Five year returns from Cleveland Browns, AFC North drafts

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) NFL coach Hue Jackson, Dee Haslam and Sashi Brown attend the 5th Annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) NFL coach Hue Jackson, Dee Haslam and Sashi Brown attend the 5th Annual NFL Honors at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Browns
PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 27: A detailed view of the screen on stage of Myles Garrett of Texas A&M after being picked #1 overall by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on April 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Sashi Brown’s Drafts in 2016 and 2017

Sashi Brown presided over two drafts, generally agreed among us fans to be complete disasters. It wasn’t as bad as you might think, however. The Browns had fourteen picks in the 2016 draft. Brown traded down, based on the belief that quarterback Carson Wentz, the consensus number two pick, was over-valued. The Browns received a flock of draft picks including an additional first-round pick, which was traded again, ultimately for David Njoku (2017) and Denzel Ward (2018).

The best player from the 2016 draft was Joe Schobert, taken in the fourth round. He made the Pro Bowl in 2017, the only player from that draft who is a legitimate star. However, the Browns decided that he was overvalued and let him go as a free agent this year.

The crop of wide receivers was believed to be weak that year, and Brown was able to trade back and still get his first choice, Corey Coleman, a fellow with a troubled NFL career. He would get involved in off-the-field incidents, and the coaches complained about his work ethic. However, he was not quite the disaster that the Browns believed. He resurfaced in New York, and had 693 return yards in 2018. His 26.0 yards per kickoff return was good for sixth in the NFL. Last year he went on Injured Reserve with a knee injury, but if he is healed up he might still be an NFL player.

The worst mistake Brown made was to go against analytics theory and draft three more wide receivers from a draft known to be weak in wide receivers. Analytics 101 advises that the team draft talented players and the team should not draft by position. But in addition to Coleman, the Browns took Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton.

What was especially bad is that they clogged up the roster with these receivers and had to send Taylor Gabriel packing. Gabriel had more yards than any of these players. Ricardo Louis had injury problems, but I think he should have been converted to free safety. He was a good special teams player but not blessed with great hands.

Higgins is well-liked by the Dawg Pound, but he caught only four passes last year. He may regain playing time after emerging from coach Freddie Kitchens’ doghouse.

Jordan Payton was suspended for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs and had one catch for three yards in his NFL career.

Tight end Seth DeValve has had trouble staying healthy, but received a second-string grade from Pro Football Focus.

Second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah is a borderline starting defensive end. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs last year and had 5.5 sacks in ten games, plus a Super Bowl Ring.  Ogbah was traded by Dorsey for safety Eric Murray, who was also a contributor.

The Browns drafted a similar player, Carl Nassib, in the third round. Nassib was cut by John Dorsey, but the Browns could have used him and his six sacks last year.  Nassib was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 42nd highest defensive end last year, and Ogbah 39th. That is, they are good enough to be starters, but grade below average. Still, the Browns did not have good depth at defensive end the past two years. You cannot just throw away starting defensive ends even if you have Myles Garrett.

The problem with the 2016 draft is that the Browns gave up on Ogbah and Nassib, let Schobert leave via free agency, and traded Duke Johnson. The fault is not the Browns’ scouting, but the inability to recognize develop and retain talent once it is on the roster

The 2017 draft produced Myles Garrett, who has been to the Pro Bowl once and is a three-year starter. Jabrill Peppers has been just fine for the Giants, thank you. They also had two decent (not great) years from underachieving tight end Njoku, plus last season which truly was a disaster for him.  Zane Gonzalez is now one of the top kickers in the NFL, though the Browns were not able to develop him.

That too is on the coaching staff, not the scouts. They may not have realized that he was playing hurt, which is not a valid excuse.  Coaches are supposed to observe that.  Larry Ogunjobi was good enough to start, but generally has not played the run very well.

Offensive tackle Roderick Johnson was injured and then cut, only to surface in Houston and play well as part of a platoon system. He got in 34 percent of the offensive snap counts for the Texans, enough snaps to be ranked as the 41st highest-graded right tackle last year by Pro Football Focus. It’s unusual to rotate offensive tackles, but it works in Houston. Johnson is perceived as a better run blocker than pass blocker.

Running back Matthew Dayes, defensive tackle Caleb Brantley and defensive back Howard Wilson and quarterback DeShone Kizer are out of football.

Any draft that has Myles Garrett in it is better than most. Once again there were players who wound up elsewhere. Peppers was part of the Odell Beckham, Jr. trade, so it is not as if nothing was gained.