Nov 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) calls a play during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
As the Cleveland Browns use their bye week to prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s time to to take another look at the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Browns are 0-12 and appear to be on a collision course with the top overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and have a boatload of picks to utilize after No. 1. Beyond hoping for the best with the players on the team for the future, it’s difficult not imagining who could be on this team that could help them become a good team.
Since the Browns have a track record, albeit a short one, this mock is trying to operate by how the Browns would select the players utilizing trends from the 2016 NFL Draft. As more information becomes available, it will be incorporated into these mock drafts to try to increase accuracy. The goal, obviously, is to try to effectively hone in on the types of the players the Browns want and will target in April.
This also evolves somewhat by where the Browns are picking in the draft. Here is the first edition from the halfway point in the season, which was before the notable addition of Jamie Collins.
One of the areas that the Browns targeted last year was players with high market share. In effect, players who were responsible for a good percentage of the team’s overall production. This is a concept that can be applied to both offense and defense and scales to each team.
For example, Corey Coleman had outstanding numbers at Baylor by any measure. Meanwhile, Ricardo Louis did not put up huge numbers because of the offense and quarterback situation that Auburn had, but relative to his team, his market share was high. This was consistently seen throughout the 2016 draft class.
So with all of that in mind, this draft features a heavy dose of productivity from its prospects, which may help to answer some questions about players that were not chosen. As always, this will utilize the On the Clock mock draft simulator from Fanspeak.
Note: All height and weight measurements are those listed, not official.
Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in action during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kyle Field. The Aggies defeat the Volunteers 45-38 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Despite missing two games, Garrett has 15 of the Aggies 103 tackles for loss this season (14 percent) and 8.5 of the team’s 35 sacks (24 percent).
Unless the Browns lose the first pick of the draft or Garrett goes on a crime spree, get used to seeing this; he’s not going anywhere.
Explosive and agile, Garrett has done it all in terms of speed. And he’s doing it in a huge, rangy frame. Garrett will conclude his entire collegiate career before celebrating his 21st birthday at the end of December. The sky is the limit for Garrett and his floor already has him with a tremendous head start.
There has been so much talk about how the Browns haven’t had a good quarterback since Bernie Kosar. It’s certainly a discussion worth having and a trend worth ending.
By the same token, it is also worth considering that the last time the Browns had someone in their front seven that consistently made opposing quarterbacks nervous. The answer is probably Michael Dean Perry.
Like Kosar, Perry dates back to the Browns before they moved to Baltimore and had to be resurrected. Perry had 51.5 sacks spread over seven seasons with the Browns as a defensive tackle. He wasn’t alone and had substantial help in Rob Burnett and Anthony Pleasant as the team’s defensive ends, especially later in his tenure with the Browns. Perry set the tone and that is the type of player Garrett can be for the Browns.
Along with players like Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib, who are developing, and the addition of Jamie Collins, Garrett can be the player that sets everything in motion and makes everyone better when it comes to rushing the quarterback.
The defensive unit that had Perry, Pleasant, and Burnett was the last one that had the Browns as a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl. A front seven that includes Danny Shelton, Chris Kirksey, Ogbah, Nassib, and Garrett could have a similar impact over the coming years for the Browns.
Oct 29, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) and teammates run out of the tunnel before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Wilson has six pass of the team’s 39 pass break ups (15 percent) and three of the team’s 13 interceptions (23 percent) this season.
Obviously some will be frustrated with the fact the Browns did not select a quarterback again. It is coming. In the meantime, the Browns add what they hope is a franchise corner.
Much of the focus at Florida coming into the season at corner was on Teez Tabor, for both the right and wrong reasons. Somewhat overshadowed, Wilson has made a name for himself this season. He was by no means bad the previous two seasons, but he took a major step forward this year, especially in terms of production.
On tape, Wilson is big. It remains to be seen if he’s quite as big as his listing suggests, but he’s an imposing player who loves to play physically at corner. Wilson does a nice job in press, but he has shown he is comfortable playing in off man coverage as well.
He also comes downhill without fear in run support, able to make tackles in space. Wilson has shown good ball skills in his career at Florida, able to punish teams for making mistakes to his side.
