Browns' 14 draft picks bring impressive list of achievements

The Cleveland Browns wound up with 14 players in the NFL draft. They also wound up with a laundry list of achievements and accomplishments that would make Wikipedia check twice.

In their 14 players, the Browns drafted six consensus All-Americas, eight players who made first team in their conference, three who won national awards, five who were the player of the year offensively or defensively in their conference, two who led the nation in a particular category, five who set school records, and three who were a team MVP.

The Browns called it coincidence.

"I wasn't really aware of big-time awards until people started taking about it on TV ... " director of strategy Paul DePodesta said. "We are certainly happy that those are some of the accomplishments that those guys had in the past, but ultimately that is not a great predictor of what they are going to do at this level."

Jimmy Johnson would disagree, politely of course. Johnson always said that production in college was the best predictor of production in the NFL. That's why he felt comfortable taking an undersized inside linebacker in Zach Thomas. Thomas wound up an outstanding NFL player.

It's also why Johnson traded up for Emmitt Smith when many teams thought he was too small or too slow. Johnson looked at Smith's college production and wound up with the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

Even if it's a coincidence, the Browns seem to have followed Johnson's blueprint.

First-round pick Corey Coleman was an All-America, first team Big 12 and the winner of the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top receiver.

Coleman led the nation in receiving touchdowns. DL Carl Nassib led the nation in sacks. DL Emmanuel Ogbah was the MVP at Oklahoma State and the Big 12 defensive lineman of the year, linebacker Joe Shobert the MVP at Wisconsin. Nassib was the defensive MVP at Penn State.

Coleman set a school record with 33 receiving touchdowns, Nassib a single season Penn State record with 15.5 sacks, quarterback Cody Kessler a USC record for completion percentage (67.5), WR Jordan Payton a UCLA record for receptions (201) and WR Rashard Higgins set Colorado State records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Seventh-round pick Scooby Wright's 2015 season was limited by injury. But in '14 Wright earned All-America and first-team All-Pac-12 honors; he was also the Pac-12 defensive player of the year and won the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award.

DePodesta said the front office joked when it heard people on TV talking about the accomplishments of the draftees.

"I was like, 'What? did they want us to take guys who weren't productive in college? Would that have been better?'" he said.

But the list of achievements becomes more impressive when the background of the players is factored in.

Nassib and Schobert arrived as walk-ons. Ogbah grew up in Nigeria playing soccer and moved with his family to the United States when he was nine. Offensive lineman Shon Coleman is a cancer survivor. Kessler always heard he was too small and had too weak an arm. And safety Derrick Kindred played his final season with a broken collarbone.

"I can't tell you that it was conscious election to hit a certain number of players who have overcome some pretty significant obstacle in their lives, but this is a tough sport and you need tough men to play it," VP of football operations Sashi Brown said.

The Browns have long talked about changing the losing culture in the locker room. Given how deeply it's ingrained, it's not an easy challenge.

These 14 players at least know what it means to work for something, what it means to overcome odds and challenges.

The Browns introduced the top five picks together, seated side by side at a podium. At one point, they were asked who believed the Browns could go to the playoffs in the next couple years. The players did not look at each other; they merely raised their hands one at a time until all five were in the air.

It's a moment that could be considered trite and meaningless without results, but somehow those five raised hands indicated belief and confidence that did not push cockiness.

"I truly believe that this class will start to put a stamp on what we are truly about and what we are becoming," coach Hue Jackson said. "We're not there yet by any stretch of the imagination. We have a long way to go. But you have to start someplace. I think this where we are starting."