Cleveland Browns must draft impact players to continue the rebuild in 2017

Nov 30, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; A detailed view of the logo of the Dawg Pound band on a drum against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 30, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; A detailed view of the logo of the Dawg Pound band on a drum against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns have to get impact players in the 2017 NFL draft to not only aid their latest rebuild but also gain credibility for their front office.

The Cleveland Browns ended up with a total of 14 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft after much wheeling and dealing. This included sending the No. 2 overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, which netted them more picks including the the No. 12 overall pick this year.

It has been said by many experts over the years that a draft class cannot truly be graded until three years later. As time marches on this statement has become less relevant as collegiate players are coming into the league and playing Pro-Bowl caliber football from day one.

You only have to look at last season’s Dallas Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, who both had major roles in leading the team to the best record in the NFC.

The Browns must continue to build off last year’s draft and bring in players who, like Elliot and Prescott, can help the team right away. Let’s take a look at how the plan in Cleveland is going.

2016 Browns draft class and roster purge

The Browns 2016 draft class did not show the promise that many fans were hoping for. Looking at the crop of players they drafted there were some positives.

Emmanuel Ogbah, Corey Coleman (when healthy), Carl Nassib and Cody Kessler (when not running for his life) showed flashes of being impact players and/or quality prospects. Other draftees the coaches seem high on but did not show much due to injury or lack of playing time.

Players such as Shon Coleman, Joe Schobert and Derrick Kindred come to mind. It is too early to give up on this class but there will definitely be players on the roster bubble.

The average age of the entire roster was a shade over 25 years old, so a rough season was expected. And a rough season it was, with one win and 15 losses.

As the Browns purged themselves of most of their veterans before the 2016 season began this should have been expected. There was simply not enough experience on the roster to provide the mentoring young players need. Coaching can only focus on so much which is where veteran leadership comes into play.

2017 offseason acquisitions

The Browns were very aggressive in pursuing free agents this offseason. They focused on the offensive line and on paper it is much stronger. Bringing in Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter has given the line two key pieces that were missing last year.

The Kenny Britt signing makes up for the loss of Terrelle Pryor. Even the trade for Brock Osweiler helps the quarterback room as he has had success and tutoring from future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. These veterans will help provide leadership to the young nucleus the team already has and will build upon.

The improvement of the offensive line should lead to more success from an already decent run game, while also protecting the quarterback. A quarterback that has time in the pocket has the time to go through his progressions. He can feel comfortable and wait for routes to develop and receivers to get open.

The Browns hired Gregg Williams as their new defensive coordinator. His brand of defense has always consisted of aggressiveness and passion. He brings with him a 4-3 defense albeit an unconventional one. You will see many different looks from his defense but will always see them attacking.

Most times when teams change defensive schemes they have to change a lot of their player personnel. Cleveland will only need to make a few adjustments as their current roster is more suited to Williams scheme as is. A stronger defense will only help the development of the offense, especially the QB.

When a team in not consistently having to play catch-up, the whole offensive playbook is open. This will also help the run game and the quarterback play. The draft is the key in making this all work.

2017 NFL Draft

The Browns hold the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks in the coming draft. Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and Hue Jackson should not overthink this. This draft needs to be all about the defense and adding players that will have an impact. It is one of the stronger defensive drafts in recent memory and they have the ammo to add players the team needs.

No. 1 overall should no question be Myles Garrett. He is a generational talent who should instantly upgrade the defensive line adding pressure to the opponents’ passing attack. Pairing him with Ogbah should make them a dynamic duo for years to come.

Related: Cleveland Browns complete 6-round mock draft

At pick No. 12 they can wait to see who falls and add another playmaker on the defense. If they feel the player they really want will not be there they can always trade up (think Malik Hooker). With the first pick in the second round there should still be plenty of players that can step in right away and help as well.

The bottom line

If the Browns can add at least two or three impact players and perhaps two more starters to this defense through the draft then that will be a success. Add these to Jamie Collins, Joe Haden, Danny Shelton, Jamar Taylor and Christian Kirksey to go with William’s tutelage and the defense should be fierce.

If the offensive line is indeed a strength, the defense is vastly improved and the young players from last season show improvement, the Browns should be looking to 2018 to bolster the offense.

Next: 2017 Draft Profile: Kareem Hunt

This is a three-year plan that for once is showing some promise, and let all Browns fans hope they stick to the plan.