Athletic testing will be critical to see just how fast and agile Wilson is, assuming he declares for the NFL Draft. If he shows well in those areas, he might find himself in the top 10 discussion.
Even in the event that Joe Haden returns to Pro Bowl form (unlikely as that is), the Browns still need corner help. Briaen Boddy-Calhoun is a rookie that has flashed some promise, but nothing yet that says he can be a firm starter. The AFC North has so many talented receiving threats that it is important for the Browns to improve their secondary and Wilson could be a huge building block there.
Nov 12, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) drops back for a pass against the California Golden Bears during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 56-21. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2: Luke Falk, QB — Washington State — 6-4, 216 lbs.
Here’s the curveball at quarterback. Luke Falk is a junior and it’s possible that, if he submits to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, he gets a conservative evaluation. If that happens, he may decide to stay in Pullman for another year.
The analytical formula that the Browns use for quarterbacks is obviously unknown. However, some analytical formulas that suggested Jared Goff, Cody Kessler and Dak Prescott were the best three quarterbacks in last year’s draft are pointing to Falk now.
The Browns wanted Goff and chose Kessler. Prescott’s DUI arrest could be the reason the Browns passed on him, allowing Dallas to select him after they failed to get their first two targets in Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch. In the event Falk does declare, this will be something that gets discussed in further detail.
On the field, Falk has a tremendous arm. Strength, velocity, touch and accuracy, he has shown all of it. There isn’t a throw he can’t make. He’s also reasonably athletic for the position and has shown enough mobility to show he can extend plays and occasionally scramble for a few yards.
The issues for Falk start with how he deals with pressure. His footwork can get lazy and when he feels feel the pass rush, especially in front of him, he can drop backward and throw it with poor mechanics because his arm lets him get away with it. His feel for the pocket is also inconsistent. Every so often, he shows flashes of hope in this area.
The offense he plays in also is a discussion. The Air Raid offense that Mike Leach made famous lets Falk throw it all over the field. He doesn’t operate from under center and is accustomed to having wide receivers all over the place. Adjusting to an NFL offense will not be easy, as was just seen with Jared Goff, who played in the Bear Raid offense at Cal.
If the Browns love Falk, they won’t mess around. They didn’t with Kessler last year much to the chagrin of…well, everyone, taking him in the third round. Falk could be someone that rises in the draft process anyway, so grabbing him at the top of the second round makes a great deal of sense. Not a ton of pressure to play early, but has a ton of talent that could appeal to Hue Jackson and the Browns.
Sep 10, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt (88) makes a reception for a touchdown in the second quarter against the UCF Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2 (Pick from TEN): Jake Butt, TE — Michigan — 6-6, 250 lbs.
Jake Butt has 43 receptions for 518 yards and four touchdowns. That accounts for 20 percent of Michigan’s 2,593 passing yards and 21 percent of their receiving touchdowns.
Butt has shown to be an effective inline blocker that can be a terrific short-mid range receiver with reliable hands. The Michigan offense uses a complex gap scheme, which seems ideal for the transition to the Browns. On tape, he’s rock solid. The biggest question with Butt is going to come with athletic testing and finding out just how dynamic he can be.
As a primary threat against a defense full of tremendous athletes in Ohio State, Butt was a consistent problem, catching five passes for 58 yards. It’s just difficult to cover someone with that kind of size that can get open and catch the football. His ability to block inline opens up running options and provides a play action passing element that Michigan uses effectively and that the Browns could exploit.
Butt’s skillset would give the Browns something they have not had in years. Despite the fact they don’t have true dual threat tight end, they keep asking Gary Barnidge to block inline, which is something he is unable to do. Randall Telfer is an effective inline blocker, but hasn’t shown the ability to be a threat as a pass catcher.
The Browns could have two inline tight ends in Butt and Telfer. If they want to go double tights, they can line them up and run the ball. They would still have Barnidge and Seth DeValve that can provide size in space. It opens up a ton of options for the Browns that Hue Jackson had during his entire tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals with players like Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah.
Butt also simply gives them more size, which is something they trending toward already. Terrelle Pryor, Ricardo Louis and Seth DeValve are large athletes. Corey Coleman, who is hardly small, is a relative dwarf compared to the rest of the offense. That can put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.
Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive back Adoree Jackson (2) celebrates during a NCAA football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Adoree’ Jackson has four of USC’s 11 interceptions this season (36 percent), 11 of their 57 pass break ups (19 percent) and 42 of the team’s 490 tackles (8 percent) this year.
Jackson also has four return touchdowns; two as a punt returner and two as a kickoff returner. His punt return average is 15.89 and his kick return average is 30.5
Adoree’ Jackson has said he’s leaning towards returning to USC for his senior year and a third-round selection might be a great argument to do just that. Jackson is a somewhat polarizing prospect and, with all he can do, it might surprise people how high he just might go.
As a corner, Jackson will get beat. Most of his issues come from playing right up on his man and are fixable if he puts in the work to perfect his technique. He doesn’t have ideal height or bulk, so receivers can overpower him at times.
Jackson does his best work in off man coverage. He is fantastic when it comes to playing in space and being able to locate the football, with the ability to make opponents pay for mistakes thrown at him. Not only does he have the ability to intercept passes, but he’s one of the most dynamic returners and athletes in all of college football. Any time he has the ball in his hands, he’s a threat to score.
Jackson immediately steps in as the returner for both kickoffs and punts. He needs to work on his technique in tight coverage, but the Browns have played a lot of off man coverage. That is an ideal fit for Jackson’s talents, but because of his agility and speed, he might be the type of corner that can develop and cover receivers such as Antonio Brown.
Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Pat Elflein (65) blocks during the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4: Pat Elflein, OL — Ohio State — 6-3, 300 lbs.
2016 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, 2015 2nd Team All-American
Thank you. This means the end of Cam Erving at center. Well, not exactly. The Browns have plenty of reason to believe Erving can be a top of the line center in the NFL and this offseason is huge for him.
Elflein has been a great center this year for the Buckeyes. Obviously, he would provide competition for Erving there, but Elflein was also a terrific right guard last year. The Browns get a player that has versatility, provides competition at a couple of spots, but at the very least is good depth.
It seems unlikely that Elflein would last this long, but Christian Westerman had no business lasting until the fifth-round last year either. Despite having a ton of talent and strength, Westerman didn’t bring a ton of size and Elflein might be in a similar boat.
Both just happen to be terrific linemen that manned their positions extremely well. In the case of Westerman, the Cincinnati Bengals got a terrific value. The Browns could find themselves in a similar boat with Elflein.
Oct 17, 2015; Evanston, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson (67) celebrates after a fumble recovery during the second half of the game at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Jaleel Johnson has 30 percent of Iowa’s 25 sacks this year with 7.5 and 18 percent of their 55 total tackles for loss with 10.
Jaleel Johnson is a big bodied, high-motor defensive tackle. He has the ability to clog up the middle as a run defender, but he is an incredibly active pass rusher. The numbers speak for themselves, but it’s even more impressive when put into context of how relatively unproductive Iowa’s pass rush has been.
Athletic testing will be critical for Johnson, but he appears to fit the type of mold the Browns want for their defensive tackle. As touched on in a previous article, the Browns appear poised to add a second big body in the middle to clamp down on the run and keep their linebackers and edge rushers freer to fly around and make plays.
If that holds true, Johnson not only gives them a big body in the middle, but one that still gives them additional help with their pass rush. If he, along with Danny Shelton, can be problematic in the middle, Chris Kirksey and Jamie Collins can fly around in the middle of the field to make plays. It could also make it easier for pass rushers like Emmanuel Ogbah and the earlier drafted Garrett to get to the quarterback.
This would enable Jamie Meder to be a valuable role player that can backup both spots and give them three big bodies that can two-gap in the middle. And ideally, when teams face obvious passing situations, the Browns can take them out and put in as many talented pass rushers on the field as possible, which would hopefully include Xavier Cooper.
Can add #Iowa DT Jaleel Johnson to the #SeniorBowl list of accepted invites. Some interesting DL talent will be in Mobile.
It’s also important to note that Johnson is slated to be at the Senior Bowl, so the Browns, in line to coach one of the teams in Mobile, could have him on their team for a week. If he brings it the way he does on tape, especially against top of the line competition, he could become a priority in April.
