Discussing the Browns’ 2016 Draft Class: WFNY Roundtable

Clevland Browns 2016 NFL Draft Picks
Dan Labbe/

The Cleveland Browns have officially added 14 rookies to the fold, setting the stage for yet another interesting summer in Berea. With the dust having settled—at least a little bit—we yearned to go back through, giving our thoughts on the highs and lows of the biggest three-day stretch in any Cleveland Browns season. Who did we like? Who didn’t we like? What are our biggest takeaways of the new front office? Let’s dig in.

It’s fair to say Corey Coleman was a surprise, but having seen how the wide receivers shook out in the first round, what are your thoughts on the Baylor product heading into May?

Scott: The word I would use would be “intrigued.” I don’t think Coleman can step in and be the Julio Jones that this team desperately needs, but I do think he can be the non-crazy version of Percy Harvin (or Odell Beckham) that this team also desperately needs. Just as there is an elite tier of quarterbacks that continue to be the holy grail, there are only a handful of top-flight receivers, and an even smaller sliver of those guys are the prototypical 6-foot-3-inch, jump-out-the-roof types. I’m looking forward to what this kid has in store.

Craig: I think Corey Coleman seems like a fine pick in generic terms, but I this is the weird thing about having a new head coach who is offensively minded. We have no idea what criteria was used because we don’t know a lot about what Hue Jackson wants to do in building this offense from the ground up. Corey Coleman and his speed and yards after the catch give us a few clues, I think.

Bode: The pick made sense once it was made and I thought about who Corey Coleman is. When RG3 is at quarterback, he has his DeSean Jackson type who can get open deep or catch something short and make more yards afterwards. If Kessler starts, then Coleman is the type of receiver that can make things easier on a younger quarterback. The Browns needed a playmaker, and Coleman is one.

Joe: It was definitely a surprise, but I do like the fit for the Browns. Coleman was my fifth ranked receiver in the draft, but the difference between each of my top five was not big. He may not be the big receiver that the Browns needed, but the team needed speed and big play ability even more and that is what he can provide. The Baylor receiver instantly gives the Browns offense a big play receiver that the team just did not have. Finally, teams will need to game plan for a Browns receiver. His presence on the field will help open the field for the rest of the offense. He fits what the Browns needed desperately: Playmakers.

Josh: While the selection of Coleman may have been a surprise, I do like the pick for the Browns. He is a playmaker on the outside that not will not only create big plays, but will open up the rest of the field for the Browns’ offense solely due to his presence on the field. Coleman may need to learn more routes (he supposedly didn’t run that many at Baylor), but if he is the athlete that everyone portrays him to be, that shouldn’t be too difficult. And for everyone complaining about his height, look up how tall Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham are, who are two of the best wide receivers in the league.

Corey Coleman NFL Draft

AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Keeping on the receiver track, how surprised were you to see four wide receivers (and a pass-catching tight end) be added to the fray?

Scott: Surprised, but only in the way that I never thought we’d see a Browns front office do something like it. It’s been so long since the team drafted any quality receivers let alone four of them that some Ray Farmer-induced Stockholm Syndrome sets in. I don’t expect all five guys to step in Week 1 and become the new Greatest Show on Turf, but if one or two can produce this season with another one or two morphing into something of quality over time, it’s a huge win.

Craig: Happily surprised. I’ve thought a lot about quarterback over the years because I’m a Browns fan. Recently I feel like we’ve been overly obsessed about the QB and our savior complex without remembering that Tom Brady’s greatest years were with Randy Moss. Ben Roethlisberger has almost always had great receivers, tight ends and running backs. Andy Dalton gets the job done with tight ends and A.J. Green. It couldn’t be more opposite of Ray Farmer.

Bode: With 14 picks, a position was going to be overloaded, but it was crazy to have so many receivers picked, while ignoring running back. It will be tough for all of them to make the final 53-man roster and decisions on receivers after just one training camp is tough (unless they are Vince Mayle). Taylor Gabriel, Andrew Hawkins, and Brian Hartline were sure just put on notice though as the Browns indicated every receiver must work their tail off and be ready for a cut-throat competition there.

Joe: How can you not be surprised by the Browns taking four receivers? It was a struggle to get even one over the past few drafts. I love it. Hue Jackson knows that in order to be successful, the offense needs more weapons in the passing game. It also showed that the team will stick to the board and take the best player available no matter that the team already had picked the same position. But, I am definitely surprised to say the least.

Josh: Like Craig, I was happily surpised. After the Browns took just one receiver when Ray Farmer was the GM, it was nice to see that this new regime actually values the wide receiver position. No matter how good a quarterback is, if he doesn’t have playmakers to throw the ball to, he’s not going to succeed. Hopefully at least two or three of the four receivers picked this year can be legitimate wideouts for the Browns. But, either way, it was nice to see that this regime actually cares about receivers who can make plays, whether it’s their speed, route running, or catching ability, having receivers on the outside will open up the field for other players as well.

