Browns Draft Picks 2017: Results, Grades and Analysis for Each Selection
The pressure is on. The Cleveland Browns have the first pick in the 2017 NFL draft, two total in Round 1 and 11 to work with over the three-day event. With needs up and down the roster, a new defensive coordinator and pressure to not only increase the win total immediately but also to develop into a multiyear contender, this year is a crucial one for head coach Hue Jackson, general manager Sashi Brown and everyone else in a decision-making role for the Browns.
So let's keep track of the Browns' many moves over the three-day draft, make some snap judgments and see just how well Cleveland can round out its roster with the many opportunities given to the team. Here is your official Browns draft tracker for 2017.
Round 1, Pick 1
Round 1, Pick 1: EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
The months of speculation have come to an end, with the Cleveland Browns selecting Texas A&M's Myles Garrett as the first overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft. Garrett—Pro Football Focus' best defensive player headed into the 2016 season, who is considered the most can't-miss NFL prospect for 2016 (dating back to last fall)—heads to Cleveland to help turn around the fate of a squad that has been searching for a savior since its return to the league in 1999.
A quarterback he is not, but Garrett has the ability to make the same degree of impact on the other side of the ball. His elite athleticism and pass-rushing skills will be an excellent accompaniment to the Browns' current big two of Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib. With 141 tackles (47 for a loss) and 31 sacks over 34 games, Garrett has put forth the steady production that should translate into impressive professional play.
Yes, there are drawbacks: Edge is certainly Garrett's home, with run defense not among his (many, glaring) strengths. He also dealt with knee and ankle issues a year ago, things that could also nag him in the NFL. But with a coordinator like Gregg Williams pushing and building him, a strong crop of veterans around him and the support of a front office who truly wanted him, Garrett should live up to expectations.
Forget Cleveland's quarterback problems for a moment and enjoy the fact the Browns made the best and most logical move they could with the first pick of the draft.
Round 1, Pick 25 (via Trade—Texans)
Round 1, Pick 25: S/It's Complicated, Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Initially, the Browns held the first and 12th overall picks in this year's draft, but Cleveland opted to move down for its second selection, trading the No. 12 spot to the Houston Texans to move down to 25 and grab versatile Michigan safety/linebacker/scoring threat Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers, who spent three years as a Wolverine and two as a starter, had a combined 119 tackles (18.5 for a loss) and three sacks. But he also rushed 45 times for 239 yards and a crucial five touchdowns. He's also caught passes and has been both a punt and kick returner, to the tune of 993 yards on 57 attempts.
But the real joy in Peppers is that he can handle both safety and linebacker jobs, and that skill set doesn't look primed to diminish in the professional setting. Cleveland needs that malleability; we're talking about a defense that features players recruited by myriad front offices and trained by the same number of coaches, and a new coordinator in Gregg Williams who will like Peppers' brand of freelancing ability.
Peppers can do it all, whether the Browns are showing a 3-4, 4-3, nickel, dime or other defensive substitution package, while also contributing on special teams. This is a perfect fit who makes an improving defense suddenly a peer with its considerable AFC North counterparts.
Round 1, Pick 29 (via Trade—Green Bay Packers)
Round 1, Pick 29: TE David Njoku, Miami
Perhaps as a nod to knowing what the rival Pittsburgh Steelers were thinking, the Browns made another upward move to make their third pick of the 2017 NFL draft, trading their second-rounder (33 overall) and their fourth-rounder (108 overall) to the Green Bay Packers to select Miami tight end David Njoku.
Essentially, the Browns needed a playmaker on offense. While fellow tight end Gary Barnidge was the Browns' second-leading receiver last year, with 612 yards, he's also turning 32 years old in September. Cleveland, with its many draft picks, have an eye to the future.
Yes, Njoku has appeared in only 22 games over two years (with 64 catches for 1,060 yards and nine scores), but eight of those scores occurred in the red zone. The Browns need to score touchdowns, and Njoku can make that happen.
