EXT. FIRSTENERGY STADIUM
Camera positioned high above stadium shows 60% of capacity crowd, most two-fisting Bud Light in an attempt to reconcile both being a Browns’ fan and willingly living in Cleveland.
CUE AUDIO: Flight of the Valkyries
Camera tight on DeShone Kizer, warming up on the sidelines. Cut away abruptly after he overthrows warm-up partner and drills small child in the 14th row with a pass that carries unnecessary velocity .
“The frozen tundra of FirstEnergy Stadium, home of perennial AFC North doormat Cleveland Browns, a team looking for a fresh start in the new season. Today, rookie savior DeShone Kizer is under center, giving fans hope for the future.”
“But even the cheapest spirit must age, and that requires great patience.”
Camera shows game clock ticking down from 12:50 of the first quarter of the first game of the season. Cut to Anthony Chickillo getting a punt blocked and the Steelers returning it for a touchdown. Cut to a woman in the crowd crying a single tear as her husband adjusts the paper bag over his head. Cut to Jimmy Haslam being led away in handcuffs. Cut to Hue Jackson talking into his headset.
CUE AUDIO: Microphone picks up Hue Jackson asking if Robert Griffin III is warmed up. Voice on other end reminds him RG3 isn’t on the roster. Then he asks about Josh McCown, leading to an awkward silence. Hue scratches his rear end, smells his fingers for a disconcerting amount of time, and starts to complain about how bad Sashi Brown is.
Hayden Hurst, TE South Carolina (round 1, 25th overall)
Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville (round 1, 32nd overall)
Orlando Brown, T Oklahoma (round 2, 83rd overall)
Mark Andrews, TE Oklahoma (round 3, 86th overall)
Jaleel Scott, WR New Mexico State (round 4, 132nd overall)
Jordan Lashley WR, UCLA (round 5, 162nd overall)
Greg Senat, T Wagner (round 6, 212th overall)
Bradley Bozeman, C Alabama (round 6, 215th overall)
Baltimore has had a huge hole at tight end in the years since Dennis Pitta’s hip became an issue. Enter Hurst, an older than ideal prospect (he’ll be 25 when the season starts), who most thought was overdrafted in comparison to the other top tight ends in the class. Despite the lack of excitement around the former minor league baseball player, Hurst is a well-rounded player who is a plus in the passing game and more than adequate as a blocker. Whether that translates to fantasy success or not remains to be seen.
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Speaking of tight ends, let’s jump ahead a bit and talk about the other one they drafted. A straight line speed type with poor agility, burst, and the blocking ability of Jimmy Graham if he didn’t have arms, Andrews is essentially a big slot and nothing more. I have doubts as to whether he can make much of an impact anywhere but down the seam and in the red zone, especially with the far more complete Hurst ahead of him.
Jackson was a surprise draft day slider, almost slipping out of the first round entirely. Never one to shy away from making a splash, GM Ozzie Newsome spent the last first-round pick of his career on perhaps the draft’s most dynamic player. An almost unparalleled at the position level playmaker, Jackson does have some warts: his accuracy can be a problem, he turns it over more than you’d like, and there are concerns his build is too small for his style of play. Considering Jackson’s incredible natural gifts, those flaws could all get buried if he can consistently deliver splash plays in the way Deshaun Watson and Michael Vick have before him. From where I sit, Jackson was the steal of the draft, and if Baltimore is willing to build their offense around him, and not try to shoehorn the kid into something that doesn’t fit, he will be a superstar.
Seemingly always in need of help up front, Brown is an intriguing prospect. Plagued by a major lack of athleticism, Brown isn’t likely to have success at left tackle but could be a plus starter on the right side if the Ravens can coach him up. At the very least, he should be a road grader for Alex Collins.
Billy Price, C Ohio State (round 1, 21st overall)
Mark Walton, RB Miami (round 4, 112th overall)
Logan Woodside, QB Toledo (round 7, 249th overall)
Auden Tate, WR Florida State (round 7, 253rd overall)
While many draftniks thought Price was overdrafted, there isn’t much doubt he can step in and help the Cincy O-line immediately, and, boy do they need it. A massive, angry presence in the middle of the trenches, Price should be a significant step in the right direction for a run game that struggled immensely last season.