On the other side of the ball, the Browns added more play-makers, but of the edge rushing variety. What are your initial feelings on Emmanuel Ogbah?

Scott: Ogbah seems like a great kid with a high motor and a willingness to do what it takes to make it at the next level. It should be noted that I felt the same way about Barkevious Mingo and Nate Orchard. Will’s piece on Orchard still stands out in my mind. While I don’t know if the move will result in the Browns having their next great pass rusher, I do know that it sends a huge message to the guys in the locker room that their job is far from guaranteed.

Craig: I hadn’t heard of Ogbah, and the loading up in positions where the Browns already have a lot of players, including second rounder Nate Orchard from the 2015 NFL Draft. That said, the pass rush wasn’t working a year ago and I just assumed it was Jim O’Neil and a lack of scheme. Apparently the Browns saw an opportunity to upgrade personnel as well as going back to Ray Horton’s version of the 3-4.

Bode: Anytime you need to transition a guy to a 3-4 OLB there is going to be some questions. But, with Coleman and Ogbah, the Browns seemed to bank on three reliable measures: College production, high-athleticism, and great character. Ogbah was a true leader for the Cowboys, so he should come in and be ready to work hard. I see him as more Jabaal Sheard than a Paul Kruger, but that is probably a good thing as he can take the SOLB spot, while Orchard hopefully locks up the WOLB.

Joe: I like the potential Ogbah has because of his great length and athleticism. He was productive in college, but he still has room for refining and improvement. The Browns defense needed more athletes and it got one on Ogbah. He has the talent to be a huge pass rushing threat. The Browns pass rush was just horrible last season, so adding another athletic pass rusher to the mix will only improve it.

Josh: Honestly, outside of his name sounding familiar due to the fact that I’m a big college football fan, I don’t know much about Ogbah. But, with such a week defensive backfield after losing so much in free agency, one way to help that is to put pressure on the opposing quarterback and talented edge rushers can do just that.

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Of the others—Nassib, Schobert, Wright—who’s got you intrigued?

Scott: Wright is right. Is it crazy of me to think that this kid could be a starting inside linebacker who was taken with the final pick of the draft? The Browns have a host of edge guys at this point, but have some depth issues inside. I like his chances.

Craig: Nassib is intriguing to me because I think they want him to play 3-4 defensive end. The Browns have largely relied on free agency to fill those positions and it will be interesting to see now that they’ve used a decent draft pick on the slot, how they go about developing him.

Bode: I think you mis-spelled Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins. I love Scooby Wright and think he’ll be a productive special teamer who plays better than most expect at inside linebacker when given the chance. But, get ready for the Hollywood Higgins experience. The guy can flat-out play. Most probably don’t recognize him since he played for Colorado State, but there’s a reason he was a Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2014 (yes, along with Wright and Schobert, more award guys drafted by the Browns). He scored 17 touchdowns that year and was just dominant. The Rams re-adjusted things to be more balanced (and had a worse QB) in 2015, but Higgins is my pick for the receiver past Coleman with the best odds to make this team.

Joe: I am really intrigued by Carl Nassib. His production in his final season at Penn State was impressive. He could be a huge steal for the Browns if this production is who he really is. He fits a huge need, too. The Browns needed defensive ends on their roster. The defensive line was thin, lacking a lot of great option on the end spots. Nassib’s size and athleticism will be a huge upgrade for the team. He could be an immediate starter for the Browns.

Josh: Nassib. As an Ohio State fan, I was disappointed when he was named Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 over Ohio State’s Joey Bosa. But, now I am intrigued by that because of his ability to make plays on the defensive line and pressure the opposing quarterback. Here’s to hoping he can (somewhat) resemble Bosa.

It wouldn’t be a draft chat without some quick thoughts on Cody Kessler. What were your initial thoughts and how are you feeling a few days later?

Scott: While I have no idea what the kid’s future will look like, I love that Hue Jackson essentially said that this kid is going to be his project. Not taken early bides him time; not taken too late give him a shot at breaking the mold that comes with mid-round quarterbacks. Great numbers, great touch—these are good thing. The hurdle, however, comes in the form of a 2016 record that will undoubtedly put them in contention for another quarterback in the 2017 Draft. If he’s Andy Dalton, that’s great from a value standpoint, but I don’t see that stopping the Browns from getting their guy next spring.

Craig: You can’t be excited about Cody Kessler yet. I’m happy the Browns are excited and I think what they say about him makes sense, but it seemed like there were more accomplished players available. The Browns have a chance to be “right,” but they’ve got a lot of work to do. Quarterbacks and other draft picks control their own destiny only to a certain point. The rest is providing a culture of learning and putting guys in positions to succeed. Colt McCoy being black-balled by the Mangini coaching staff would put any rookie behind the curve. Hopefully Hue Jackson and his people do better.

