Too many gambles
John Dorsey wasn’t done gambling after stunning the world of professional football by taking quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick of the National Football League draft Thursday night.
The Browns’ general manager rolled the dice big time in round four, trading up higher into the round with the New England Patriots to take controversial wide receiver Antonio Callaway from the University of Florida.
And then with his final selection of the club’s nine-pick, three-day extravaganza in the sixth round, he took a chance on Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Simeon Thomas.
Both men arrive in the NFL with significant baggage, especially Callahan, whose off-the-field problems caused several teams to remove his name from their draft boards even before the lottery commenced.
Callahan, suspended by the school for the entire 2017 season after he and eight teammates were involved in a credit-card fraud scheme, also failed a drug test at the Indianapolis combine, became embroiled in a sexual assault case at school but was never criminally charged and has a history of smoking marijuana.
The speedy wideout, who probably would have been ranked as high as perhaps round one without the baggage, has been taken under the wing of Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, a fellow Floridian, as he attempts to straighten out his life.
Thomas had all kinds of problems staying eligible to play because of academic problems and a university suspension for being involved in an on-campus dormitory theft. He played what amounted to one full season in his four years there. He’s t tall (6-4), That’s all.
It seems as if Dorsey places more importance on what a player does on the field than off. He overlooked the numerous problems that have plagued these young men and apparently determined how they perform on a football takes precedence.
For example, his No. 1 pick pled guilty to public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest and had to serve 35 hours of community service for an incident in Fayetteville, Ark., 15 months ago. The resisting arrest charge was dropped and a plea bargain was reached on the other charges.
Drafting players with character issues is a risk not many general managers are willing to take because too much luck is involved. Dorsey got lucky, for example, when he grabbed the troubled Tyreek Hill in the fifth round for Kansas City a couple of years ago and he has turned into one of the NFL’s most dangerous (from a football standpoint) players.
As for the rest of Dorsey’s Cleveland haul, it’s not difficult arguing the selection of Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick. That call, as it turned out, was made by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Dorsey had Ward and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb ranked equally on his board and Williams broke the tie because he desperately wanted a shutdown corner adept at press coverage and the Nordonia High School product fit the profile.
I don’t quarrel with the Ward pick, just where he was selected. I believe Chubb is a better, more impactful player and would have fit in very well along the defensive line.
He would have been the wiser choice, bookending with Myles Garrett to give the Browns arguably their pass rush since returning to the NFL in 1999. Forcing opposing quarterbacks to unload before they want makes it much easier on the secondary.
Williams believes with Ward ostensibly shutting down the opponent’s top receiver, he can scheme differently in an effort to confuse opposing quarterbacks.
The second round, probably Dorsey’s best overall round (loved both choices), produced offensive lineman Austin Corbett from Nevada and Georgia running back Nick Chubb, I see both men making significant contributions to an offense that will be decidedly improved.
Corbett, a Joel Bitonio physical clone at 6-4, 305 pounds, was the fastest rising offensive lineman on the board. He is versatile enough to play all five positions, but will be tried initially at left tackle in an attempt to fill the vacancy left with the retirement of Joe Thomas.
It would not surprise me if the Browns ask Bitonio to put on about 10 or 15 pounds, then move him over one spot to tackle from left guard and slip Barrett in next to him. Other than these two, the club has no one good enough to play the second-most important position on offense.
Chubb, taken two picks after Barrett, is the Browns’ future feature running back. The 5-11, 227-pound bulldozer, whose style is reminiscent of Earl Campbell, is a hard man to bring down. His rookie season will be spent alternating with Carlos Hyde.
After swapping the last pick of the second round, Dorsey nailed his edge rusher at the top of round three with Miami of Florida’s Chad Thomas, who has Bradley Chubb size but not the talent. He is more athlete than football player and figures to be a situational player.
The most intriguing third-day pick, other than the controversial Callahan, was Memphis inside linebacker Genard Avery in round five. At 6-1, 250 pounds with size 10 hands, amazing strength and a 4.59 clocking in the 40, look for him to give Joe Schobert a battle for the starting job at middle linebacker.
The most curious pick was Texas A&M wide receiver Damion Ratley at the top of round six. Ratley is big (6-3) and wiry (190 pounds), but not every productive with only 47 receptions in three seasons. Have no idea what Dorsey and his guys saw in him.
A much better choice there would have been 6-5 Notre Dame wideout Equanimeous St. Brown, who caught 58 passes for 961 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016 when DeShone Kizer was his quarterback at Notre Dame. His production fell to 31-468-4 last season when Kizer led the Browns. Green Bay took him near the bottom of the round.
Overall, Dorsey’s first Cleveland draft yielded some surprises, some puzzlers, a head scratcher or two and a lot of talent at the top. But that top pick, especially one so polarizing, adversely affects the final grade.
The selection of Mayfield and two other potential problem players knock down that grade a notch. While I like the Chubb, Barrett, Ward (even though it was too high) and Avery picks, Dorsey’s numerous gambles make me somewhat hesitant to reward his efforts with a higher grade.
Make it a C+