Cleveland Rocks, Cleveland Rocks
“All This Energy Callin’ Me, Back Where It Comes From”
This is a collaboration between @FatAdamSchefter and @DFF_Madman. We’re talking about the Browns’ resurgence and the 2017 NFL draft. As lifelong Cleveland Browns’ fans, we’ve waited way too long for this team to turn things around: the awful games, the fourth quarter break-downs, the wasted draft picks, the horrible coaches and the utter mayhem and dysfunction since their return in 1999. It’s been ridiculous and so unacceptable that one of us (Madman) stopped spending money on everything related to the Browns… game tickets, memorabilia, swag, etc. Basically, if you fix the product, then we’ll be customers again. There are better things to do with three hours on Sundays.
“Such a Crude Attitude, It’s Back Where It Belongs”
The swagger is back, and we don’t mean that silly dog mascot. Head Coach Hue Jackson is the right fit for a young team. He’s a players’ coach who is also excellent with offensive Xs and Os. New defensive coordinator (DC) Gregg Williams is barking at the defense now. It’s been a long time since the Browns have had a great DC; Williams will make the Dawg Pound proud again. He won’t accept a 2-year plan; he expects immediate success and the players will earn their stripes.
This ain’t no wimpy, over-complicated 34 defense or bend-but-don’t-break 43. Williams commands an aggressive, attacking base 4–3 scheme that keeps pressure on quarterbacks. It’s sub-packages as a rule, typically in a 4-2-5 configuration with only 2-linebackers, and badass pressure every single down! Unrelenting, like the Lake Erie winds that curse the stadium on Sundays in November.
The Browns have nine players — Corey Coleman, Shon Coleman, DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Derrick Kindred, Spencer Drango, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Jabrill Peppers — as well as the Texans’ 2018 first-round pick and the Eagles’ 2018 second-round pick – all for trading away the chance to draft QB Carson Wentz in 2016. Cleveland traded down from pick-12 this year, to pick-25, and instead of drafting a lackluster QB like Brady Quinn or Brandon Weeden, they went with a solid choice in Safety Jabrill Peppers. In addition, they acquired another 1st rounder in 2018. So, for the 2018 NFL Draft, the Browns now possess two 1st rounders and three 2nd rounders. Moneyballin’! It’s all smiles in “The ‘Land.”
In Browns Town, we always get excited about the draft. It sounds so good to have two first-round picks. As long as we don’t come out of it with Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, or even worse – Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel. The draft is like our Superbowl – and we intend to win it. The reengineered front-office is now making great choices. Based on the metrics of the last two drafts, the Browns aren’t fooling around. It’s clear the team has fully embraced advanced analytics. The first two selections in the 2017 NFL Draft were featured in Bruce Feldman’s Top 20 ‘Freaks’ in college football for 2016. Number one overall draft pick Myles Garrett was at the very top of the list! The Browns actually came out of the 2017 draft with three first-round picks… and even better – all three players are actually worth first-round picks.
2017 Draft Picks
1.01 DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
What can you say? The Browns didn’t reach for a mediocre QB with this pick. Garrett is a monster – physically. However, a lot of his big production came against sub-par teams in college. So, the question is, can he be that same monster against proven NFL caliber players?
As for continually getting pressure on quarterbacks, Garrett was the SEC leader in sacks (12.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (5) while most often facing double-teams. Garrett is 6’-5″, 262lbs, with top-shelf workout numbers. He power-cleans 440lbs. and bench-presses 485lbs. Beast! With a 40-inch vertical and a near 4.45-second 40-yard-dash time, he will start the season as the first-string right DE opposite Emmanuel Ogbah.
The following is a compelling story DC Gregg Williams shared about Garrett:
1.25 DB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
We’ve been getting the most questions from family, friends, and Twitter about this particular draft pick. JT is putting the idea to bed here: “If the Browns keep Peppers at strong safety (SS) and let him marinate there and learn the nuances of only one position, I really think his ball production will go through the roof. When I watch Peppers on defense, I’m reminded of the great Eric Weddle. (And I LOVE Weddle, for real and Fantasy football!)”
Gregg Williams will move Peppers all over the field in coverage and to add pressure, much like he did with Mark Barron in St. Louis. Sub-package versatility: Peppers is a former state 100- and 200-meter champion at 6’-1”, 208lbs, who has run a 4.34-second 40-yard dash. A Michigan teammate remarked “He’s the most explosive human being I’ve ever seen.” At one point in consideration for the Heisman Trophy, Jim Harbaugh had said, “He’s one of our best cover guys. He’s our best nickel guy by far. He can play linebacker. He can rush the passer. He can cover anybody. Put him on the other side of the ball, he’d probably be our best slot receiver. He could give anybody a run for their money as our best tailback. He’s a Jim Thorpe type of guy. I’d hate to diminish anyone but off the top of my head I can’t think of anyone (in college that I’ve coached) more athletic than Jabrill.” This kid will become the new defensive chess piece and be moved all over the field with different responsibilities depending on down and distance, but primarily in the slot and in the box. With Williams’ versatile scheme, Peppers would not even have to leave the field.