Further, Njoku is athletic with a high upside, which speaks to much of what the Browns have done in the draft not only earlier in Round 1 but also in 2016. When thinking about the Browns, one must think both of the present and the future toward which they are building. Njoku turns 21 years old in July; he can be a foundational piece on offense and is a no-brainer use of what became of pick 29.
Round 2, Pick 20 (via Trade—Tennessee Titans)
Round 2, Pick 20: QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
The Browns waited until the draft's second day to select someone who may be able to turn their quarterback woes around in Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer. At the very least, Kizer will have a strong shot to compete for the starting job, given that there's little chance Brock Osweiler sticks on the roster for long and that this selection isn't quite the ringing endorsement for 2016 draft pick Cody Kessler.
Kizer, a two-year starter who took over Notre Dame's job due to an injury to Malik Zaire, completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 5,805 yards and threw 47 touchdowns to 19 interceptions and also totaled 997 rushing yards for another 18 scores.
That run-pass versatility and his big arm are likely two reasons why the Browns were attracted to Kizer, but there are drawbacks, including 13 collegiate fumbles, accuracy issues and the ability to have his confidence eroded during a bad series. Kizer has been benched during his starting tenure.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein writes that "Kizer's second-half drop in production combined with inconsistent decision-making and accuracy should be a speed bump for teams ready to jump in head-first on the traits," but for a team that has been on a constant and desperate search for a quarterback for so long, it makes sense why Cleveland chose to pull the trigger in Round 2. The question is whether history will repeat itself and Kizer becomes yet another quarterback on the list of Browns' draft missteps.
Round 3, Pick 1
Round 3, Pick 1: DT Larry Ogunjobi, UNC-Charlotte
The Browns returned to the defensive well to close out their Day 2 selections, taking UNC-Charlotte defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi with the 65th overall pick.
Ogunjobi, a two-year starter who totaled 127 combined tackles, 29 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, seems to be a plug-and-play starter for the Browns. He should join Danny Shelton at tackle on Cleveland's defensive line, which is now transitioning back to a 4-3 base concept under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Though billed at 6'3" and 305 pounds—a bit small for an ideal NFL defensive tackle—he more than makes up for his size with athleticism, speed and solid technique. Pairing him with Shelton and their crop of pass-rushing linebackers and defensive ends should produce some quality pressure on opposing quarterbacks and improve the defense's chances of stopping the run, a longstanding issue for the Browns.
Cleveland's defensive front is set for 2017 and beyond, making it one less thing the team has to worry about as the offseason continues to unfold.
Round 4, Pick 20 (via Trade—Denver Broncos)
Round 4, Pick 20 (via Trade—Denver Broncos): CB Howard Wilson, Houston
It's quite possible that with more on-field experience, Houston cornerback Howard Wilson would have been a higher-round draft pick, and it's that high ceiling that likely influenced the Browns' decision to trade up and into Round 4 to select him.
Howard was just a two-year starter but totaled 107 combined tackles, nine interceptions and 15 passes defensed. He missed nearly all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL, and being granted a medical redshirt, he was technically a sophomore in 2016. But he appears to have recovered from the injury well; five of those nine picks (including one for a touchdown) and 10 of his passes defensed came last year.
The lack of experience plus the need to add muscle is what saw Howard fall so far in this year's draft. Though Howard has ideal size, speed and some skill, the honing process is just beginning. It would be difficult to expect Howard to make much on-field impact on Cleveland's defense in 2017, but as a fourth-round selection that's not surprising. The key will be to see what kind of player Howard becomes after a year as part of a professional franchise.
Round 5, Pick 16 (via Trade—New York Jets)
Round 5, Pick 16 (via Trade—New York Jets): OT Roderick Johnson, Florida State
The Browns chose to move up yet again on the draft's third day, this time to add another offensive lineman to a group that has steadily improved in just a year's time. The selection: Florida State left tackle Roderick Johnson, a player who has started every game over his last 2.5 seasons.
