Breaking down the Cleveland Browns' 2018 draft class.
Round 1, No. 1 overall: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
My take: John Dorsey must have firm belief in Mayfield, who is a short quarterback (6-foot) with a strong arm -- a guy who had issues off the field, with an arrest for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, and who grabbed his crotch toward the Kansas bench during a game. He says he’s simply emotional, but in the NFL, acting emotionally can lead to a quarterback’s demise. It’s those issues -- not his on-field play -- that prompt comparisons to Johnny Manziel. Mayfield has talent. He is the only walk-on to win the Heisman Trophy, and he walked on twice (at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma). He has a fiercely competitive attitude. And he is adept at understanding plays and reading a defense. Those who compare him on the field to Manziel do not do his play justice; Mayfield plays the position well. He has swagger, which can be good or bad depending on your point of view. Dorsey is putting his reputation on the line with this pick. It will be interesting to see if Mayfield backs him up.
On the record(s): Among the records held by Mayfield are the Big 12 marks for yards per attempt (9.7) and consecutive games with one touchdown pass (40). He ranks second all time in the Big 12 in passing touchdowns (131), passing rating (175.4) and total offense (15,690 yards). He set the FBS record with at least two touchdown passes in 27 consecutive games and ranks second in FBS history in career passing rating, ranks third in yards per attempt, is tied for fourth in touchdown passes and seventh in passing yards. He was 38-8 in his 46 career starts.
Rookie plan: Though Mayfield has said he is not going somewhere he has to wait to play, the Browns are adamant Mayfield will not be on the field as a rookie. In the offseason, the team traded for Tyrod Taylor and signed Drew Stanton. Taylor was named the starter before offseason workouts began; Stanton will be the backup and will help mentor Mayfield. The draft pick is expected to “redshirt” and learn and understand both the Browns’ system and the NFL approach. This is a welcome change, as the Browns since 1999 have forced rookies on the field before they were ready only to ruin them. How Mayfield will adapt to this role will be important. It won’t take long for fans and media to start wondering why Mayfield is not on the field if the Browns are not winning.
Round 1, No. 4 overall: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
My take: Dorsey had plenty of surprises in store for Browns fans. There were very few mock drafts that saw the Browns passing on Bradley Chubb for cornerback Denzel Ward. When the draft process started Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama was the prime candidate at defensive back. The Browns selected Ward, in part because of need. They recognized they need corners who can play man-to-man press coverage in Gregg Williams' defense. Ward played that coverage at Ohio State.
By the numbers: Ward was a consensus All-America with 15 passes broken up and two interceptions. His 17 passes defensed were the fourth-highest total in school history. Six of the passes defensed came in the season opener against Indiana.
Bypassing the bowl game: Ward decided not to play in the Buckeyes’ bowl game against USC, as he did not want to risk injury and his NFL career. Ward said he would have played had the Buckeyes made the College Football Playoff. Ward wore a purple suit to the draft in Dallas to honor his late father, who died in May 2016 from a heart attack and whose favorite color was purple.
Round 2, No. 33 overall: Austin Corbett, OL, Nevada
My take: Strong selection. Corbett started for four years at left tackle at Nevada. He’s a big, strong, active player, much like his friend Joel Bitonio, a former Nevada teammate who remains close to him. “It’s going to be crazy to be playing next to him,” Corbett said. The Browns need a successor to Joe Thomas, who retired in the offseason, and they may have found one in Corbett, who has already graduated and is interested in becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
How he fits: A former college walk-on who worked his way to starting 48 games, Corbett would seem to be a nice fit on the Browns' offensive line. He played left tackle at Nevada and worked at right tackle and at guard at the Senior Bowl. With the Browns' signing of Chris Hubbard to play right tackle, it seems like Corbett could get a shot at left tackle. He would not touch the idea of following Thomas, though. “That’s just a rare human there,” Corbett said.
Round 2, No. 35 overall: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
My take: John Dorsey proved a team can find a talented running back in the second round. In Chubb, the Browns have a productive and prolific pick who left Georgia with 4,769 rushing yards, second only to Herschel Walker in Georgia and SEC history. Chubb played as a freshman when Todd Gurley was hurt, then tore the PCL, MCL and LCL in his left knee in October of 2015. Eleven months later he was back on the field and on his way to finishing an excellent career at Georgia.
How he fits: Like Corbett, Chubb fits well. The Browns signed Carlos Hyde as a free agent, and they also have Duke Johnson, but offensive coordinator Todd Haley and head coach Hue Jackson should find a way to get enough touches for all three. If Chubb is as good as it seems, he may well be the starter. Hyde could find himself the short-yardage and tough-yardage back and could be valuable in the red zone. Johnson will remain the change-of-pace back and will be used situationally as a receiver out of the backfield.
