The Curious Case of Evaluating the Cleveland Browns’ First Round

Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News via AP
In the span of about ten minutes this morning, two friends told me they each felt the Cleveland Browns had the best first round out of anyone at the NFL Draft last night. This was just after I read a column in which one of Cleveland’s picks was given an ‘F’ grade.

Further digging only provides more of the same. Some call the Browns’ night “impressive on paper.” Others see it as a head-scratcher, one which involved passing on sure-fire prospects to take leaps on questionable players.

After going through all of the first round analysis, there seems to be one feeling regarding how the Browns came out of Thursday night.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Seriously, though. The general consensus seems to be that there’s no general consensus. Some fans are thrilled, others distraught and running back the classic “same ol’ Browns” rant. Everyone seems to be talking about Cleveland’s night, but the tone at which it’s discussed is all over the board.

In all honesty, my opinion definitely aligns with all of this. The Browns may have put together a solid first night in acquiring nothing but pure talent. Or they may have made some curious picks on positions where better players were available. Right now, it’s nothing but a toss-up.

Well, that’s not entirely true. The first overall pick went exactly as it should’ve, with Cleveland wisely chosing the best player of this rookie class in defensive end Myles Garrett. He was the obvious choice, one who could potentially transform this team’s defense.

After that, things got kooky.

Countless solid prospects began falling, setting the Browns up for a bevy of options to take with the No.12 pick. Would Cleveland take safety Malik Hooker? Tight end O.J. Howard? Quarterback Deshaun Watson?

Turns out the team would take none of them, instead whipping out an old classic and trading down. The Houston Texans offered the Browns their 2018 first-rounder to trade up and take Watson.

I guess as long as someone offers a first-round pick, Cleveland remains open for business.

From there, things got a little more perplexing. Finally getting back on the clock at No.25, the Browns selected Michigan Wolverines do-it-all player Jabrill Peppers. The selection set Cleveland Twitter ablaze, with many confused about just where he would play and others mad the Browns would dare draft a player from Michigan (said opinion is dumb, by the way).

Cleveland continued its wheeling and dealing by trading back into the first round to select Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku, a player seen as both dripping with potential and also quite raw.

It was indeed a fast-paced night, but one which ended without much agreement on just how well the Browns did.

While both Peppers and Njoku are very athletic, each comes with some red flags. The former is a bit of a wild card, who comes out of Michigan having played at linebacker and seems set to become Cleveland’s safety despite some concerns with his coverage skills. The latter is viewed as someone with a high ceiling, just don’t expect him to hit it for a couple years.

Additionally, with both Peppers and Njoku the consensus seems to be “if they wanted (this position), why didn’t they take (higher graded player) at No.12?” Both Hooker and Howard were seen as safer calls at safety and tight end, respectively, but the Browns instead worked the trades to collect picks with lower-graded prospects.

Regardless, the Browns certainly grabbed a lot of attention with their first round performance. There just doesn’t seem to be much solidarity in whether said attention is positive or negative.

Either Cleveland’s front office bet big on some of the draft’s most intriguing, albeit raw talent, or it just spent another year passing on the best of the rookie class to bet big on intriguing prospects with their fair share of question marks. Peppers and Njoku may end up as draft day surprises, or they may force fans to say “remember who this team passed on to take these guys?” Right now, both scenarios are being predicted when evaluating Cleveland’s night.

But, hey, at least the Browns got Myles Garrett.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook


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