Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Our weekly mock drafts are dead – for now.
Blame it on John Dorsey. The Browns GM killed them.
As a result of Dorsey’s mega-deal for Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns don’t have a pick in the first round of the draft for the first time since 2008. Their first choice is in the middle of the second round, No. 49 overall.
But that could change. I asked Dorsey on a conference call on Thursday if he has the desire to move back into the first round.
He replied, “We will try to plan for every scenario that we can. If we deem that there is a player to move up for – that is a hypothetical – if you think the player can help you, you go up and do it. Those are the mechanisms that work out. You have to plan for them, but then you have to execute them on the day of the draft.”
The mock drafts would return if Dorsey moves into the first round through another trade. But it’s unlikely to happen until the first round is in progress on the night of April 25.
In lieu of a first-round mock draft, we will use this Friday space each week prior to the draft to analyze the prospects for the Browns if they stay pat with the 49th overall pick in the second round.
John Dorsey set up his trade for Odell Beckham Jr. by bolstering the Browns’ defensive line.
First, he acquired pass rusher Olivier Vernon in exchange for right guard Kevin Zeitler in a precursor trade with the New York Giants. Then, he signed free agent Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Those moves accomplished a few things. They addressed two big areas of need at left defensive end and tackle on the starting front four. They also freed Dorsey to include his first-round pick in the second Giants trade for Beckham. (When announced, the two trades were merged into one mega-deal.)
There could be another ramification from the defensive line additions.
In an ironic twist, they may have set up Dorsey to add yet another defensive lineman -- one of the most talented players in a draft loaded with defensive linemen.
We’re talking about Jeffery Simmons, the 6-3, 310-pound defensive tackle from Mississippi State. By all accounts, Simmons would be a top 10 choice in this draft – perhaps the second-best defensive tackle behind Alabama’s Quinnen Williams – if not for two factors that will cause him to fall on draft boards.
The first is a character concern stemming from an arrest and charge of assaulting a woman in March of 2016 as a senior in high school.
A video captured Simmons repeatedly punching a woman who altercation with his sister outside an apartment complex where Simmons lived in Macon, MS. Ultimately, Simmons pleaded no contest to simple assault and other charges and paid about $1,600 in fines and restitution.
In a controversial decision by Mississippi State, Simmons was permitted to enroll at the school and was suspended for only one game in his freshman year. Simmons proceeded to have a sterling and spotless career, earning SEC Academic Honor Roll two times and becoming a team leader in community service.
The assault alone would have hurt Simmons’ draft status considerably. But then he suffered a torn ACL while preparing for the pre-draft season in February. The subsequent surgery and rehabilitation will cause Simmons not only to miss the pre-draft workouts but spend his first season in the NFL on an injury list.
But none of it means Simmons won’t be drafted. How high depends on a team willing to take a chance on his character and having the luxury of redshirting him in 2019.
And that’s where Dorsey and the Browns come in.
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Dorsey acknowledged Simmons was a player of interest to him.
“As we go along the process, we have a couple months here now to get to know certain people and that’s not to say that we haven’t talked to other people that may have talked to him along the way as well,” Dorsey said.
“I think what you have to do is you have to research everything before you make that ultimate decision, before you stand up here and say yes or no, so I’m still in the decision-making process and gathering the facts with regards to that player.”
Dorsey has a well-documented history of taking chances on talented players with character issues.
In his 16 months as Browns GM, Dorsey used a fourth-round pick in 2018 on receiver Antonio Callaway despite a litany of off-field transgressions that resulted in him being suspended for the 2017 Florida season. And in February, Dorsey signed ex-Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt knowing his former Kansas City draft pick would be facing an NFL suspension for a physical incident against a woman outside Hunt’s residence at The 9 in downtown Cleveland a year earlier.
Dorsey would not rule out investing a draft choice on Simmons.
“Well, I mean, we still continually do our research, because with Simmons what you have is now you have to go through the medical component of it too,” he said. “You’ve got to work through that aspect of it. Now if you really … it would be an interesting study on Simmons to find out the whole background on that thing.”
So the incident does not automatically knock Simmons off the Browns’ draft board?
“No,” Dorsey said. “I want to meet the person.”
There is no consensus on how low the assault video and the ACL injury will sink Simmons in the draft. Before Dorsey acquired Richardson, some early mock drafts pegged Simmons for the Browns’ first pick at No. 17.
Now … who knows? It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Dorsey took Simmons off the board at No. 49.
“Any time you can get a three-technique [tackle] to affect the passing game, I think it’s invaluable,” Dorsey said.