Browns UDFA class has some solid potential
The Cleveland Browns have kept busy signing undrafted free agents, several of which have received considerable notice for their play.
The Cleveland Browns, not content to sit back and relax after putting together a widely respected draft class, added 11 undrafted free agents this weekend.
And that pool of players is receiving high marks as well.
The Browns, according to the team website, signed the following as undrafted free agents:
- Linebackers B.J. Bello (Illinois State), Ladell Fleming (Northern Illinois) and Kenneth Olugbode (Colorado)
- Defensive backs J.D. Harmon (Kentucky), Alvin Hill (Maryland), Kai Nacua (Brigham Young) and Channing Stribling (Michigan)
- Defensive linemen Jamal Marcus (Akron) and Karter Schult (Northern Iowa)
- Offensive lineman Josh Boutte (LSU)
- Tight end Taylor McNamara (Southern California)
While it is notable that nine of the 11 are on the defensive side of the ball, the real takeaway is that a few of the players come highly regarded.
Olugbode, Stribling and Boutte were among the top 50 undrafted free agents, according to Pro Football Focus:
"Olugbode broke out in 2016 to finish sixth overall among the nation’s linebackers with an 88.1 overall grade. He flies to the ball in the run game and shows good range in zone coverage, and he should at least compete for snaps in sub-package sets at the next level."
"Stribling doesn’t have great athleticism, but had a strong 2016, allowing a passer rating of only 22.7 into his coverage, good for second-best in the nation. He got his hands on 15 passes (11 pass breakups, four interceptions) while allowing only 19 receptions into his coverage."
"Boutte had a strong season, particularly a dominant game against Missouri, as he took good angles in LSU’s zone-blocking scheme. He doesn’t create a lot of movement in the run game, but has a chance to succeed as a guy who doesn’t lose often at the next level."
Pro Football Focus took it a step further once players started signing with teams and tapped both Olugbode and Stribling as players likely to go from undrafted free agents to players on Cleveland’s final roster:
"In terms of off-ball linebackers, Cleveland’s depth basically consists of Demario Davis, who earned an overall grade of just 58.4 last season. Kenneth Olugbode went undrafted largely because he measured out at just 6-foot-1, 222 pounds, at his pro day, but his significant improvements as a run defender in 2016 and potential as a coverage and special-teams player may land him a roster spot. He posted a PFF overall grade of 87.7 at Colorado last season, and was at his best in the biggest games. Against Michigan, Stanford, and Washington, Olugbode racked up a total of 33 solo tackles with 18 defensive stops."
"The Browns earned the No. 1 overall pick this year for a number of reasons, namely a lack of talent throughout the roster. Jamar Taylor is the only cornerback on the roster who earned a coverage grade over 70.0 last season, and the selection of former Houston Cougars CB Howard Wilson in the fourth round shouldn’t preclude Cleveland from further upgrading the position group. While Stribling lacks ideal speed and size measurables, he was outstanding in coverage last season. He finished second in the draft class in both total passes broken up (15) and QB passer rating against (22.7)."
Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown pulled no punches when pointing out how former general manager Ray Farmer left a roster mess behind when he was fired. The current front office has put in considerable work to fix that problem in the past two off-seasons.
Next: Larry Ogunjobi tapped as a rookie starter
The Browns are starting to turn the corner but are still another offseason away until they can truly emerge from the darkness that has enveloped the franchise since its return to the NFL in 1999.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that they accelerated the process as much as possible this spring.