Eight years ago, the Browns won ten games. Five years before that, they won nine. Another five years hence, with Bill Belichick at the helm, they hung an 11-spot. And if you keep going, you’ll find a second nine win season five years prior. That 1989 campaign, posted when some of your parents were still in high school, was the last time the Cleveland franchise had consecutive winning seasons. In the 23 seasons since, they’ve won more than seven games only three times and fewer than six on a whopping 14 occasions.
I was going to write more, but I’m already in a dark enough place.
Round 1, Pick 15 – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Lightning fast (4.37 40), highly productive (2015 Biletnikoff Award winner), and explosive at the point of the catch, Coleman has everything needed to be DeSean Jackson, or better. In order to get there he will need to prove he can run polished routes and show more consistent hands, but these are both things that can be worked on. In the meantime, he is going to be a lid-lifter catching passes from a rocket armed quarterback. And once Josh Gordon retakes his spot on the throne, Coleman won’t have to worry nearly so much about safety help over the top. Color me excited.
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Round 3, Pick 93 – Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Chad Pennington had a very nice NFL career on the back of a highly accurate limp noodle of an arm. Considering the mess the Browns have at the position, Cody Kessler, a player very much in the Pennington mold, is almost certainly going to get a chance to do the same. Yeah, his arm is only good enough (at best), but that isn’t what has head coach Hue Jackson dishing out effusive praise for the youngster. It is the next level accuracy, pocket presence, maturity, and experience in a pro-style offense that gets up Jackson in a lather. I wouldn’t say I am there with him, as plenty of players with the same skill set have failed spectacularly, but I did draft Kessler 34th overall in a 2QB rookie draft this summer.
Round 4, Pick 115 – Ricardo Louis, WR, Auburn
With 14 total picks, the Browns loaded up with four receivers, a four-fold increase over their last two drafts combined. With such a suddenly crowded depth chart, at least one of these rookies isn’t at all likely to make the team. Lucky for Louis, he has the highest non-Coleman draft pedigree in the group. He is also fortunate to be big (6’2”, 215 pounds), fast (4.43 40), and explosive (38” vertical, 132” broad). So why hasn’t he caught a preseason pass or been mentioned in a single Rotoworld blurb since signing on June 1? As with so many college receivers, his route running and hands are both huge question marks. So unless Cleveland creates touches for him or he develops swiftly, Louis is a high upside, end of the bench type at best.
Round 4, Pick 138 – Seth DeValve, TE, Princeton
I’m not gonna lie, I had no idea who this was then his name was read. From what the pundits said, neither did much of the league, as the consensus had DeValve as drafted several (maybe infinite) rounds too early. Despite that, he does have some intriguing traits. That is, if you consider a 6’4”, 245 pound man running a 4.68 40 intriguing. If that doesn’t get a tight end premium mavens’ interest, maybe a 40 inch vertical will?
As fun as all that is, there are reasons he was expected to be a UDFA. The Princeton product is basically a big sloppy mess when it comes to the whole catching and route running thing.
I won’t sit here and pretend I’ve spent 20 hours studying Devalve’s tape, so I’ll leave you with this: You could do worse than to stash him in a TE premium league and pray he can make the strides Antonio Gates did early in his career.
Round 5, Pick 154 – Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA
I alluded to this earlier, but Cleveland has a gob of receivers on their roster. In addition to Coleman, Louis, Payton, and the soon-to-be-mentioned Rashard Higgins, they have Josh Gordon, Terrelle Pryor, Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Marlon Moore, and a few others you’ve never heard of and who have no shot at making the 53-man. With Coleman, Higgins, and Pryor locked in, that likely leaves only three spots, two once Gordon returns. Hawkins is highly likely to fill one of those, giving Payton and fellow rookie Louis precious little breathing room.
As far as Payton the player goes, he is your run-of-the mill, super steady possession type. While he showed more juice in the 40 than anybody expected (4.47), the rest of Payton’s number speak of a guy with limited explosion, something you can really see as he lumbers in and out of breaks. Payton also struggles mightily with press coverage. He sort of reminds me of a much less refined end-of-his-career Hines Ward.
All that said, there is no denying his college production (UCLA’s all-time leader in receptions) and reliable nature. Whether that is enough to beat out the dynamic Gabriel, higher drafted and much more explosive Louis, or Moore, who has special teams value, remains to be seen.
Round 5, Pick 172 – Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State
Like Payton, Higgins finished college as his team’s all-time leader in receptions with 239. He also set record for yards (3649) and touchdowns (31). Also like Payton, Higgins is primarily a possession guy. On the downside, he is smaller and slower (4.64 40 versus Payton’s 4.47) with an even worse vertical (32 vs 34.5) and broad (116 vs 121). So why, then, did I declare above that he is locked into a roster spot? It all comes down to polish and ability to separate. Higgins is an NFL-ready slot type with good hands, good route running, and an uncanny ability to separate despite the lackluster measureables. (For more on this, check out Higgins’ Reception Perception write-up from Matt Harmon.)
Backing all that up is Higgins’ rookie ADP of 32, some eight spots above Payton and many more ahead of the undrafted Ricardo Louis.
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