OK, I have been waiting and pondering the 2017 Draft for over a month now. I refuse to give grades any longer, and have already proclaimed to you the teams I feel failed to do what they needed to in April. I even declared the winners of the URFA scramble. But I cannot postpone the inevitable forever. I feel like I owe you dear readers/followers the positive side of the coin. Who did the most? Who was the best? Who may have improved their roster the most?
I am pleased to announce that it was the team that needed the most help. It was a team that had the Draft ammunition to help itself. It is the team that didn’t panic or get too cute on Draft weekend? It was the team that should now be about a year away from contending for a Play-Off spot. It was the CLEVELAND BROWNS!!!
The team’s brain trust played around a little bit, “working the Draft” early on after their Pick at 12 was devalued by DA BEARS trading up to get TRUBISKY. But as the saying goes, all is well that ends well. I do think it should be noted that the team may not look all that fortified in September. Many of their top selections do not look ready to me to take the lead out of the starting gate. But the talent is undeniable. We will now find out how strong the Browns coaching staff is at developing and coaching-up quality athletes.
Count me among the folks who think that former Aggie MYLES GARRETT is going to be the next VON MILLER. But that likely means it will be a couple of seasons before he hits his stride and starts going to Pro Bowls. I also think he will have to learn how to keep his motor running 100% of the time. My film study indicates that he does indeed take plays off, especially when the ball goes away from him. Great players cannot do that. And of course he will have to learn how to drop into LB coverage at times.
DAVID NJOKU/TE is as raw as can be, but also super talented. He is EVAN ENGRAM in a full sized NFL body. I’m not sure I agree with cutting GARY BARNIDGE loose right away to make room for NJOKU, but as long as he is accepting coaching then he might as well learn on the field, not on the bench. There is no reason, barring injury, that he cannot be full-sized JORDAN REED/TE effective.
The biggest challenge , again for the coaching staff, may be finding a specific spot for JABRILL PEPPERS in an NFL Defense. The bad news is there is serious question about his ball awareness as a S. But the good news is that traditional defensive positions in the NFL are becoming a thing of the past. PEPPERS is likely best served if the BROWNS, now under the guidance of DC GREGG WILLIAMS, can develop a position for PEPPERS as the Cardinals have tried to do with DEONE BUCANNON as a hybrid in-the-box SS most of the time. Watch this player carefully, but remember “patience” will be key in judging him.
The team got their potential “franchise QB” in Round 2, in the form of another Ohio native, DASHONE KIZER/QB. I said several months ago that I felt KIZER had the best long range potential of all the 2017 Draft QB prospects. Now it is time for HUE JACKSON to prove he is a QB Guru. But it seems that KIZER is not likely to be counted on for much in 2017, out on the grass. This is really solid draft value in Round 2. Look for a dry run at the helm for KIZER late in the season if the team is headed for another 10-Loss season.
The team got some much needed help for their DL group with LARRY OGUNJOBI & CALEB BRANTLEY. It looks even better with BRANTLEY being cleared of charges in a bar fight incident just before the Draft. He’ll be watched closely, but if he stays clean off the field these two players could represent a big boost to the DL rotation for WILLIAMS. Both of these guys lay with explosion and can penetrate the backfield from inside positions.
I am of the opinion that the team may have resolved a revolving door situation at Place Kicker with the addition of ZANE GONZALEZ in Round 7. GONZALEZ was an accurate kicker his entire career for the Sun Devils and managed to increase his range in 2017, hitting 7 of 9 kicks from over 50-yards. His leg appears strong enough to also handle kick-offs. In college 75% of his kick-offs went for touchbacks. NFL teams need that kind of work in their kicking game to win the close games many weekends each Fall.
Many folks are skeptical (to put it mildly) of 5th Round Pick RODERICK JOHNSON/OT/FSU. He has some technique flaws to clean up, and must also learn to give it his all on every down, but the size and athleticism are there. His 36″ arm length makes most OL coaches drool. He started as a Freshman and twice was voted ACC OL of the year. He needs more beef on his long frame, but could be ready in a couple of years to take over for JOE THOMAS, who can’t play forever despite his great career.
I was absolutely flabbergasted that RB/MATTHEW DAYES/NC STATE was not taken until Round 7. He is a hard charging short guy, who can block and catch the ball. He stands just under 5’9″ tall, and yet caught 98 balls for his career. He’s quicker than fast, and should make an excellent compliment to the present RB duo of CROWELL/JOHNSON.
HOWARD WILSON/CB/HOUSTON may have long range stater potential, but an early injury in Rookie mimi-camp may cause this to be a write off year for him. He recorded 15 PBU and 5 INT in 2016 for the Cougars, but has very little starting experience. A year, or partial year on a reserve list, could serve him well in the long run. Also served as a ‘gunner’ on Special Teams coverage units.
This team is on the right track. If they can develop this Rookie group for big time results in 2018, and then parlay another good Draft effort in 2018 they may be able to contend by next season. They should also be able to improve during the 2017 season and be a spoiler come December. Hang in there BROWNS fans, good things may be on the horizon. Now the most pressure has switched on to the coaching staff to develop the talent from the past two really solid drafts.