Aug 12, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; A Cleveland Browns helmet during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 17-11. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5: Lorenzo Jerome, S — St. Francis (PA) — 6-0, 195 lbs.
Lorenzo Jerome has 6 of the team’s 16 interceptions this year (37 percent) , five of the team’s 55 pass break ups (9 percent) and 33 of the team’s 404 tackles (8 percent).
Lorenzo Jerome is the one of the most exciting players in college football because he does a little bit of everything. He returns kicks and punts and he is utilized all over their defense. Deep safety, in the slot, blitzing off the corner, so on and so forth.
Jerome shows terrific range and change of direction skills, able to get to and make plays on the ball all over the field. Even as a known quantity for several years, opponents have been unable to get away from him in the passing game.
Questions will center around Jerome’s level of competition on the FCS level. He should be invited to an All-Star game where he can get an opportunity to play against better players.
One issue that does consistently show up in his game is how he tackles. He constantly puts his head down and has his eyes to the ground when he tackles. Beyond the fact that it’s incredibly dangerous for Jerome and everyone else, it’s ineffective as he ends up missing tackles in the process. He also tends to leave his feet too much.
Jerome projects to be a free safety that could also play nickel. The Browns under Ray Horton need someone that can play the deep middle, but love having players able to blitz from anywhere on the field. Jerome appears able to do both.
Sep 26, 2015; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys running back Brian Hill (8) stiff arms New Mexico Lobos linebacker Maurice Daniels (58) during the second quarter at War Memorial Stadium. The Lobos beat the Cowboys 38-28. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5 (Compensatory): Brian Hill, RB — Wyoming — 6-1, 219 lbs.
Hill has 323 carries for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns, which is 65 percent of their rushing yards. Along with his seven catches for 48 yards, Hill is responsible for 31 percent of Wyoming’s total offense.
Hill is a junior who could stay at Wyoming another year. They have a great quarterback prospect that could be in for a huge year. However, Hill is already the all-time leading rusher for Wyoming and has run for over 1,600 yards each of the past two seasons, so he may be ready for the NFL.
A quick-cutting downhill runner, Hill that rarely stops his momentum from going forward. Hill is the type of player who believes in finding the shortest route to the end zone and attacking it as fast as possible.
Lacking a true second gear, Hill is the type of runner that just wears on a defense. He finishes runs with power, but has enough quickness and ability to make opponents to keep opponents honest. Hill is a good sized back, but he seems like he could add weight to his frame as well without losing much of his explosion.
A true power back is the one thing the Browns do not currently have. Terrell Watson is still on their practice squad and it would seem like he’s worth carries to see if he’s going to be able to offer anything. Hill at the very least provides competition for that spot.
The Browns appear to like Dan Vitale as their fullback and, if he develops as a lead blocker, Hill is someone that has a ton of experience running behind a lead back. If they want to go with a power set, he fits well in that, but he can come in and fight for tough yards in spot duty as well.
Sep 10, 2016; Morgantown, WV, USA; Youngstown State Penguins cornerback Eric Thompson (1) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5 (Compensatory): Derek Rivers, DE — Youngstown St. — 6-5, 250 lbs
Derek Rivers has accounted for 15.5 tackles for loss of Youngstown State’s 86 (18%) and 12 of their 44 total sacks (27%).
Derek Rivers has an NFL body and skillset at the FCS level. He is all-time sack leader for the Penguins as a huge part of their defense at left end. Rivers plays his position effectively, though he can be a little hesitant off the line as he engages with the offensive lineman to read the play on run downs. He does a nice job spilling the blocker to maintain outside leverage allowing him to work outside in as a run defender.
Rivers is at his best in obvious passing situations where he is a track stance, trying to figure off the ball as fast as he can to get up the field. He gets to use all of his speed, which enables him to run the arc and beat blockers around the edge, but he’s shown the ability to be effective going to the inside as well.
For the Browns, he continues to bolster their pass rush, improving their rotation. The team currently has players like Cam Johnson, rookie Tyrone Holmes, and Corey Lemonier. They’ve also got Nate Orchard, who went down for the season with an injury.