Unlike many collegiate tackles, especially those drafted in a later round like Johnson, he does not project to be a guard on the NFL level; the question moving forward instead is whether he's best suited to the left or right side of the line. As of now, Shon Coleman or perhaps John Greco will serve on the right for 2017, and long-established, multiyear Pro Bowler Joe Thomas will be on the left.
Thomas' future in Cleveland may not be assured beyond 2017, and there are enough moving parts on Cleveland's offensive line that Johnson may get a shot with the first-team offense to see what he can do at right tackle over the summer. He looks every bit the part of a starting NFL-style tackle, to the point where CBSSports.com's Rob Rang wrote of Johnson that "his upside could warrant a first round selection." If that turns out to be the case, this pick was a bona fide steal.
Another interesting note: Johnson spent the last two years as the winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy. The two years before that, the award went to another Florida State player, center Cameron Erving, who is currently also with the Browns.
Round 6, Pick 1
Round 6, Pick 1: DT Caleb Brantley, Florida
The Browns chose to bring upon themselves what can only be generously termed as "scrutiny" by drafting Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley with the first pick of the 2017 draft's sixth round.
Brantley, who can play numerous positions up front for the Browns, already had some drawbacks even before being charged with simple battery after a Gainesville, Florida, altercation with a woman two weeks before the draft. He was not an every-down player, and his tendencies to freelance made him sometimes look like one of the best defenders on the field and, at others, woefully out of place on his tackling and quarterback pressure attempts.
In three years, Brantley had 80 tackles, 20.5 for a loss and 5.5 sacks. But on-field production should be the last of the Browns' concerns given the developments over the last two weeks. Given the NFL's climate regarding its stance on allegations of violence against women, the other, myriad players in the 2017 draft class who have been accused of similar actions and the basic need for the Browns to not only draft but draft well, Cleveland would have been well-served to steer far away from Brantley.
There might be upside there as a player, but overall, it does not seem like a pick that was worth making.
Round 7, Pick 6 (via Trade—New York Jets)
Round 7, Pick 6 (via Trade—New York Jets): K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
With kickers being their teams' leading scorers, using a draft pick to find one who can truly make a difference in any game is never a bad move. Thus was the Browns' reasoning when using their next-to-last pick in the 2017 NFL draft on Arizona State's Zane Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, the 2016 Lou Groza Award winner for college football's best kicker, is also the FBS record-holder for most career field goals made: 96 in 116 attempts. He also was 204-of-209 on his extra-point attempts as a four-year starter, where he was named first-team All-Pac 12 as a true freshman.
Incumbent Browns kicker Cody Parkey wasn't terrible in 2016, making 20 of his 25 field-goal attempts and 20 of his 21 extra-point tries. But Gonzalez is a starter-ready kicker who has proven collegiate production that can easily translate to clutch moments for the Browns.
Another interesting note on Gonzalez: He has obsessive-compulsive disorder that has, instead of interrupting his ability to succeed as a kicker has only contributed to it. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein describes it as "[helping] to create an orderly approach" that is crucial for any kicker to perform at a high-level consistently.
Round 7, Pick 34 (via Trade—Denver Broncos)
Round 7, Pick 34 (via Trade—Denver Broncos): RB Matthew Dayes, North Carolina State
The Browns came into the 2017 draft with only four running backs on their roster. And in a class rife with talent at the position, it comes as no surprise that they used a pick—albeit their last of the event—to select North Carolina State back Matthew Dayes.
Dayes had 550 career carries for 2,856 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns, as well as 98 receptions for 933 yards and six scores, numbers that could have all been even higher had he not missed time in 2015 with a turf toe injury. He also has kick return experience, with 28 returns for 509 yards.
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler says that Dayes "doesn't have a distinguishing trait that separates him as a runner," such as his size, speed and power. But he is a willing blocker. That plus his receiving skills put him in the third-down mix for the Browns right away.
If this were a weaker class at the position, Dayes would have gone off the board perhaps two or three rounds earlier. This could be a sleeper pick for Cleveland's offense, even if Dayes' usage will be limited; he is no three-down back.