Bode: I am so happy the Browns did not draft Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, or Cardale Jones. I just did not see it with those guys becoming reliable NFL quarterbacks. With Kessler, he is limited in his size, but he resembles the type of quarterback Hue Jackson likes. He played in a pro-style offense (learned proper footwork), is poised in the pocket and huddle, and is true-accurate (meaning he not only completes the pass, but does so to allow his receiver to make yards after the catch). The Browns adding a bunch of YAC receivers and selecting Kessler gives some insight into the offense Hue wants to build (I think). Plus, in the third round, a long-term backup quarterback is OK to draft. InsideThePylon’s Mark Schofield explains it better than myself though.

Joe: Going into the draft process, Cody Kessler was a late round quarterback I thought could be better than most experts think. He excels at the three biggest traits I like in a quarterback, accuracy, decision-making and intelligence. The key is his accuracy. So, once I saw the pick, I was not upset like most fans were on Friday. Yes, he may have been taken a round two too early, but I like the player overall. Plus, I like that Hue Jackson is so confident and determined about this selection.

Josh: While I wasn’t excited about Kessler, from the day the Browns hired Hue Jackson, I gave the new coach a clean slate and the fact that he has been known to develop quarterbacks has me excited to see what he can do with the QB, especially considering Jackson said Kessler is “his guy” following the draft and to “trust him”.

Richard Mackson / USA Today

Richard Mackson / USA Today

Having watched the entire process unfold, it’s clear that the Browns loved players who were graded highly by several of the analytics-based services. Guys like Scooby Wright and “Hollywood” Higgins were off the charts. Do you agree with this process?

Scott: I’m fine with the path they took. Given what Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson were saying about character heading into the offseason, it’s no surprise that the majority of kids selected were of the Overcoming Odds narrative—walk-ons, discounted due to injury, and one story about beating childhood cancer. A good chunk of these kids had to bust their asses to get where they are. That’s a character trait that transcends level of play.

Craig: It is a process that relies heavily on the Browns developing their own talent in their own scheme. It’s risky, but at least they picked super-athletic types of prospects to mold.

Bode: It is interesting the Browns analytic process seemingly lined up with places like PFF and Football Outsiders. Development is a huge key, but there is a reason those places had those players ranked high. They tend to project NFL players based on risk mitigation of having the players most likely to succeed in the NFL. So, not just productive players in college, but productive in specific areas with the athleticism to match. Also, drafting a huge quantity of players (14!) jibes with the research showing the draft is more a throw of the dice than we are led to believe.

Joe: I like that the Browns picked productive college players. If you weren’t good enough in college, why would you think you can be productive at a higher level? Yes, there are instances where a player just wasn’t in the right situation to produce, but overall I like getting these high production guys. It makes projecting a player easier, because you can see what environment a player needed to succeed. I want players who produce, not guys who you need to coddle to get out the production.

Josh: While this is a dangerous route to go, it’s one that the NFL hasn’t really seen before, which gives me hope for this Browns’ franchise for the first time in awhile. Obviously, the old regime’s plans never worked, so why not have faith and hope that this new way of evaluating players as a front office can? Like Joe said, the Browns took players who were productive in college, that has to mean something, right?

Also having watched the entire process unfold, how do you feel about the way the Browns front office handled themselves during the selections and in their responses to the media?

Scott: The image used above was done so with a purpose. The browns waited until the end of the third round to introduce their core as opposed to just one player in Corey Coleman. It’s the first draft in a very long time where I felt confident in the plan, that it was executed without panic, and that It netted the team a bunch of potential talent in areas of desperate need. The front office was clear in their messages after each round, only furthering confidence. This all might blow up in our faces, but at least I didn’t leave this weekend feeling like I have to just blindly trust a bunch of know-it-alls. I blame Joe Banner.

Craig: Aces. Honestly, the team didn’t feel like they were operating at the Pentagon and that’s good. We saw video of their phone call to Corey Coleman for the first time. We got reports about how they were doing things. I didn’t think they should have traded down again after the first round, but I think they handled themselves really well. We heard from coaches, Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and pretty much everyone else during and after each day. Really great stuff. Is this all Dee Haslam’s influence?

Bode: Well, Mike Pettine won himself a bunch of press conferences too. They are doing great, which is better than not for our own sanity, but I’m not worried about winning the press conference. One interesting portion though is Hue Jackson has given this staff a ton of respect nationally. Several have noted they trust Hue to make things work when discussing our offensive picks.

Joe: I like that the team went true to their board, selecting the best player no matter the position. This was shown in their selection of four receivers. They did not care that they had taken the same position before, the player was the best on the board, so they took him. In press conferences, the front office and Hue Jackson looked confident in their picks, describing exactly why they chose the player.

