Oct 2, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Detail view of Cleveland Browns helmet against the Washington Redskins during the second half at FedEx Field. Washington Redskins wins 31 – 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
It’s all been building to this, especially for Cleveland Browns fans who have been looking ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft since the first month of the season — the final mock draft.
There’s a week and a half until the 2017 NFL Draft and it’s gotten to the point where nothing constructive is going to come out about any of the prospects or teams in terms of how they will behave. This is especially true for the Cleveland Browns who control the first pick of the draft.
The Browns have become a very process oriented team in terms of their evaluation process. They have prioritized explosion, production and character in terms of the players they’ve targeted the past year. Short of small tweaks and fitting the players better to their coaching staff based on actually seeing them in action either last year or during the Senior Bowl, the process is unlikely to change drastically.
This is the sixth and final installment of these mock drafts, all with the goal of trying to project players the Browns will target this year. Here is the fifth edition and always, we’ll be using Fanspeak.com to provide a framework and at least give some sense of where players can go.
The Browns may be inclined to trade up to get players they are specifically targeting, since they have 11 picks this year, but this class has the talent to accommodate those picks and then some, so if they decide to add more picks, there are plenty of players to add that could help this team now and in the future.
So with all of that in mind, let’s take one final plunge into this before the Browns play keeps.
Sep 24, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in game action against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Texas A&M won 45-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Against Alabama in 2015 and 2016, LSU in 2015 and 2016, Ole Miss in 2015 and Auburn in 2016, Garrett produced a total of 12.5 tackles for loss, averaging out to just over two tackles for loss per game. He consistently makes his presence known, regardless of the opponent.
As for his personality, he’s kind of a unique guy. The last time the Browns took a top prospect with distinctly unique personality, that player spent the NFL Draft on a fishing boat with his dad. He’s kind of a goofball with his teammates and team photos and currently owns part of a barbecue joint and loves yoga. He’s also going to be a first ballot hall of famer.
For the all the things that make Joe Thomas an individual, no one questions how hard he works or how much he wants to win. Likewise, those aren’t things anyone can question about Garrett. Everything else comes off as a desperate reach rather than acknowledging just how immensely talented he is.
Garrett is an intelligent guy who is learning architecture with the hopes of building homes for the less fortunate. He’s a giant dinosaur nerd and likes Marvin Gaye. And he just happens to be a one-man wrecking crew with immense size and rare physical gifts that can dominate the run (48.5 tackles for loss in 36 career games) and kill the opposing quarterback (32.5 career sacks). And finally, on April 27, he can officially be a member of the Cleveland Browns.
At that point, the question is to the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens — What are you going to do to stop him?
Patrick Mahomes is quarterback plutonium. In the right situation and cultivated by the right hands, he can be a tremendous passer in the NFL. Handled poorly and it could blow up in a team’s face and cost people their jobs.
The more that is seen of Mahomes, the more people seem to be impressed with Mahomes as a person in addition to appreciating his talent. Yes, he’s raw. Yes, he needs to sit as a rookie. If he’s willing to put in the work, he appears capable of being ready to start in 2018.
For a coach who loves the quarterback position like Hue Jackson, it’s difficult to imagine he’s not at least intrigued by what Mahomes is able to do. The best arm in the draft and he’d have one of the better ones in the league from the start. In addition, he’s accurate and has good mobility for the position.
Mahomes has to fix his feet and improve how he holds the ball. Both are things he’s working on as illustrated by the NFL Scouting Combine and his own comments. Those changes take time and would have the added benefit of letting him get comfortable with life in the NFL and confident in the offense.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Mahomes situation is that while teams, including the Browns, have been linked to a number of quarterbacks; usually Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson, occasionally DeShone Kizer and even Davis Webb. Mahomes is a wild card and teams may be purposely embracing or putting out rumors about loving other quarterbacks to keep their adoration for Mahomes concealed.
53 solo tackles (8.8 percent), 6 tackles for loss (8.8 percent), 12 pass deflections (16.6 percent), 1 interception (6.6 percent), 4 sacks (11.1 percent)
Age: 21 (Born May 24, 1995)
40-Yard Dash: 4.43s 3 Cone: 6.81s Short Shuttle: 4.34s Vertical: 34.5″ (39.5″ at Pro Day) Broad Jump: 11′ Bench Press: 16 reps
Chidobe Awuzie is one of the most talented defensive backs in the entire draft class. That’s not limited to corner as he may be a better safety. The fact is he can and has done both in multiple coverages and techniques. He’s played a ton of football at Colorado, has produced at a high level and is an elite athlete.
A player that has gained a ton of traction since the combine, Awuzie could easily go in the first round. What might help the Browns is the fact that he played all four secondary spots in Colorado’s defense. Some of the other prospects are painfully clear what they do and where they do it, so Awuzie could being a victim of his own versatility for teams that want a specific position and type of player.
The Browns can play Awuzie at corner, the slot or as a safety. If they like him on the perimeter in base and nickel, if teams try to spread them out with four receiver or empty sets, he come move back to safety and split the field in half with the free safety. Awuzie just gives teams a lot of options in terms of maximizing matchups because he has shown he can do so much for a defense.
