For three days, the Cleveland Browns were decisive, aggressive and precise in the NFL draft.
Who are these guys?
Ridiculed for years for making major mistakes while on the clock, they picked the consensus best player, landed a potential franchise quarterback and replenished a needy roster with young talent following a depressing 1-15 season.
There didn’t appear to be any missteps, other than perhaps taking a player recently arrested that they might have to cut and wasting a pick on a kicker.
All in all, not too bad — for the Browns.
“I feel more comfortable,” said second-year coach Hue Jackson. “I think we are better. Now, how much better we are? We will find that out as we go, but I feel more comfortable and confident in our guys that are in the locker room and that they know what to expect and how we want to play. I think we did a great job of drafting to our identity and what we want to become here at the Cleveland Browns.”
The Browns made two trades on Saturday, when they selected Houston cornerback Howard Wilson, Florida State offensive lineman Roderick Johnson, kicker Zane Gonzalez and North Carolina State running back Matthew Dayes.
The only questionable move came in the sixth round, when Cleveland elected to take Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, recently charged with battery after he allegedly punched a woman.
Not long after making the pick, Brown said the team isn’t committed to Brantley and may release him pending a further investigation.
“This is something that he can’t repeat as he moves forward,” said Sashi Brown, the team’s vice president of football operation. “And more important than that, we communicated to Caleb that this is something that we’re still investigating and looking into, and facts may turn up that prevent us from being able to keep him on our roster. We will continue to investigate on our end, and provided that we can get comfortable, keep him on the roster. If we can’t, we’ll move on.”
According to a police report, the victim told police the 6-foot-2, 314-pound Brantley made crude comments toward her during an argument on April 13. She pushed him and he punched her in the face, according to the report.
Brantley’s pick was the only sour note during an otherwise solid draft that began with the Browns taking Myles Garrett, the poetry-writing, quarterback-eating defensive end who has visions of becoming a perennial Pro Bowler. And after passing in the first round on three quarterbacks, including Clemson star Deshaun Watson, the Browns addressed their endless search for a franchise QB by picking Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer.
The Browns are still a long way from being competitive, but they believe they’re closer.
“This is a big class for us,” Brown said. “There’s no one brick. We set ourselves up next year for another good group to come in, but we want to perpetually be getting better and we’re not going to rest now.”
Here are some other takeaways from what the Browns hope will be a transformative draft:
PREP SCHOOL: As the face of Notre Dame football, Kizer knows all about pressure. He said playing for the Fighting Irish was the perfect training ground for handling anything that might come at him in Cleveland.
“As far as a stage at the college level gets, I don’t know if there’s one bigger,” he said. “Representing something a lot bigger than yourself is one concept, but when you are doing it at an international level with a fan base that truly expands all over the word, it was an honor and privilege. Now, I will be able to pull from those experiences.”
Kizer will be in competition with Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan for Cleveland’s starting job. He won’t come to camp as the favorite, but isn’t conceding anything.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to learn as fast as I can and as quickly as I can to play,” he said. “That’s the reason you play football is to play, not to sit around and watch from the sidelines.”
SWAP MEET: After making five trades last year, the Browns made four more, including a deal with Houston that netted their a first-round pick in 2018.
HANGING AROUND: Osweiler was acquired in a March trade and figured to be gone by now. But not only is he still on the roster, Houston’s former starter, who is 13-8 as a career starter, could move to the top of the depth chart because of his experience.
POTATO CHIPS TO BLUE CHIP: None of the Browns picks has a more inspiring story than defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi.
Overweight and addicted to video games, his parents, who moved to the U.S. from Nigeria, forced him to take up football in high school to get in shape. He transformed his body, dropping 100 pounds and sculpting himself into a lean 253-pound all-Conference USA player at Charlotte.
He’s the first player drafted from the school and the computer science and biology major hopes to motivate kids.
“I know what it’s like to start form the ground up,” he said.
Jackson already loves him.
“He’s beautiful,” the coach said. “He’s big. He’s strong. He’s tough. He has great initial quickness. He can knock guys back.”