Round 3, No. 67 overall: Chad Thomas, DE, Miami
My take: Thomas figures to be a depth player on the Browns' defensive line, which already includes Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. Thomas had 10 sacks as a two-year starter at Miami and added 23.5 tackles for loss.
How he fits: Browns vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry said Thomas can contribute right away on run defense and that he is one of the more physical players in the draft. Berry also said Thomas can line up outside on early downs and can move inside in passing situations to provide pass-rush ability. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to rotate defensive linemen, and if Thomas is as good as Berry said, he will get plenty of snaps.
Round 4, No. 105 overall: Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Prospect Profile: Antonio Callaway
Take a look at Florida WR Antonio Callaway's college highlights.
My take: Why? Why take a chance on a player like this, with his history? Callaway has a list of concerns that should make any team halt, including a failed drug test at this year’s scouting combine and an investigation into sexual assault that led to the University of Florida being the subject of two Title IX investigations. Among the incidents are these: In his time at Florida, Callaway was investigated for alleged sexual assault in December 2015 and was suspended for 2016 spring practices. He was cleared of all charges. Callaway also was suspended for all of 2017 after he was one of nine players accused of using stolen credit card information to fund their private bookstore account. Callaway agreed to pre-trial intervention in the case.
How he fits: As far as talent, ESPN draft analysts Todd McShay described Callaway as the best receiver in the draft and Mel Kiper said he's a first-round talent if there had been no issues. The Browns must believe Callaway can play. It’s hard to see him fitting on any team with his record. The team talks about character being important, but this action certainly does not back up those words. Dorsey has some history of taking a chance on players with issues in their past. When Dorsey was the GM of the Kansas City Chiefs, he drafted Tyreek Hill with the 165th pick in 2016 despite Hill’s domestic abuse incident in college that resulted in him being kicked off Oklahoma State’s team. Hill, who had pleaded guilty to punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend in 2014, has developed into a budding star in the NFL while staying out of trouble.
“I’m very excited to get a guy of this caliber and his talent at the round we thought,” Dorsey said Saturday of Callaway. “As we sat and processed the information, we did all types of level of processing the information, we thought based on things that have happened in the past and based on the kid’s ability we thought that the fourth round is probably the right way to kind of get a guy like this because you know you have certain resources in place that can help young men develop. I’ve been around a lot of teams in the National Football League and this probably has one of the better player-support systems there is in the National Football League.
“This kid will be driven to prove to people that you know what, I made a mistake but I’m excited to be a Cleveland Brown."
Round 5, No. 150 overall: Genard Avery, LB, Memphis
Prospect Profile: Genard Avery
Take a look at former Memphis linebacker Genard Avery tear it up on the Tigers defense.
My take: Avery fits in the fifth round. He’s a nice player who left Memphis third in school history with 21.5 sacks and second with 45.5 tackles for a loss. He graduated in December 2017 with a degree in Organizational Leadership.
How he fits: Avery steps into a position where Joe Schobert went to the Pro Bowl last season. That being said, a team needs active linebackers to compete, play in sub groupings and play special teams. Avery said he is not averse to playing special teams and that he did it at Memphis. He also is a bit of an overachiever who pondered transferring to Ole Miss because he grew up in Grenada, Mississippi, and he always dreamed of playing at Mississippi. After thinking it through, he stayed at Memphis, a decision he called the best he could have made.
Round 6, No. 175 overall: Damion Ratley, WR, Texas A&M
My take: Ratley joins the group that includes Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis on the roster -- late-round picks who will be given a chance to make the team. Ratley had 26 catches for 603 yards and six touchdowns in 2017.
How he fits: Ratley will get chances in camp and preseason. If he steps forward, the third receiver spot could be stolen from Corey Coleman. But with Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry, the team's top two spots are set. The Browns also added Jeff Janis from the Green Bay Packers in the offseason, and they have holdovers Higgins, Louis and Kasen Williams. Ratley will be part of a group competing for roster spots.
Round 6, No. 188 overall: Simeon Thomas, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
My take: The Browns added another player with a troubled history when they drafted Thomas. He had academic concerns -- including a charge that he received the answers to the ACT test -- that kept him from playing part of the 2013 season, all of the 2014 season and the first nine games of 2015. In the spring of 2017, Thomas was one of 13 players arrested for conspiracy to commit felony theft after they were found on a closed-circuit camera taking items from a dorm room. The court allowed the players to go through a pre-trial diversion program, which allowed them to complete community service for a reduced charge of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.
How he fits: The Browns need talented cornerbacks, but it’s worth wondering if they need this corner. With so many available players, the Browns chose two players on the third day with some serious issues in their past. Everyone deserves chances, but it’s worth wondering why a team that has said character matters and that it will not put up with nonsense would bring in players with nonsense in their backgrounds.