Josh: I loved it, honestly. Whether it was the down-to-earth video showing them calling Corey Coleman about him being selected by the Browns or just them being blatantly honest with the media, especially when Hue Jackson said to “trust him” when many questioned why they selected Cody Kessler over the other quarterback options, it was nice to see that the whole front office was “in on the action” this time around.


Who was your best pick and why?

Scott: I’m going to cheat a bit and say both Colemans. This team needs starting-caliber talent and these two players, to me, feel like they have the best chance at being among the first 22 on the field.

Craig: I’m not going to be goofy with this. Corey Coleman is the best pick because he projects to impact the game the most. I can’t wait to see his speed translate to the NFL field.

Bode: Corey Coleman better be our best pick because we desperately need a playmaker on offense and he is now it. As far as a value pick though, the other Coleman might surprise a bunch of people. I had Shon Coleman as my last possible starting offensive tackle and the Browns were able to grab him in the third round. He’ll obviously have his moments, but if the Browns just let him compete at right tackle and focus there, then I think he can win that job.

Joe: Corey Coleman is the best pick because he gives the Browns something they just didn’t have, an offensive playmaker on the outside. Yes, I had Coleman No. 5 in my receiver rankings coming into the draft, but the difference between the top five was just not that big. Also, I think his fit for the Browns was better than the other receivers available because he gives the team elite speed and elusiveness that no other Browns player has on offense. I know this is an easy pick, but his addition makes the offense instantly better, causing defenses to have to gameplan for him.

Josh: Corey Coleman. Yeah, he was their first pick, but with so much potential playmaking ability, he will open up the rest of the field on offense even when he is not touching the ball with his speed alone. He may still need some development on the outside, but his speed and jumping ability alone will make this offense better than it was before he was selected.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Who, if anyone, left you scratching your head?

Scott: Cody Kessler (and Hue Jackson, by default) will have a ton to prove, if only because it’s the nature of the business. The one pick, however, that was a bit of a surprise was the kid from Princeton—Seth DeValve. For starters, I’m not a fan of the little letter-big letter combination from a typing standpoing, and only do it for LeBron because he’s a four-time MVP and could bring Cleveland a championship. The other part here is that he’s the one guy who this front office really needs to prove that the metrics and criteria for their selections work. I see some reasons for hope on the other guys. This kid, not so much. At least for now.

Craig: Cody Kessler is the name. It’s not a disaster, necessarily, but the Browns have a lot to prove with this one. This is one pick that seemed like they were trying to outsmart everyone.

Bode: Not drafting a running back. The staff must really believe Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell were held back by the previous offense because it showed a ton of faith in their ability by not taking a single runner when the team was holding 14 picks.

Joe: The Ricardo Louis pick was a head scratcher. He was a player who seemed to be someone who did not fit their draft strategy. He was not the high-production type player. He seems like more of athletic, potential type player. There were other guys, other receivers who I would have chosen before him.

Josh: Seth DeValve, the tight end from Princeton. During his last couple seasons in college, he fought through plenty of injuries that caused him to miss a lot of games, as well as the fact that as a fourth-round pick, the Browns have a lot more holes o fill at other positions than a backup tight end, right? I mean, unless they are going to try and go with a two tight end offense, why pick a backup tight end that early? And even if they do in fact do that, would DeValve play any significant time? That pick just seemed weird to me. But, then again, I have to trust this new front office and regime.

Parting thoughts?

Scott: I just hope one of these kids plays to a level that warrants jersey purchases. Far too long has Joe Thomas been the only guy worthy of the investment. Griffin might be a shot in the arm. Joe Haden’s there, but who knows after last season. With Thomas on the down side of his career arc, the Browns need a guy who can be that guy going forward. Make me proud, Corey Coleman.

Craig: Go Browns. Super Bowl!

Bode: The 2017 NFL Draft is going to be fun with the Browns already having a head start on it by gaining extra picks. And, even though I believe we have a competent coaching staff and like what we did to add more depth and talent, the Browns are going to struggle in 2016. So, we will draft early and often. Until then, off to OTA’s.

Joe: Overall, I like what the Browns did in the draft. They added a lot of talent, but also talent who can play and impact the team right away. I like that the team has a plan and a type of player they look for. Also, I like that the front office listens to Hue Jackson and allows his input on the selections. Plus, I love the trades that the team made. The ability to make the second pick turn into multiple picks this and future years was smart. It shows that the team is not trying to throw a band aid on the problem. The ability to have two picks in each of the first three rounds in next year’s draft is huge for the rebuild of this team. The organization has a plan.

Josh: Here’s to hoping at least one of these players that were drafted by the Browns this year will be part of a playoff team in Cleveland before they retire.