1.29 TE David Njoku, U of Miami
At only 20-years old, Njoku was one of the youngest players in the 2017 draft. He is a moldable baby with both the talent and body type to become a dominant force in the modern NFL. Njoku is a tremendous athlete who can block in-line, in addition to making tough catches and running over defenders. He is capable of being a better version of Greg Olsen. Line him up anywhere because he is also a willing blocker. We will feel bad for opposing defenses when he puts it all together. After the release of Gary Barnidge, Njoku is penciled in as starting TE and will play in 2-TE sets with Seth DeValve who is even more of a WR than Njoku. Along with Garrett, this is Madman’s favorite draft pick.
2.20 (Overall 52) QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
JT says, “This is my least favorite pick of the Browns draft. I’m a man who owns up to his weaknesses and I’m bad at QB scouting. But, from what I have seen so far, Kizer needs to learn a lot by observing how it’s done at the pro level.” He should have stayed in college one more year, although the QB coaching at Notre Dame is notoriously lackluster, so maybe this is a blessing. Kizer needs good pro coaching to get him back to baseline. He has a strong arm with good velocity and can make all the NFL throws. He moves well within the pocket and has better footwork than either Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky. His inconsistent throwing mechanics need attention and he needs to work on better ball placement. He made too many critical passing decisions in college. He’s a project for sure, but one that is finally worth the Browns’ time. Madman wanted Patrick Mahomes (also a project), but Kizer is a nice consolation prize.
3.01 (Overall 65) DT Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte
This is JT’s favorite pick of the draft for the Brownies! “What a value at this point in the draft. Born from Nigerian immigrants, this kid is a glaring 3-technique on the D-Line. He reminds me of Sheldon Rankins from New Orleans. He uses his strong hands and legs to disrupt backfields and cause chaos. Something the Browns badly need.” Ogunjobi is smaller than average at 3-tech., but he’s fast and disruptive – both are key components for D-lineman in Gregg Williams’ aggressive schemes. This is a solid depth pick that allows fresh D-linemen to be rotated in depending on down and distance.
4.20 (Overall 126) CB Howard Wilson, Houston
Many fans and analysts expected Cleveland to draft DBs. This could end up being a steal. This kid is fluid and smooth and has the size to handle the bigger receivers in the NFL. He will need to gain more mass on his frame, but if he sticks to it, he could become a starter sooner rather than later on a defense that needs CB help.
Over the 2016 season, the team allowed a 101.8 opposing passer rating and ranked 31st out of 32 teams. Interviewed after he was drafted Wilson remarked, “I like when quarterbacks throw it my way… and give me a chance to pick the ball off.” Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), QBs had a passer rating of 45.1 when targeting Wilson, which was 13th-best in college football. The Browns have several CBs to play the slot; I think they’ll at least try Wilson at free safety where they could really use his ball-hawk skills.
5.16 (Overall 160) OL Roderick Johnson, Florida State
Considered a developmental left tackle, Johnson will apprentice under one of the best in future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. At 6’-7”, 298lbs, he has massive length with room on his body to add more mass. He absolutely needs grooming and could have been a higher draft pick if he had gone back to school for one more year; however, Florida state offensive lineman have been successful in the NFL as of late. Thomas will probably play for a hundred more years, so there’s no rush. If Johnson develops faster than expected, the Browns will likely try him at right tackle.
6.01 (Overall 185) DT Caleb Brantley, Florida
This is basically a 2nd round talent drafted in the 6th round. This pick will either be revealed as a diamond in the rough – or just plain rough. Brantley was accused of a serious crime and may not even see the field this year. If he ends up being cleared, then the Brown will have a MASSIVE steal. He has been compared to Rams All-Pro DT Aaron Donald. He is a disruptive short-area mauler. Pair him with Danny Shelton and Ogunjobi, and the Browns could have something truly special in their defensive line.
7.06 (Overall 224) K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
Best. Kicker. In. The. Draft. Gonzalez is also one of the most reliable kickers in NCAA history with a big leg and a knack for longer kicks. The Browns wanted to upgrade this position. Cody Parkey is not the future.
7.34 (Overall 252) RB Matthew Dayes, NC State
With a knack for the passing game, Dayes has enough talent and get-up-and-go to make the 53-man roster. A solid draft class at running back let the Browns go in late and grab another player that can contribute early. He has huge 10.5-inch hands and can catch the ball better than average. He’s also a very adept pass-blocker. He can spell Duke Johnson and come in on third-downs. This is a solid depth player.
This Town Is My Town
Through philosophy changes, coaching upgrades, and the last two drafts, there is a lot to look forward to in Browns Town for a change. We’ve been waiting since 1995 for things to start looking up – and “this town taught me that it’s never too late.” The Dawg Pound will once again bark loudly and proudly.
Special thanks to JT Maynard for collaborating with me on the Browns draft recap.