After another Browns season that included their two 2014 first round picks busting, their lead receiver getting suspended yet again, and their touted running back acquisition getting cut mid-season; they didn’t just step backwards, they were hurled there. So I chose reviewing the Browns thinking they would be dedicating a good amount of draft capital to their skill positions, including a potential first round wide receiver. In typical Browns fashion, they disappointed me and defied logic. That is not to say there were not positive outcomes from this draft, just that the balance of need and value were nearly non-existent. Here are the results, along with some analysis and an undrafted free agent (UDFA) to watch.
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First Round – Danny Shelton, DT, Washington & Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
The Browns must have looked at Johnny Manziel in rehab and Justin Gilbert sitting on the sidelines in week 17 and decided to stray away from the prom queen this year in favor of the girl playing the flute in band. You can still be very happy with your choice even if everyone else doesn’t understand the decision.
In Shelton, the Browns get a dominant nose tackle that has the strength and athleticism to turn around the 32nd ranked run defense. Somehow, Danny boy managed 92 tackles despite playing nose tackle including 16 for loss in 2014. I don’t expect him to replicate those types of numbers and interior defensive linemen generally aren’t as appealing in IDP leagues, but Shelton is the type of guy who could hold some appeal as a bye week option or fill in for injury. This is more of a team win than one for the average dynasty owner.
The second first rounder is another player who will help the dynasty value of those around him. Erving was a curious pick with Alex Mack already on the roster but Mack has an option to leave after the season. That would be a huge blow to one of the only functional parts of their team, the running game. Erving could play guard or tackle (or a flex backup) in his rookie year and make the move to center in 2016 if Mack decides to leave. At the very least, this pick adds talent to the offensive line and should keep the running game an effective part of the offense, but more on that later.
Second Round – Nate Orchard, DE, Utah
He will lose that defensive end designation as Orchard transitions to a 3-4 outside linebacker, which will be a blow to his value. Orchard is a pass rushing specialist and has struggled defending the run, something likely to continue in Cleveland. Add in that he truly had just one season of dominance at the college level and Orchard is a risk regardless of position. At the very least, he improves a pathetic pass rush to be slightly less pathetic.
Third Round – Duke Johnson, RB, Miami & Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State
If Erving was a curious pick, then Duke Johnson was a pure “WTF” choice. Don’t get me wrong, he has talent and was a moderate value at that point in the draft, but the Browns were not the team that needed to fortify the position (or the one that could afford to spend a pick on a luxury). The Dynasty Scouts team did a Triple Take on Johnson recently so I won’t go too much into his college play or high level outlook. Specific to his role on the Browns, I foresee Johnson used as the primary receiving back and get some carries as a home run threat outside the red zone. He will be faced with a low touchdown ceiling due to his team’s dysfunctional offense and the presence of Isaiah Crowell.
Much like the choice of Shelton, Cooper is another attempt to shore up a miserable defensive line and improve on the league’s worst run defense. He should be a good fit as a rotational 3-4 end for the Browns but will have limited utility in IDP leagues.
Fourth Round – Ibraheim Campbell, SS Northwestern & Vince Mayle, WR Washington State
Campbell felt like a slight reach to me as I’m not sure he can develop into a starter, even for this Browns team. He works primarily in the box and has a knack for creating turnovers. That said, he has a high number of missed tackles in his college career and can be beaten over the top in coverage. Campbell has some skills in all facets of the game and if he is given a chance to start; he could rack up tackles on this porous defense. Worst case scenario, he is a special teams contributor and rotational piece in the secondary. No need to pay attention here unless he gets a starting job.
While wide receiver is a huge need, Mayle is not the answer to any question related to it. This was a typical Browns move where they waited far too long, then managed to pass on several other receivers for the guy who most replicates what they already have on the roster. They needed a deep threat that can open the intermediate game for Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe, not another possession player who wins with physicality (and struggles with drops). He should not be forced into any significant playing time and instead use his rookie season as a chance to learn how to gain separation on press coverage and expand his route tree. Mayle is worth a fourth round flyer on the chance that the team sees him as a future starter.
Sixth Round – Malcolm Johnson, TE Mississippi State & Randall Telfer, TE USC
Don’t get confused, neither of these players are a potential replacement for departed Jordan Cameron. Johnson is a situational player who will likely convert to H-back in an effort to add some power to the running game. Telfer is a blocking tight end who will play inline and likely catch a pass or two on occasion. Neither one has any fantasy relevance, and that’s not just because of the quarterback black hole in Cleveland.
Seventh Round – Hayes Pullard, ILB, USC & Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
As is the case with most seventh rounders, Pullard is a limited player but does have some positive traits. He has experience in the 3-4 and profiles as an inside linebacker who can cover and has good range overall. He will have an uphill climb to grab a roster spot, much less a starting role, so he is purely a player of interest in the deepest of IDP leagues.
Ekpre-Olomu was expected to be a first round pick prior to a knee injury that caused him to miss the national championship game. Obviously, it was a huge issue as he free-falled to the seventh round. He is a risk taker who tries to jump routes but he is unafraid to get in a receiver’s face or meet a ball carrier for the tackle. If he gets past the knee injury, I would like to see him transition to free safety where the team has a need and his gambling ways and physical nature would provide some IDP usefulness.
UDFA to Watch – Kyle Prater, WR, Northwestern
Prater is a huge wide receiver (6’5”, 225 pounds) who could look to bulk up and become a move tight end. At the very least, he represents a red zone threat and someone who could help replace what was lost when Cameron signed with Miami. Whether he stays at wide receiver or switches to tight end, Prater could make this roster and provide a unique skill set for the team and one of the few sets of hands that can consistently catch the ball.