Did the Cleveland Browns Finally Learn How to Draft?

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns
Joe Robbins-Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns are known for many things. As I’m sure you know, very few of these things are positive.

One of the popular jokes to make about the Browns is their basic inability to understand the NFL Draft. You see, most teams use this time to add talented rookies with whom you can build an effective and winning team. Cleveland, however, seems to be more interested in selecting players who a) are draped in red flags you can see for miles or b) will be on another team or unemployed within two or three years of being drafted.

So, when the Browns came into this past draft with a bucket of picks, the initial thought was “how are they going to blow this?” It seemed fair to assume Cleveland would screw up, considering the fact the franchise quarterback it picked two years ago was watching the draft from a bar in Columbus.

A few months and three weeks into the NFL season later, we hardly have an idea on how the Browns’ latest crop of rookies will pan out in the long run. That said, a funny thing seems to be happening with Cleveland’s draft picks – they’re actually contributing. In a positive way.

Don’t look now, but early returns imply the Browns might have actually had a good draft for once.

Again, I’m not here to crown the 2016 Cleveland rookie class as the one which finally produces players to be proud of. Additionally, the team’s passing on quarterback Carson Wentz will probably haunt it for years to come.

Still, if you look at the contributions we’ve seen so far, you have to give the Browns at least some credit for their recent draft.

Look at first overall pick, wideout Corey Coleman. Despite only having two games on his professional resume, the former Baylor Bear is proving to be one heck of an offensive threat. In his first two career touchdown catches, he showed off his ability to speed past an opposing corner to get open, as well as an impressive ability to gain yards after catch. A broken hand has set him back a few weeks, but still, early evidence shows Coleman could be a huge contributor on offense.

The Browns first two picks on the defensive side of the ball have been earning rave reviews as well.

Linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah, while not registering a sack yet, has shown a knack for pressuring the opposing quarterback. Though he also had an injury setback, defensive end Carl Nassib has collected three tackles, a sack, a tipped pass and a handful of quarterback hurries in just a game and a half of action.

It’s important to note the pick of Nassib had more than a few pundits scratching their heads, as did Cleveland’s selection of quarterback Cody Kessler in the third round. However, despite having a few rookie hiccups in his debut this past Sunday, Kessler impressed many with his poise and grit en route to a narrow overtime loss. Should he play well this weekend in Washington, he should earn himself the starting gig for the rest of the year.

The Browns have also seen strong play from fourth-round pick, safety Derrick Kindred, as well as some clutch catches from rookie wideout Ricardo Louis. Heck, even undrafted free agents are making big plays, such as cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun hauling in a pick-six last weekend when most people didn’t even realize he was on the team.

Again, I get it, three weeks is way too early to say the Browns have officially figured out the art of drafting. At the same time, consider the questions you found yourselves asking when it came to the early days of previous rookies.

“Is it just me, or is Cameron Erving struggling with the mere concept of blocking?”

“Do you think Justin Gilbert could even cover a scarecrow?”

“Does Johnny Manziel look drunk to you?”

I could go on and on. The point is we shouldn’t understate how well the 2016 Browns draft class has played so far. Normally Cleveland’s rookies aren’t making much difference yet, and if they are it’s in a bad way. That this newest group looks as though it can hang in the NFL is definitely a positive sign, and indicates this new front office might actually understand how the draft works.


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