2017 Cleveland Browns’ Draft & OTA Review

The Browns had several obvious needs and addressed the defensive line, defensive backs, and quarterback with quality talent. Myles Garrett was the consensus number one player. Jabrill Peppers is one of the most versatile athletes in the draft and David Njoku is a big time athletic tight end. Myles Garrett has been slowed by a minor lower body injury during the early part of OTAs but the first pick in the draft looked the part during rookie mini-camp drills. Big, fast, and explosive. The former Aggie then left the second day of mini-camp with a left foot injury. All reports say the draft’s best edge rusher is a guy who, when on the field, looked like the first pick in the draft. Jabrill Peppers missed the first day of rookie mini-camp as he failed to sign his participation agreement but was ready to go on day two. The Browns traded down from 12 to 25 with Houston picking up an extra 2018 first round pick from the Texans. Peppers is penciled in as the Browns’ starting strong safety. He starts his career in stage one of the NFL drug program because of a diluted sample at the Combine. David Njoku’s potential and athletic ability gave the Browns’ brass enough confidence to release starter Gary Barnidge right after the draft. The move puts Njoku in the starting lineup in September, barring injury. First impressions are important and the ex-Hurricane has made the most of his OTA presence with highlight reel catches, including one in the end zone where the former 6-11 high jumper went up high to catch a pass from DeShone Kizer. Quick in and out of his breaks, then snatching the ball with both hands. DeShone Kizer has been receiving first team reps so the Browns’ staff can get a feel for his strengths and weaknesses. The big and athletic signal caller had his arm on display during camp and can really spin it. He is currently working on shortening his stride when stepping into his passes. Kizer, like numerous rookie quarterbacks, is learning the intricacies of the offense, protection calls, checks, and adjustments. The Browns acknowledge they didn’t draft him to start immediately, but to be ready when his time comes. With Brock Osweiler looking strong and Cody Kessler the incumbent, it may be awhile before we see the former Notre Dame quarterback. Larry Ogunjobi, a first generation American who just started playing football in high school, became the first Charlotte 49er to get drafted. The athletic defensive tackle started every game over four years. The Browns are retooling their defensive line and Ogunjobi is projected as a disruptive penetrator who has explosive upfield moves. Needs more strength but has talent. Cornerback Howard Wilson suffered a broken kneecap in his first NFL practice. Had surgery in May and will not play again until mid-season. The Browns’ traded two fifth rounders to Denver to select Wilson with pick 126. He was injured in a non-contact drill. The junior entry led the Cougars with 15 passes defended and five interceptions. Roderick Johnson was voted the top offensive lineman in the ACC for two straight years and will be developed behind Joe Thomas at left tackle. The Browns traded up with the Jets to acquire Johnson with the 160th pick. Has the frame and tool set to play on Sundays but needs to become more consistent in his overall play. Caleb Brantley was a surprise draft choice after a domestic abuse allegation a few weeks prior to the draft. A flash player he must be more consistent in his effort. A one-gap penetrator who is all or nothing on a play. Needs to finish better. Zane Gonzalez made 92% of his kicks in 2016 and won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker. He was the all-time FBS leader in career field goals with 96. Also kicked seven field goals over 50 yards including a 59-yard boot and has a strong leg on kickoffs. Matthew Dayes was the second to last pick in the draft, but that didn’t hinder him catching the ball out of the backfield in OTAs. A natural hand catcher with good running instincts. GRADE: GOOD.

FREE AGENCY: Guard Kevin Zeitler was signed away from division rival, Cincinnati. The Browns ponied up 60-million over five years including 31.5 million guaranteed. Wide receiver Kenny Britt gave his career a shot in the arm in Los Angeles last fall and is now a Brown. He was guaranteed 17 million in a four-year deal. JC Tretter was guaranteed 10 million over three years to be the starting center. Jason McCourty (CB) adds depth to the secondary.

NOTABLE UNDRAFTED COLLEGE FREE AGENTS: Taylor McNamara (Southern Cal) TE, Karter Schult (Northern Iowa) DE, and Channing Stribling (Michigan) CB.

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