Message to Browns’ Fans: Buckle Up
The NFL Draft is in the books and rosters are being finalized heading into the minicamp sessions. After the dust settled, the Browns added nine members from Thursday to Saturday night. Additionally, multiple undrafted free agents chose to sign with the orange and brown. So, what does this mean for the Cleveland Browns? Well for starters, they will secure at least one win and should be vastly improved. Let’s look at a few choices.
Day One Picks: Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward
My reaction to both the first and fourth overall selections were the same, a one word phrase of “woah”. This is not to say I was extremely positive or negative about the choices – I was rather surprised that both were taken that early. I admit I am a prisoner of reading NFL “experts” (over the past few months) who had Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb rated as superior prospects. However, thinking about it rationally – there is no guarantee that those “experts” are right. Likewise, John Dorsey might not get these choices correct either. Mayfield was probably my second choice for quarterback but I am willing to give him a chance (once the team does). Meanwhile, I really like Denzel Ward – sure the team could have solidified their defensive line, but their secondary was embarrassing last year. I would rate these two as solid choices with a ceiling of two routine Pro Bowlers and a floor of a pair of mediocre athletes.
Day Two Picks: Austin Corbett, Nick Chubb, and Chad Thomas
A trio of large, tough football players were acquired on the second day of the NFL Draft. Corbett is a left tackle who will be given a shot to compete with Shon Coleman to replace Joe Thomas. I will admit that I have not heard of the lineman, but that doesn’t mean he can’t excel in the pros. I like the selection of Chubb, who should tote the football between tackles for the orange and brown. Could he take the lion’s share of carries from Carlos Hyde? That remains to be seen, but I would not put it past Chubb. The running back competition should be a fun one to watch this summer. Thomas is another guy who I had not heard about prior to the draft weekend. It appears that he is a solid in run defense but can also be a force as an edge rusher. He will be eased into this lineup, as Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah do not appear to surrender playing time soon. Overall, I would label these choices as boom or bust – the team could find two reliable starters and a quality rotational guy. Or the worst case is they have three backups who make little impact.
Day Three Picks: Antonio Callaway, Genard Avery, Damion Ratley, and Simeon Thomas
Rounds four through seven of the draft typically see reserve players, special team athletes, projects, and risks. That was the case for the Cleveland Browns as they selected four members during these rounds and all fit into at least on of the above categories. Callaway and Thomas have had troubles with the law and missed time in the NCAA as a result. The difference between the two is Callaway has a longer rap sheet but also has tremendous upside (provided he keeps his head screwed on). Avery is destined to be a special teamer for the Browns, but might get his opportunity at linebacker some day. Ratley did not finish his collegiate career with eye popping statistics, but he should focus on hanging around on the roster until he learns the wide receiver position at the pro level. My conclusion is these four guys are strictly question marks and I am pulling that at least one actually contributes to this team for several seasons.
Final Analysis: The cliche is that “the team got better” after draft weekend. For once, I actually think this might be true for the Browns. I read criticisms that Ward might be the only day one starter – to which I ask, why is that a bad thing? It would be refreshing not having to see a rookie quarterback, safety, and tight end forced into action prematurely as there was little competition on the roster (as this was the case last season). Perhaps the veterans on the Browns actually have talent and can help this team win games. The bottom line is that fall will be fun again and things will be different in 2018.