Cleveland Browns NFL Draft Recap/Grade – 2018
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Cleveland Browns Draft Picks (2018)
|1||4||Denzel Ward||CB||Ohio State|
|3||67||Chad Thomas||DE||Miami (FL)|
|6||175||Damion Ratley||WR||Texas A&M|
Key Positional Needs Entering Draft
- Offensive Tackle
With the number one pick in the 2018 NFLDraft the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield! We all knew they were going to go quarterback, I just didn’t think it was going to be Mayfield. Some thought Mayfield was at best a third round pick going into last year’s college football season but he has certainly changed that narrative. This speaks to his best attribute, proving the doubters wrong. Baker is extremely accurate from all levels, short, intermediate, deep as well as on the move. He does have a little sandlot in his game but he’s at his best when he is playing within the structure of the offense with timing and rhythm. Apparently during the Senior Bowl Mayfield picked up the offense quickly which speaks to his football intelligence. With the second of their 2 first round picks the Cleveland Browns selected Denzel Ward cornerback from Ohio State which was another surprise and probably the bigger surprise of their two first-round picks considering that Bradley Chubb was still on the board. I am all about going to get your guy if you have to reach (slightly) and obviously they coveted Ward and think that he can do what Marshon Lattimore did for the Saints last year by shutting down one side of the field and changing the defense for the better. Ward has speed to burn and is what I call a “shadow CB” who stays in the hip pocket of the receiver. But at some point you have to mix it up before the ball arrives. Ward flashes this ability but will have to ramp up the physicality and disrupt the timing of the route more often as opposed to playing Ohio State’s customary off coverage. Whether he can do this on a consistent basis in the NFL is a question/concern for me. In the league, open, is a small window that a CB more often than not has to fight for position with the targeted receiver to get to the ball and bigger receivers may body/box-out Ward at the moment of truth. There are techniques to learn so this isn’t a full condemnation of his game but being physical is a mentality and I don’t believe Ward has that in his arsenal of attributes.
With their 1st of two second round picks the Cleveland Browns selected offensive lineman Austin Corbett from Nevada who looks to be the guy that’s going to replace Joe Thomas. Corbett played every snap after red-shirting his first year, became the starting left tackle, and played every snap thereafter. Because of his size folks seem to think he can play any of the interior of the offensive line positions but the fact that he played tackle his whole career makes him a versatile piece, nothing like having an OL who can play more than one position. With their subsequent second round pick the Browns chose running back Nick Chubb from Georgia. The Chubb pick surprised me because Carlos Hyde was signed via free agnecy and Duke Johnson received a contract extension this off-season. If the Browns are getting Lamborghini Chubb (exceptional burst to reach the second level, vision, converting speed to power, with excellent balance and leverage), from a few seasons ago then they hit a home run here. But if they are getting the player we saw last season then this may have been a reach due to that burst always being hit or miss. Chubb was replaced on third down as he shared carries with Sony Michel as his pass pro was a question mark as well as his ability to catch out the backfield. With all that said it wouldn’t surprise me if he starts day one.
In the third round the Cleveland Browns made up for the missed opportunity to get Bradley Chubb and scooped up in my opinion the closest thing to him in University of Miami’s Chad Thomas. Just like Chubb he can set the edge and hold his own in the run game with a high motor. He has plenty pass rush savvy and potential based on his advanced hand usage, the ability to get up and around the would be tackle responsible for blocking him, and the means to turn speed into power. But like many Miami players he was never consistent enough to see the full picture and part of this was on the coaching staff, routinely misusing him.
Another surprise from the Cleveland Browns, who have a plethora of wide receivers was the decision to draft Florida WR Antonio Callaway with their 4th round pick. It’s said in the NFL that if you’re going to take a chance on a player with more then enough character issues/questions but plenty of talent it should be in the fourth or fifth round. Some even suggested that he was going to be a first round selection heading into last year’s college football season if he could stay on the straight and narrow but obviously that didn’t happen. What Callaway brings is speed, speed, speed, and more speed. With the ball in his hands he is extremely dangerous for defenses and exciting for fans. His return ability is of the special variety and where I think he makes his home to start off his career. As for his receiver skill set there is a lot still to be ironed out. Missing multiple games and an entire season simply puts you behind the eight ball. This is the definition of an unfinished project with so much potential. In the fifth round the Browns drafted linebacker Genard Avery from Memphis who is a sideline-to-sideline, heat-seeking missile who can play in space. When you talk about the prototypical new-age linebacker in terms of his weight and size Avery is the guy. With the first of their two six rounders the Browns selected another WR Damion Ratley from Texas A&M. Although terminology is going to be different Rately’s coming from a spread offense and he’s going right back into one by playing for Todd Haley and Hue Jackson. With their last pick the Browns selected Simeon Thomas CB from Louisiana-Lafayette. Thomas is a big, strong, and long corner who enjoys being physical and adds much needed depth and an injection of ability to the secondary along with Denzel Ward.
If you’ve been following CPGM you would know that my favorite pick obviously would be Chad Thomas but imma hit you with a curve ball and I’m going to say Baker Mayfield. Most QBs that come out of the Big 12 aren’t as good as advertised. I do believe that Mayfield will be one that bucks that trend. My only concern is Hue Jackson meddling with Mayfield’s development. I like the fact that Todd Haley is there but I’m not sure how that relationship will go as Haley isn’t the easiest guy to get along with. Mix that with the fact that Hue was the former play-caller (has a bit of an ego) this could be a disaster waiting to happen. Mayfield has overcome plenty in his football career thus far but this is the biggest stage and where the lights shine the brightest for a city starving for their pro football team to show the world they are not that Cleveland of the past decade plus!
Fantasy Football Implications
As I mentioned before Todd Haley is the guy calling the plays and he has coached incredibly talented players during his coaching career most recently with the Steelers. I’m not saying Browns’ collective are as talented or accomplished as the Steelers player-makers but they have plenty of talent to make some noise and do some damage and the main cog in the Cleveland Browns’ fantasy wheel is Josh Gordon. Gordon has demonstrated the ability to overcome poor quarterback play but Haley and improved quarterback play could be what puts Gordon into the “elite” fantasy wide receiver conversation.