Oct 10, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive back Marcus Williams (20) intercepts a pass intended for California Golden Bears wide receiver Kenny Lawler (4) during the first quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
If Gregg Williams wants to get a true ballhawking free safety, the metrics love Marcus Williams. A tremendous explosive athlete with excellent agility, Williams played the deep middle for the Utes’ predominately Cover-3 defense and made plays over the top of the defense consistently the past two seasons.
He intercepted five passes each of the past two seasons and has four career forced fumbles. Williams took over the starting job partway into his freshman season and never let go. He’s one of the youngest prospects in the draft class and, along with players like Garrett, could give them some extremely young and talented building blocks at key spots on defense.
If the Browns can generate a pass rush, Williams could be the beneficiary as he has shown good instincts and the ability to read the quarterback’s eyes to get a jump on passes. Malik Hooker is widely considered the gold standard when it comes to range and playing center field, but Williams has shown to be able to do some of the same things with excellent ball skills of his own.
For all the very valid concerns about the lack of competition Shaheen has faced, his physical attributes still project him favorably to the NFL. If he’s still sitting there at the top of the third round, it would be difficult for the Browns not to grab him.
The Browns have a lot of prospects in the pipeline they hope can pan out, but the only inline tight end they have that has contributed is Randall Telfer, who’s a good run blocker. Shaheen has work to do to acclimate to the NFL level like Seth DeValve did last year out of Princeton, but there’s a good chance that like DeValve, Shaheen will be able to show some flashes.
He’s enormous while being remarkably light on his feet and able to make plays on the ball as a receiver. As a blocker, he plays with a nasty demeanor but needs to be coached on technique as he won’t be able to simply bully opponents with sheer physical strength and size. If Shaheen can develop, he gives the Browns a sixth blocker up front and opens up the play action and the middle of the field as a receiver.
7.5 sacks (26.7 percent), 10 tackles for loss (16.6 percent)
Age: 22 (Born July 12, 1994)
40-Yard Dash: 5.38s (5.08 at Pro Day) 3 Cone: 7.64s Short Shuttle: 4.62s Vertical: 28″ Broad Jump: 8’4″ (8’5″ at Pro Day) Bench Press: 19 reps
Johnson led Iowa in sacks and tackles for loss, producing against tough competition with his most impressive game coming in the upset against Michigan. His athleticism is sufficient, but not all that impressive. He plays quicker on the field because he has a good sense for what he’s doing and how to win with technique.
Johnson is best suited to play the 3-tech but can play some reps at the nose. He does a nice job winning with his hands, but can do a better job playing with better pad level.
With the now Los Angeles Rams, Gregg Williams had Aaron Donald, who is an elite athlete with tremendous agility and burst off the line. That’s now how Johnson works. Instead, Johnson prefers to goes through opponents, has terrific hands and can win with power, especially when he can go with a single arm rush. When he wins with quickness, it’s more of a situation where he’s beating his opponent to the punch and slipping the block as the opponent out of his way. And when Johnson gets opportunities to get to the quarterback, he capitalizes.
If the Browns have Garrett and Ogbah on the edges, Johnson reliably staying in his gap and causing problems allows him to stay out of their way and making it difficult for opposing linemen to double team or allow the quarterback to step up in the pocket. Johnson would be a move more akin to the defense Williams had with the Saints when they won the Super Bowl, playing a Broderick Bunkley type role.
Oct 10, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights defensive back Shaquill Griffin (10) moves to tackle Connecticut Huskies running back Arkeel Newsome (22) during the second quarter of a football game at Bright House Networks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Griffin is an aggressive corner with tremendous physical talent and an excellent metric profile. Run or pass, he is physical and looking to make a play on the ball.
He and his twin brother Shaquem were two of the best defenders UCF had this season, despite the fact Shaquem was born with only one hand. Shaquem was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year while Shaquill was named second team all-conference.
Shaquill has technical improvements he needs to make such as playing lower to make it easier to flip his hips in transition. Nevertheless, when he’s in position, he’s someone that is a threat to intercept passes or separate the opponent from the football. If he can improve his technique, he has prototypical corner athletic ability and the the mindset to be a fixture on one side of the field.
Sep 17, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Georgia State Panthers wide receiver Robert Davis (19) catches a pass for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5 (Compensatory): Robert Davis, WR – Georgia State – 6-2.75, 219 lbs.
The Browns don’t need receivers necessarily, but Robert Davis is as physically gifted a player as there is in this draft. He’s also been highly productive the past four years in college. On the boundary or in the slot, Davis causes problems. He is a threat to beat defenses deep or catch a ball underneath and house it.
The issue with Davis is he’s still developing as a route runner and when it comes to creating separation. He doesn’t position his body well when opponents are able to cover him and he makes catches a lot more difficult than they need to be, which has him drop passes and not make plays he otherwise should.
