the middle of the defensive line. Then again, if he can help the team stop the run, he’s a welcomed addition to the defensive front.
Michael: Ogunjobi made some waves in the draft circles after his NFL Combine. I have seen limited tape (highlights only), so I cannot speak to the depth of his game, but he is a player who has thrived a bit against the run and has the athleticism to grow into a role in the passing game from the three-technique tackle position.
What late-round picks did you like?
Joe: Besides Larry Ogunjobi whom I already stated I love, I like kicker Zane Gonzalez and offensive tackle Roderick Johnson. I like Gonzalez because I love getting starters late and the Browns got their starting kicker in the seventh round. It is a great value. Gonzalez is said to be a kicker with a huge leg who can make the tough long yardage kicks that separate the good kickers from the great. Roderick Johnson is another one I like because I think he could be a future starting left tackle. He could develop into Joe Thomas’ eventual replacement whenever he hangs it up (hopefully not for a long time though). Johnson has the size and athleticism that you just cannot find in an offensive lineman very often.
Craig: I love taking a kicker late. With the moving of the extra point, it’s more important than ever to have a reliable kicker. I think Cody Parkey was alright after a miserable start, but I’m good with Zane Gonzalez being picked. Of all the late picks other than a kicker, I liked the pick of Howard Wilson, the corner from Houston. In a deep draft of secondary players, it was nice to see the Browns go get someone to compete at corner.
Scott: Agree with Joe and Craig on Zane Gonzalez taking over for Cody Parkey. Dude’s got a leg and the Browns can ill afford to not score points when they get close to the end zone. I’ll say the pick that intrigues me the most is Howard Wilson. This team needs defensive backs more than any other position group. I’m not counting on a third-day pick to be the next Richard Sherman, but the kid should be able to compete for a spot on the active roster given the rest of his peers (save for Joe Haden) leaving little to be desired.
Josh: Although it’s just a kicker, getting the best kicker in the draft in Zane Gonzalez. We all know how often the Browns lean on their kicker, so getting that kind of talent could prove to be a very good thing in the future. Also, if the assault allegations turn out to be false, getting Caleb Brantley in the sixth round is quite impressive as well, as I explained in my post on Sunday.
Michael: The kicker has been covered. Surprisingly, the Browns only took one defensive back after Peppers in Howard Wilson. Wilson is a quick cornerback who should be able to set up shot as our nickel corner to cover the slot. Roderick Johnson and Caleb Brantley topped off the Al Davis Raiders style-draft where the Browns took people based on athletic projections without as much regard to current development status or off the field issues as they had in the 2016 version.
Dave: I was disappointed that we traded out of the number 187 spot in the 6th round. I was hoping for Ron Dayne Jr. or maybe someone with a marketing degree. Yes these answers seem silly, why not check out our draft preview from the Friday Fumble? It is just as relevant after the draft as it was before, so don’t worry if there are spoilers.