Cleveland Browns: 11 Draft Picks Nothing More Than a Nice Start

The Cleveland Browns currently hold 11 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, but it’s what they do with those picks that will be important.

We’re not getting a very clear picture of how the analytics-driven front office of the Cleveland Browns wants to build through the draft. To put things simply, the Browns want to acquire as many picks as possible.

The Browns acquired multiple picks through trades in last year’s draft. They also acquired multiple picks by allowing free agents to walk out the door. On Friday, the NFL announced compensatory picks for the 2017 draft, and the Browns received four—a third-rounder, two fourth-round picks, and a fifth-rounder.

The third-round pick goes to the New England Patriots as part of the trade to acquire Jamie Collins. One of the fourths goes to the Philadelphia Eagles as part of the Carson Wentz trade. This leaves the Browns with 11 total picks in the 2017 draft:

Five of Cleveland’s picks will be in the first three rounds of the draft. This should give the team a great opportunity to add starting-caliber talent. However, Cleveland will actually have to hit on its draft picks for even a large draft class to have any real impact. Remember, Cleveland drafted 14 players last year and received very little upgrade in talent as a result.

NFL Media’s Conor Orr recently rated Cleveland’s rookie class as one of the worst in the NFL. He points out some decent production from wideout Corey Coleman and defenders Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib as positives, but he also had the following to say:

Ogbah led the team in sacks (5.5), Nassib finished tied for third in sacks (2.5) and Kindred, who may have shown up more pro ready than any of his rookie counterparts, added 32 solo tackles and five passes defensed. While this is all OK to not bad news for rookies operating on a threadbare team that provided no help, the Browns did select three other receivers and a wideout/tight end hybrid other than Coleman. And only one, Ricardo Lewis, saw significant snaps.

One could argue that Cleveland’s best rookie was actually cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun. The Minnesota product appeared in 14 games and finished the year rated 70th overall among all corners by Pro Football Focus. The problem is that the Boddy-Calhoun wasn’t drafted and he wasn’t even discovered by the Browns. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars and later claimed by Cleveland.

So the Browns had 14 draft picks last year and the best rookie they ended up with was a guy the Jaguars decided they didn’t need? This is simplifying things to a large degree, but it should point out how having a large number of draft picks isn’t necessarily going to change a team’s fortunes.

Plenty of the Browns rookies started last season, but few had a major positive impact. Hopefully, the draft class will look better in Year 2, but as things stand, the Browns front office has to be a bit disappointed—and a bit concerned heading into this offseason.

Having 11 picks in this year’s draft isn’t going to mean much if Cleveland only gets one or two quality starters out of the group. It’s a nice start to the draft process for a rebuilding team, but Cleveland’s plan to pile up picks hasn’t won the team anything yet.

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