As the mind turns, Part 1
Random thoughts after the National Football League’s college draft . . .
The Browns decidedly improved the talent quotient of their roster through this year’s draft to the point where they should be much more competitive this season than they were last season.
Winning games, of course, is the most important barometer to gauge how well a team is performing. Winning only one game last season told you all you need to know about that team and the effort to improve it..
All in all, it was a much better performance by the front office this year as opposed to last year’s fiasco that produced just one starter (Emmanuel Ogbah) in 14 bites of the apple.
This year’s 10-man class will definitely produce at least three starters – first-round selections Myles Garrett, hybrid safety Jabrill Peppers and tight end David Njoku – and perhaps one or two more when the season commences in September.
The 2017 season will render a distinct improvement in the quality of play, but the victory total might not reflect how much progress will be made. The perfect scenario is the Browns elevate their ability to compete and remain in games late, but play well enough to win just two or three games.
What makes it perfect? Because it will garner yet another opportunity to draft in the top five again next year, perhaps as high as one or two. With next year’s bumper crop of quarterbacks coming out, the Browns will finally have a legitimate shot at landing their franchise quarterback, the drafting of DeShone Kizer this year notwithstanding.
Losing out on Mitch (Mitchell) Trubisky this year will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. They don’t know it yet, but they will a year from now when they grab that franchise quarterback – be it Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen – and turn an important corner in the their quest to become relevant.
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If Trubisky was, indeed, the Browns’ target in a trade-up after selecting Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, then bless the Chicago Bears from keeping the Browns from hurting themselves by stunning the entire professional football world and grabbing the kid from Mentor with the second overall pick.
We’ll never know, of course, how it would have turned out for the Browns had the Bears not made that move. Just as well. There’s just so much of the Trubisky-Browns connection I can handle.
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Browns head honcho Sashi Brown had an interesting take on why the club didn’t take a quarterback in the first round of the draft Thursday night.
“We obviously value the position, but we won’t force certain situations,” he said. “Obviously we have guys here on the roster and we want to give them an opportunity and we will continue to look, but we wanted to make sure we got players we felt good about.
“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill on this roster, so this is just about making sure when we get the quarterback, it’s someone we all believe in and get behind and move forward.” A rambling and yet frank admission the Browns need to plug numerous gaps in the roster from a talent standpoint.
As for the position itself, Brown said, “We also know that until we get it solidified, we are going to continue looking for players all over the league and in college. That might be in next year’s draft. That might be in free agency. It might be via a trade. We won’t rest until we really solidify that position.”
It proved Brown and his minions finally figured out building the roster back up first was paramount before going after the franchise quarterback. And then they picked Kizer in the second round Friday night. Apparently, the quarterback position has been solidified with Kizer’s selection.
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One more thought about Kizer before moving on.
Make no mistake about it, the kid from Toledo is a terrific athlete. He checks off all the boxes Jackson looks for in a quarterback. He’s big (a half inch shy of 6-5), strong, blessed with a great throwing arm, is smart outside the uniform, but he is nowhere ready to play in the National Football League.
He is the kind of quarterback, based on his uneven performance at Notre Dame, who will thrill you one minute and break your heart the next. That’s not the type of inconsistency the Browns need at the most important position on the team.
Scouts wonder whether Kizer is the quarterback who led Notre Dame to a 10-3 record in his first season as the starter. Or is he the quarterback who led the Fighting Irish to a 4-8 record in his second season.
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Jackson suggested in the post-draft wrap-up that Kizer would get a shot in training camp at starting. “We’re going to give all our guys an opportunity to compete,” he said in classic coachspeak. “That’s what it’s all about.
“It’s not about who is the starter (it’s not?). Let’s let these guys get there and learn our offense and spend time with myself and (quarterbacks coach David) Lee and get out on the field and let’s see how it all turns out.”
The downside of Kizer’s development will be the lack of a mentor. That veteran quarterback on the downside of his career who is willing to impart valuable knowledge to the rookie. That player does not exist on the roster.
It will be up to Jackson and Lee to fill that void. Lee, in particular, because Jackson will have enough to worry about running an entire team, let alone devoting valuable time to developing a rookie quarterback. He is not a coordinator or position coach anymore.
Unless he shocks everyone in his transition to the pro game and performs beyond what anyone believed was possible, Kizer’s development promises to be slow and will require extreme patience. He clearly has what the industry likes to call a high upside. That means he is not nearly ready and his best days lie in the future.
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The biggest mystery leading up to OTAs, minicamps and actual training camp is what role, if any, Brock Osweiler will play in the plans for the upcoming season.
He was brought to Cleveland from Houston a couple of months ago as merely a tool in a deal that was designed to gain another second-round draft pick next year. The thinking was the Browns were going to trade (dump?) his monstrous salary.
The front part worked. They got the pick from the Texans. The back part has failed thus far. Because he is still on the roster, it must be assumed no one wants Osweiler, whose dustup with Texans coach Bill O’Brien last season no doubt hastened his departure from Houston and did not sit well with coaches around the league.
Right now, he is the most experienced signal caller in the Cleveland quarterbacks room along with Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Kizer. Unless the Browns decide to take a large salary hit and just release him, it looks as though he and Kessler will battle for the starting job.
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Jackson says Peppers will also be given a chance to play some on offense as a running back. “First, we bring him in here to play defense and special teams,” the coach said. “He’s one of the premier special teams players in football. . . . But there is no question we’ll give him a chance over there on offense, too.”
The versatile Peppers, who participated in more than 50 offensive plays at Michigan last year, said he is “open to do whatever they ask me to do. I did some things that nobody else did. They are going to get 200% out of me.”
Most draft pundits gave the Peppers selection a B grade. But CBS’ Pete Prisco awarded the Browns an F – his only failing grade of the opening round – with the pick. He wondered just where the former Michigan star would fit into Cleveland’s defensive scheme. “”Where does he play?” Prisco questioned.
New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams knows the correct answer to that one and must be licking his creative chops with the endless possibilities. Will the rookie play free safety, strong safety with occasional trips to the box, edge rusher, nickelback, the slot, or a combination of all five within a game?
Williams very well might wind up using him as the central figure in a game called “Where’s Peppers?” where he forces the opposition to identify where the rookie is situated before executing a play. He is talented enough to pull it off.
The only negative on Peppers résumé is his diluted sample at the NFL combine in February. He enters his rookie season in stage one of the league’s drug program.
He and Garrett join a defense that has youngsters Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton and Ogbah already in place and improving.
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Having a tough time trying to figure out why the Browns did not take Malik Hooker at No. 12 instead of trading out of the slot with Houston. They needed a center fielder for the secondary and the Ohio State star was the best free safety in the country last year.
The Browns were -12 in turnover ratio last season with only 10 interceptions. The defense had problems getting the ball back for the offense, one of the major reasons they won only one game last season.
The Indianapolis Colts, who wisely drafted Hooker three picks later, had only eight picks last season. Hooker had seven with the Buckeyes. This one was a definite head scratcher, although it eventually brought Peppers to Cleveland.
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The Browns reportedly tried again on Thursday to convince the New England Patriots to part with backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and were rebuffed, No details on what they offered as a bribe. The guess here is they won’t quit trying for a while. They should. Give it up already. The franchise quarterback arrives next year. Be patient.
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That’s enough for today. Much more Monday, including the final draft grade.