Even though I have written about the Cleveland Browns several times in recent succession, I don’t think it really can be argued otherwise that they were the story of the first round of the draft. They were the first team in several years to have three picks in the first round, and were involved in multiple trades—and still didn’t get a quarterback, which may ultimately have been a good decision.
There were many reports suggesting that the Browns wanted Mitchell Trubisky out of any of the quarterbacks in the draft class, but when they did the smart thing and used their first-overall pick on Myles Garrett, the novice quarterback went off the board one pick later.
Cleveland was in position to draft Deshaun Watson if they wanted to with their second pick at 12, but they elected to trade back all the way to 25, when the Texans traded up to take the Clemson national champion.
The Browns used that pick to take a player that many Steelers fans were hoping would make it to 30 for them, while others were skeptical. That would be, of course, safety Jabrill Peppers, who was widely linked with Pittsburgh over the course of the past couple of weeks. Now they will get to see him twice a week.
Toward the end of the round, the Browns decided to move up from the 33rd-overall pick—the top of the second round—to hop in front of the Steelers at 29 just in case their division rivals were entertaining the notion of strengthening their offense, taking tight end David Njoku, arguably the most impressive receiving tight end prospect in this draft, or in the last several drafts.
Garrett and Peppers will certainly add a big-time dynamic to Cleveland’s young and evolving defense, who are beginning to put the pieces in place. While they still have needs at linebacker and in the secondary, they are starting to piece together an impressive front seven with some high-pedigreed players, and Peppers’ role will make them all that more versatile, especially with their expressed willingness to utilize him in a variety of ways.
No doubt all three of these players were among those the Steelers would have been happy to have at 30. And Cleveland has all three of them. It might be easy to be envious, though the Browns ultimately are lacking a franchise quarterback.
Not that there was any sort of certainty that that was available in this class. Cody Kessler right now is projected to start for them in 2017, and they did just give him a major weapon while significantly bolstering his protection.
Or will it be Kirk Cousins’ protection? The Browns are reportedly exploring the possibility of acquiring him from Washington via a trade, though one might think that if that were to happen it would have happened yesterday in the first round. Still, they do have plenty of future draft resources, and only got more after trading back yesterday.