If the Browns determine he’s got the work ethic to improve those issues and Al Saunders, the receivers coach likes him, he’s a fantastic player that could spend much of training camp and preseason catching passes from Mahomes. It would hardly be a surprised if they find ways to get him on the field this year, but the hope is he and Mahomes can form a dynamic pairing that can come out in a big way for 2018.
Oct 22, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Eric Wilson (23) against the East Carolina Pirates at Nippert Stadium. The Bearcats won 31-19. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Wilson is one of the fastest linebackers in the draft. A former safety, Wilson has become grown into being a physical middle linebacker that can fly around and make plays for the Bearcats.. He has plenty of athleticism to help in coverage as well.
The other thing that helps Wilson is the fact he’s been a fixture on the Cincinnati special teams for the past three seasons and been a reliable tackler on those units. He has starting upside but gives them depth, likely at outside linebacker who can come in and immediately contribute on special teams units while learning behind Jamie Collins.
If Gregg Williams wants to maximize speed when he utilizes base packages, Wilson could be an attractive option as the third linebacker, especially if they want to have Collins move around to attack the opponent and need someone else that can play WILL.
Oct 31, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers wide receiver Anthony Miller (3) carries the ball against Tulane Green Wave defensive tackle Tanzel Smart (77) during the second half at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis Tigers beat Tulane Green Wave 41 – 13. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
5.5 sacks (18.9 percent), 18.5 tackles for loss (21.2 percent)
Age: 22 (Born Nov. 6, 1994)
40-Yard Dash: 5.24s (Estimated 5.15s at Pro Day) 3 Cone: 6.94s Short Shuttle: 4.4s Vertical: 27″ Broad Jump: 8’9″ Bench Press: 22 reps
Smart led his team in tackles for loss and sacks. His explosion at the combine was not ideal, but it wasn’t a deal breaker either and his agility is impressive. The other part that could work in Smart’s favor is the fact he was at the Senior Bowl and coached by the Browns, spending a lot of time with their new defensive line coach, Clyde Simmons.
Smart had a good week, is charismatic and brings a lot of energy. Especially on Day 3 of the draft, position coaches may have a greater influence on who the team picks, so Simmons may opt to make the case for picking Smart if he hasn’t already.
Smart is an active 3-tech defensive tackle that knows how to play wide and takes up space against the run, but shows the ability to get skinny and slip through holes when he wants to get after the quarterback.
Dec 27, 2016; San Diego , CA, USA; Washington State Cougars safety Shalom Luani (18) looks across the line before the snap against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6 (via HOU): Shalom Luani, SS – Washington State – 5-11.375, 202 lbs.
47 solo tackles (9.1 percent), 8.5 tackles for loss (11.8 percent), 2 sacks (10.5 percent), 1 forced fumble (8.3 percent), 4 interceptions (33 percent), 6 pass deflections (19.3 percent)
The Browns don’t really need a strong safety, but the effort they put in trying to sign free agent Tony Jefferson means they’re at least open to the idea if the right opportunity comes along. Luani is a strong safety that has the ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage as well as in pass coverage.
He’s a terrific athlete that represented America Samoa in their first FIFA-sanctioned soccer victory over Tonga and scored a pair of goals and his footwork shows it. Luani has a ton of ability but needs to be consistent, especially when it comes to tackling. He is up and down to say the least and needs substantial technical work.
Dec 11, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Jamie Collins (51) during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Bengals won 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
1. Myles Garrett, DE Texas A&M 12. Patrick Mahomes, QB Texas Tech 33. Chidobe Awuzie, DB Colorado 52. Marcus Williams, FS Utah 65. Adam Shaheen, TE Ashland 108. Jaleel Johnson, DT Iowa 145. Shaquill Griffin, CB Central Florida 175. Robert Davis, WR Georgia State 181. Eric Wilson, LB Cincinnati 185. Tanzel Smart, DT Tulane 188. Shalom Luani, SS Washington State
Beyond simply getting the best player in the entire draft in Myles Garrett, the early impact players are largely on the defensive side of the ball. Of the eight defensive players selected, five of them could see significant playing time from the jump this coming season.
The Browns have a talented set of linebackers and it’s all about really upping the talent level on the defensive line and potentially overhauling the secondary. The addition of Garrett to Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton will dramatically benefit everyone behind them and only ease the transition of those defensive backs.
Offensively, regardless of which quarterback they select, the most logical approach is doing everything humanly possible to have them sit until 2018 short of drafting a player and finding out they are a legitimate prodigy (not likely).
In Pat Mahomes, the Browns get the quarterback with the highest upside of any in the class between his arm strength, accuracy and athleticism. Along with him, they bring in the inline tight end and receiver with the highest upside all with an eye toward 2018.
As with last year, they are putting a substantial amount of trust in the coaching staff that they can get the most out of these players. The key difference between the 2016 and 2017 draft classes is that there is just more talent that fits what the Browns want that is prepared to step on the field and impact games early. The overall improvement in talent on the roster will only aid in that pursuit.
Everything the Browns are doing points toward 2018 and this draft is certainly in line with that thinking. 2018 gives them a chance to see if their investments in terms of the draft are developing as intended and what they need to address so they can legitimately compete within the AFC North.