The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone with the Cleveland Browns being one of the most active teams during the three-day event. The Browns selected 10 new players and made four trades during the 2017 NFL Draft. The team not only acquired players, but also a future 2018 first round pick.
Cleveland had a lot of holes coming into the draft and was able to address quite a few of them with their picks. On offense, the Browns added tight end David Njoku of Miami (FL), quarterback DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame, offensive tackle Roderick Johnson of Florida State and running back Matt Dayes of North Carolina State. On defense, the Browns added edge rusher Myles Garrett of Texas A&M, safety Jabrill Peppers of Michigan, interior defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi of North Carolina Charlotte, cornerback Howard Wilson of Houston and interior defensive lineman Caleb Brantley of Florida. And on special teams, the Browns added kicker Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State.
With that being said, here are my impressions on the Browns 2017 NFL Draft.
Favorite Pick: Edge Myles Garrett
My favorite pick of the draft was the first pick of the draft, edge rusher Myles Garrett. I was getting a little nervous the days before the draft that the Browns might take quarterback Mitch Trubisky over Garrett. Luckily, the Browns went with the right choice, selecting the best overall player in the draft. Garrett was essentially the unanimous pick by non-contrarian draft experts. He was No. 1 on my board and he was one of my favorite players to watch over the past three drafts. Teams visibly ran their plays away from his side of the ball, which shows the respect teams gave for his talent. He is a player with the game changing ability to rush the passer and wreck havoc in the backfield. The Browns have not had a pass rushing threat of his magnitude for a very long time. He is also a good run defender. Garrett is finally a player on the Browns defense who teams must gameplan for before the game. I love the pick.
Least Favorite Pick: DL Caleb Brantley
My least favorite pick of the draft was interior defensive lineman Caleb Brantley. I really like his talent and upside as a player. I had him as my No. 3 rated interior defensive lineman in the entire 2017 NFL Draft. But this ranking came out before he was alleged to have assaulted a woman. I did not like taking a risk like him. I did not like how the Browns, following the pick of Brantley, came out and said that they are still investigating the situation and could, in the end, release Brantley. Why make the pick if there is a chance he is going to be released? I would have only taken him if I had all the information and that he was innocent of the charge. Also, another reason to not like the pick is his quote saying that he needs to work on his effort and that he did not play hard on every play. Those facts make this my least favorite pick of the Browns’ Draft.
Best Fit: DL Larry Ogunjobi
The player that best fits a huge hole on the roster is interior defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi. Yes, I could have went with Garrett, but Ogunjobi fits perfectly in a huge hole on the defense. The Browns have Danny Shelton as their one technique defensive tackle to stuff up the middle of the line and draw double teams, but they lacked a starting three technique defensive tackle who could penetrate the line with quickness. Ogunjobi can do just that. He has the perfect skill set with athleticism and quickness to fit the Browns’ need at the three technique defensive tackle spot. His fit is perfect for one of the bigger holes on the defense.
Best Under-the-Radar Pick: TE David Njoku
The best under-the-radar pick for the Browns was tight end David Njoku. First rounders are rarely under the radar, but because it was sandwiched between the high profile pick of safety Jabrill Peppers and quarterback DeShone Kizer, I think he is getting overlooked. The Browns added my No. 2 rated tight end and the No. 14 overall player on my big board with the 29th pick in the draft. Njoku is one of the top offensive playmakers in the draft and has some of the highest upsides of the entire draft. At only 20 years old, the former Hurricane can be an immediate red zone threat with great size, athleticism and ball skills. He also has the rare ability for a tight end to make plays after the catch. I think he could have a huge impact in his rookie season.
Biggest Immediate Impact: Edge Myles Garrett
The biggest instant impact from the class will come from No. 1 pick Myles Garrett. Garrett will immediately start on one edge opposite Emmanuel Ogbah. He has the chance to be one of the leaders in the entire league in sacks. His impact will be felt immediately, creating a great edge combo with Ogbah. His impact will not only come in pass rush situations, but also against the run, which he is just as good at defending. I expect Garrett to be one of the most impactful rookies the Browns have had in quite a while.
Best Late Round Value: K Zane Gonzalez
The best late round value pick for the Browns was kicker Zane Gonzalez in the seventh round. The Browns get a potential starter in the seventh. Amongst a lot of experts who evaluate kickers, like ProFootballFocus’ Gordon McGuinness, he is viewed as the top kicker in the draft. His stats back it up, including being the all-time college leader in made field goals. Getting a starting player in the seventh round is such a huge value pick. With Zane’s strong leg, he can be a real difference maker, both in making long field goals, but also kicking it deep on kickoffs to force either fair catches or worse field position.
Best Special Teams Contributor: S Jabrill Peppers
The best special teams contributor will actually come from their first round safety Jabrill Peppers. He was one of the top returners in the class. Peppers is special with the ball in his hands. While he gets bashed for “speed”, he has the elusiveness to make defenders miss and turn returns into huge plays. Last season at Michigan, he returned 21 punts for 310 total yards (14.8 yards/return) and a touchdown. On kick returns, he returned 10 kicks for 260 total yards (26.0 yards/return). Peppers can also play on the coverage teams, using his athleticism and tackling ability to play well in that area.
Biggest Need Filled: Defensive Front Seven
The Browns biggest need area that was filled during the 2017 NFL Draft was the defensive front seven. The Browns went heavy in the front seven, filling their two biggest needs in that area, an edge rusher and a three technique defensive tackle. The Browns filled the edge rusher spot with the best rusher in the class, Myles Garrett. Cleveland filled the three technique defensive tackle spot with both Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley. The draft should form a heck of young edge rushing duo with Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. And the selections of Ogunjobi and Brantley fill the three technique spots and give the defensive line a lot more depth. The front seven is now one of the most improved areas on the roster.
Biggest Need Not Filled: Secondary
The biggest need not filled in the 2017 NFL Draft was the defensive secondary. The Browns spent two picks to upgrade the defensive backfield, selecting safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Howard Wilson, but it was just not filled completely because it was such a huge hole with so many spots that needed to be addressed, including free safety and cornerback. The Browns did not select a free safety in the draft, meaning the team will fill this with players already on the roster, free agents or undrafted free agents. The Browns did select a corner in Howard Wilson, but I think the unit needed more than one cornerback from the class. The Browns cornerback spot lacks depth with some uncertainty in the starting lineup. We shall see if the corners on the roster can suffice or if free agents or undrafted free agents can help fill the void.