There is a different feel than there was a year ago when the Cleveland Browns began the rebuilding process under the new regime.
The NFL Draft is always a special event for Cleveland Browns fans, but the usual optimistic feeling wasn’t there in 2016.
The Browns had cut loose key veteran players and had committed to Robert Griffin III as the starting quarterback, leaving only the most hopeful of Browns believing in a season that wouldn’t be a total disaster.
Then came the draft, when the Browns passed up on the chance to take someone at No. 2 overall, instead opting to trade down and acquire more picks. That move signaled the start of what was going to be a tough year.
But the trade paid off, giving the Browns plenty of draft capital to use in 2017. And the lack of adding any dominant playmakers in 2016 saw the Browns end up with the No. 1 overall pick.
Drafting Myles Garrett gave the Browns a true star player, something that wasn’t done during the 2016 draft. There was no big name from a year ago for fans to get behind, but that changed this year.
From Garrett to Jabrill Peppers to DeShone Kizer, the Browns brought in some college stars in the hopes they can translate that into NFL success. Even trading back into the first round and selecting David Njoku showed that the team is committed to improving on the field in 2017.
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It is obviously impossible to know if these players will turn out to have successful NFL careers, but there is much more optimism this year than there was a year ago. The team can only get better after a 1-15 season, we hope, and the offseason additions coupled with the draft picks seem to point toward at least a glimmer of success.
The only thing holding fans back from believing this team is a contender is a star quarterback, but Cody Kessler will likely get a chance to prove he belongs as the starter in Cleveland. He didn’t do great in 2016, but the experience in what was the worst year in franchise history should help. Better protection will help as well.
Fans in Cleveland are going to be seeing a lot of Garrett and Peppers jerseys around town this fall, as fans will get behind these new players. All three first-round picks will start right away, giving the Browns some impact players that never came to town in 2016.
Optimism can easily fade with losses, but there is a bit more hope in Cleveland than there was one year ago.