The Cleveland Browns have been getting mixed reviews following their big draft weekend. By Sunday night, the team’s analytics gurus selected a whopping 14 players – and it’s a diverse group. Our commentator Terry Pluto says this new stats approach to picking players kept fans guessing and waiting.
Terry Pluto says once the Browns started picking, they didn’t stop. The team made five trades and ended up selecting 14 players. Among those, they stacked up four receivers and one quarterback.
"Fourteen players in a seven-round draft matches an NFL record for the most players taken by a team in any draft," Pluto says. "Usually you don’t want more than seven or eight because it’s hard to keep all those rookies on the roster."
But, Pluto says the Browns need a lot of players at almost every position. He says the strategy is to get as many as you can and see who comes out on top.
"You have one [receiver] that you really like, Corey Coleman [picked 15th overall] then the rest are all in the fifth round. Out of there, you’re hoping to find one," he says.
"The more of them you have, the more likely you’ll find the infamous diamond in the rough."
Taking a risk
Pluto says the Browns are willing to take players that come with some baggage.
"Sometimes they’ll even draft a player who’s injured." And, they did. The last player they picked was Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III.
"In 2014, he was a really good player – had he come into the draft then, he probably would have been in the first three rounds. But he’s had some injuries, so the Browns took him in the last round and we’ll see if he heals and they might get what they call good value."
He says, if it doesn't work out, the Browns won't lose much.
"Your first year salary is about all that’s guaranteed. A guy like Scooby Wright, he’ll probably be guaranteed $50,000, which, in the NFL, is nothing."
Building a team for the future
Pluto says that the Browns 2016 draft shows that they're going to be a young team that will lose a lot of games. "Next year, they have two picks in the first round, two in the second round, they’ll probably have at least 12. I won’t be surprised if they have at least 14 when they’re done."
Still, Pluto likes this new direction.
"It's a big change from 2014 -- the infamous Johnny Manziel draft. They went into the draft with 10 picks and they only took six players. They traded some picks to move up. So, is this going to work? I have no idea. But I like the concept," Pluto says.
The coach picks an unlikely quarterback
Pluto says the one quarterback the Browns selected, USC's Cody Kessler, was a target of coach Hue Jackson, who told the media, "Trust me on this one."
"All the draft guys had Kessler being a fifth-rounder or sixth-rounder or maybe not even drafted." Pluto says. "They took him late in the third round. I asked Hue what’s so special about him; he said accuracy."
"Chicken Soup for the Soul" of drafts
The Browns also picked some players with backgrounds that tug at the heart strings. "It’s kind of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' for Browns fans," Pluto says. "They have all these uplifting stories.
"He was a top high school player from Mississippi when he signed to go to Auburn. He doesn’t feel well when he gets on campus. He spends two years battling this very acute form of leukemia. Comes back and ends up getting drafted."
Another heartwarming story is that of defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah out of Oklahoma State. He's a native of Nigeria.
"His dad was a pastor there and they left when he was 9 because of persecution. He was the top defensive player in the Big 12."
Trust in the coach
Pluto says he's not sure whether the new draft strategy will work, but he likes the man who's in charge of the team on the field.
"I feel pretty good about [Hue Jackson] because he’s very experienced. This is like America’s most optimistic man. But if you’re coming into the Browns where they’re horrible all the time, it helps to be the most optimistic man in the world."