2016 Cleveland Browns roster analysis: Quarterbacks
Experience: 1 year
Contract Status: Free Agent in 2020
The Browns selected Cody Kessler in the third round, No. 93 overall out of USC in the 2016 Draft. The team drafted him over quarterback prospects such as Connor Cook and Dak Prescott. Many draft experts believed the Browns reached on Kessler by taking him in the third and not waiting until the fourth or even fifth round. Despite criticism, Hue Jackson told fans and media to trust him on the selection saying,
“You’ve got to trust me on this one, This is a guy that we feel very comfortable with, and we feel he’s going to have an opportunity to ascend.”
Kessler appealed to Jackson and the Browns staff because he was a proven accurate passer at USC, completing 67.5 percent of his passes. Additionally, he threw 88 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions, showing his ability to protect the football, limiting turnovers.
The plan was to let Kessler sit and learn from the veterans ahead of him in Griffin and McCown. As we know that plan got thrown a change-up and Kessler saw his first NFL start in Week 3. With little preparation and no reps with the first-team in the offseason, Kessler held his own in his first start nearly leading the team to a victory over the Dolphins.
The rookie went on to start in eight games doing exactly what Jackson praised him for pre-draft. Kessler completed 65 percent of passes and only threw two interceptions. The team went 0-8 in Kessler’s tenure but the rookie quarterback showed poise with little help around him. Kessler doesn’t have all the elite-level tools looked for in a franchise quarterback, but he showed his toughness, accuracy, and decision-making is strong enough to find success in the league.
CMP ATT CMP % YDS TD INT
128 195 65.5 1380 6 2
In what was supposed to be a redshirt year, Kessler started half of the season. At no point did Kessler look lost or like he didn’t belong in the league. Kessler impressed by displaying strong traits looked for in capable NFL quarterbacks. Going into year two, expect Kessler to continue to grow and improve as a quarterback. He might not ever be given the keys to the kingdom so to speak as a franchise starting quarterback, but with his work ethic and solid play, Kessler will remain a valuable young backup with the potential to be a spot starter.