Rivers provides competition and if he cannot secure a roster spot, is a good candidate to stick on the practice squad. He projects as a situational pass rusher that plays with his hand on the ground, but because he is sound as a run defender, he might be able to grow into a bigger role.
Tanoh Kpassagnon has 21.5 of Villanova’s 85 tackles for loss (25 percent) and 11 of their 32 sacks (34 percent)
Pronounced ‘tan-uh pass-N-yo’
Kpassagnon is an enormous presence as a defensive lineman for the Wildcats. He plays defensive end in their base odd front, but they move him all around from a 4i all the way out to a wide-9 look.
Kpassagnon takes full advantage of his tremendous width, using good lateral agility and his sheer wingspan to make plays in the running game as well as rush the quarterback. He does a nice job fighting to get off blocks and just has a knack for making plays in the backfield.
Sep 3, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Villanova Wildcats defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon (92) on the field against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 28-7. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sportse backfield.ield.
In addition to good hand use and body positioning, Kpassagnon shows good awareness on the field in terms of knowing where he needs to be and how to best do his job.
Teams are going to want to see how he fares against better competition. Fortunately, he’s accepted his invitation to participate in the Senior Bowl and was also invited and may participate in the East-West Shrine Game the week before, giving him plenty of opportunities to showcase his talent. Leveraging opposing blockers would the biggest thing to look for with him during those weeks.
Despite his energy and enthusiasm on the field, teams may hold against Kpassagnon’s his soft spoken nature and upbringing (though they shouldn’t). For Browns fans, he may come off a lot like Courtney Brown, nicknamed the ‘Quiet Storm.’
Kpassagnon is as successful off the field as he is on it with a fiance major and minors in accounting and entrepreneurship. His parents are both accomplished in their respective fields and put significant emphasis on education before sports. If Kpassagnon didn’t play another down of football, he could walk into any number of great jobs and have a career.
There are still football personnel that see this as a problem, preferring players that need football as a career. The Browns do not seem to be one of these teams, bringing in a pair of Ivy League graduates this past season, drafting Seth DeValve from Princeton in the fourth round and signing Anthony Fabiano from Harvard to their practice squad.
For the Browns on the field, Kpassagnon gives them depth at the 5-tech defensive end with Carl Nassib that could move inside to defensive tackle, provided he is able to create leverage there. He can also be a player that’s a threat to block field goals and he’s gotten a few in his time at Villanova.
Oct 23, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (middle right) talks to teammates in a huddle against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
1. Myles Garrett, DE Texas A&M 1b. (From PHI) Quincy Wilson, CB Florida 2. Luke Falk, QB Washington State 2b. (From TEN) Jake Butt, TE Michigan 3. Adoree’ Jackson, CB USC 4. Pat Elflein, OL Ohio State 4b. Jaleel Johnson, DT Iowa 5. Lorenzo Jerome, S St. Francis (PA) 5b. Brian Hill, RB Wyoming 5c. Derek Rivers, DE Youngstown State 6. Tanoh Kpassagnon, DL Villanova
The Cleveland Browns get the best player in the entire draft and add significant talent to the defense as a whole, but it’s all about the quarterback. It’s unlikely Hue Jackson will come out and mention anything about ‘trust’ this time around, but it it’s implicit in the selection.
The third quarterback selected and picked before Deshone Kizer, Falk has more obvious talent than Cody Kessler did last year, selected in the in third round. There will be plenty of question with not taking either quarterback prospect born in Ohio in Mitch Trubisky or Kizer as well as DeShaun Watson, who is slated to play Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, but the Browns have to get the best player for they want to do.
Another obvious question is at free safety. This projects to be a fantastic class for that position with a number of big names that fans have watched all season long from big programs. Fans may not know Lorenzo Jerome, but as this process plays out, he will hopefully become increasingly familiar. And perhaps Carson Wentz’s success this season will help fans realize how much talent the FCS has in general, especially this year.
Overall, the Browns put a significant emphasis on their pass defense, attacking both their ability to rush the passer and covering opposing receivers. The Browns get what they hope is their franchise quarterback and a player that impacts how they can run their offense in Jake Butt. The focus should be on getting the most dangerous pass rushing threat since the team moved to Baltimore, but the story will be the quarterback and the roads not taken.