The Cleveland Browns draft is in the books, as the new front office make their first selections in charge, and the players drafted signal a positive change in team culture.
The Cleveland Browns 2016 NFL Draft was far removed the days of Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine, and that fact alone can be nothing but positive.
The Farmer regime selected Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert in 2014, both flashy players with potential red flags. Manziel is now jobless and facing domestic violence charges, and Gilbert has been incredibly underwhelming during his two seasons with the Browns.
Neither were touted as “bring your lunch pail” to work guys, and they subsequently proved as much after being drafted. Head coach Hue Jackson and VP of football operations Sashi Brown made sure to bring in high character, elite athletes this time around.
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After numerous deals with other teams to accumulate picks and come away with a “nucleus” of young talent, as Brown put it, the Cleveland Browns added 14 players to their roster. The barren depth chart has been refilled and the draft grades have been rolling in, but absent from many reviews is crediting the new regime for their criteria in selecting players.
The nightmarish past two years for the embattled franchise seem like a distant memory at the moment. From the first round to the seventh round, the Browns delivered promise. A combination of physical analytics and character played a role in the decision process.
"The website 3SigmaAthlete.com has compiled SPARQ ratings for draftable prospects for each of the last two years. It takes the results of athletic tests including the 40-yard dash, 10-yard split, bench press, vertical jump, short shuttle, 3-cone drill and broad jump and combines them with a player’s weight to generate a SPARQ score.It takes all the scores and creates a measurement called the z-score, which is a designation about how much an athlete exceeds the typical, or expected, number. Basically, the higher the z-score is, the higher a player’s athletic ability is measured compared to his NFL peers."
The Browns first pick, WR Corey Coleman from Baylor, is a touchdown machine and unanimously deemed a hard worker. He will almost certainly start immediately on the Browns due to the large void of talent at the position. Fourth round selection WR Ricardo Louis from Auburn also fits the mold.
The two athletic wide outs stacked up quite nicely in 3SigmaAthlete.com’s SPARQ ratings.
Coleman ranked in the 94.4th percentile of NFL wide receivers while Louis came in at the 87.8th percentile. As Bielik noted, decisions were not made solely off of SPARQ ratings, but they certainly played a role.
Another prime athlete added that went under the radar was Princeton TE Seth DeValve. Zach Whitman owner of 3SigmaAthlete.com even noted that DeValve was the most athletic TE drafted in the past four years, and he wasn’t even invited to the combine, further testament to the work the new regime put into the draft.
Emmanuel Ogbah, the Browns second round selection, ranked second among pass rushers in the draft coming in at the 82nd percentile among NFL players at his position.
The Cleveland Browns obviously added elite athletes, but those selected not ranking high in the “SPARQ” ratings received rave reviews for work ethic. For example, Auburn OT Shon Coleman was selected in third round and beat cancer during his time in college. It was evident Jackson in particular fell in love with Coleman, who is expected to replace Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.
Arizona LB Scooby Wright was the Browns last selection of the draft in the seventh round. Wright ranked 123rd in the SPARQ ratings among linebacker prospects and came in at the 9.5 percentile when compared physically to other NFL players. What the Arizona product lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with his relentless style of play.
It is easy to forget Wright won virtually every award imaginable during his sophomore season at Arizona due to his injury plagued 2015 campaign, but he was the real deal. In many ways he reminds me of now retired San Francisco 49ers LB Chris Borland.
Perhaps the most important point made by Bielik was discussing Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks use of the SPARQ ratings, and how it has translated to success for the franchise:
"Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and the team’s strength staff have used the Nike-developed measurement to chart elite athletes available to draft.Players such as the former Super Bowl MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith, LB Bobby Wagner, CB Jeremy Lane, TE Luke Willson, WR Jermaine Kearse and OL JR Sweezy are late-round picks or undrafted free agents who have produced beyond their draft round. Not all are still with the team, but they have all had a major impact over the last few years."
If the Cleveland Browns hit on some of these late-to-middle round picks, something special could be in the making. It’s a proven formula utilized by a franchise that won a Super Bowl and was a bad play call away from another.
It’s a copycat league and taking a page from the Seahawks book doesn’t ensure success, but it sure is a good start.
Changing the culture of the locker room was a must for Hue Jackson and his coaching staff. The one common denominator of all the Browns draft picks is they have a passion for the game of football. This is a good start for a franchise in a complete rebuild.
With a boat load of selections already in the 2017 draft, the new regime is off to an excellent start from a strategic standpoint.