One thing Cincinnati didn’t seem to need was a running back, but that didn’t stop them from adding Walton. Even more head-scratching is how redundant his skills are to the entrenched Giovani Bernard. It could be they plan to move on from Bernard after the season, as his contract is rather cuttable. If so, they should find Walton is more than able to replace their current third down back. He plays big, has great agility, and is fantastic in the pass game. His inside running is an issue, but that is hopefully something that will develop over time. When I watch Walton, I see a ton of Devonta Freeman. Maybe the Bengals saw the same.
Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma (round 1, 1st overall)
Austin Corbett, T Nevada (round 2, 33rd overall)
Nick Chubb, RB Georgia (round 2, 35th overall)
Antonio Callaway WR, Florida (round 4, 105th overall)
Damion Ratley WR, Texas A&M (round 6, 175th overall)
The Browns started off with a bang by drafting their quarterback of the future, or as history would suggest, their quarterback of a few games of one year, then a few games the next year before he is cut and never heard from again.
OK, that was a bit harsh, especially considering Mayfield was, and still is, my favorite quarterback in the draft. A dynamic personality with the game to match, if Mayfield can prove he is more than just a spread QB, he has all the makings of a superstar. Still, the Browns plan to let him sit and marinate behind the always underrated Tyrod Taylor. The veteran does tend to get nicked up at times, so Mayfield may get a shot sooner than planned, but it is also possible Cleveland is better than we think and Taylor makes it impossible for Jackson to bench him. Once Mayfield sees the field, he’ll have one of the more talented supporting casts in the league. Short of hiring a real head coach, the Browns have done everything they can to set the kid up for success.
Corbett isn’t a great athlete and doesn’t have ideal arm length, so don’t expect him to replace departed superstar Joe Thomas, but he could immediately find playing time on the inside. While the line is already a strength overall, with the addition of Chubb, and after drafting a quarterback first overall, the Browns were clearly looking shore up their line to give these guys the best possible chance at success.
Chubb profiles as a well-above-average two-down back who has power, speed, good feet, and excellent vision. Adding Chubb to Duke Johnson gives the Browns’ run game the pieces to be a juggernaut. Carlos Hyde stands in the way in 2018, but he can be cut after the season with relative ease, which should open things up for Chubb to be a borderline RB1 in dynasty.
Callaway is one of the most interesting players in the draft. A first round player on talent alone, he has been dogged by off-the-field issues which led to his being suspended for his junior year. He also failed his combine drug test and there have been numerous reports of a poor work ethic. His coaches reportedly liked him as a person, so hopefully there is a good kid in there somewhere. If so, he is possibly the second most talented pass catcher on the roster, ahead of even Jarvis Landry.
James Washington, WR Oklahoma State (round 2, 60th overall)
Mason Rudolph, QB Oklahoma State (round 3, 76th overall)
Chukwuma Okorafor, T Western Michigan (round 3, 92nd overall)
Jaylen Samuels, FB NC State (round 5, 165th overall)
Mike Tomlin’s reign has seen plenty of deep threat types filling the second or third receiver role over the years. Despite running a bit slower (4.54) than expected, Washington is another in that mold. The issues begin once we get past his deep route prowess: he ran a limited route tree and lacks the sort of polish and athletic traits most high-end fantasy assets exhibit. Despite that, I’ve seen him comped to DeAndre Hopkins in some circles, and when you watch him play, if you drink a couple beers and squint just a bit, you can see it. His biggest issue may be seeing targets, as Washington won’t be any higher than fourth on the totem pole in the near future.
Much to Ben Roethlisberger’s chagrin, Mason Rudolph was taken in the third round, potentially to be Ben’s heir. If he doesn’t reach those heights, Pittsburgh could at least have a solid backup, something that never hurts when you have a starter who gets banged up as often as Roethlisberger. Rudolph is a big, tall pocket QB who gets most of the mental stuff right, but leaves you wanting when it comes to the physical side of the game: his mechanics aren’t great, his arm isn’t what you’d like, and he is a zero outside the pocket. Much of that can be coached up, giving Rudolph starter upside at a pretty low cost to the organization.
I am going to mention Samuels only because of what his presence may mean for Le’Veon Bell. Too small to be a tight end, not good enough at blocking to be a full back, and not dynamic enough to be a lead back, he is sort of a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I like to think of him as a dollar store David Johnson. Basically, he can do a good enough imitation of Bell on pass downs to give the Steelers some flexibility if the mercurial running back walks after this season. So while he is certainly not a threat to Bell this year, Samuels is still an intriguing third or fourth round flier, especially in dynasty leagues with deep rosters or taxi squads.
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