If there is any 2018 NFL mock draft that football fans are looking to indulge themselves in, it is the potential draft haul for the Cleveland Browns.
Not only is it intriguing that the Browns carry two picks in the top 5 and six picks in the top 65, but they hold a whopping 12 draft selections in 2018. Talk about draft capital!
This draft class will be the ultimate opportunity for Cleveland to shift the fate of their football organization towards optimism. Cleveland sports fans, don’t invest your time in a trolling headline about LeBron James considering taking his talents to the Bay Area; the future of Cleveland sports is near.
Round 1, 1st Overall: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
While I personally believe that Josh Rosen is the best quarterback right now, all the signs are pointing towards the Browns being most enamored with Sam Darnold. The potential Darnold possesses could transcend into the stratosphere. Darnold is clearly not the perfect QB prospect; his decision making and scheme diagnosis are where he struggled mightily at USC. The upside? Almost everything else he has to offer. He has an ideal body type, he’s confident, he has a strong arm that can continue to mature, and he can make the difficult throws either across his body or into tight windows. A bridge QB to sign with Darnold for the upcoming season would be ideal, but Hue Jackson’s leash is running very short and tight. Hue has one last chance to invest in “his guy”, and putting faith in a guy like Sam Darnold could be well worth the risk.
The technical facets of his game are far from perfect, but that's simply a pro level throw, Exhibit A of Sam Darnold's upside. pic.twitter.com/h5xYibHECY
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) December 30, 2017
Round 1, 4th Overall: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
With the quarterback of the future in place, and Saquon Barkley off the board (Giants), the pick of Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of those “running to the podium” decisions. Fitzpatrick is one of those rare prospects who you can plug in anywhere and expect the same elite production. One of the most intelligent players in this entire draft class, Fitzpatrick could find success; as a free safety (moving Peppers to his natural SS), as an outside corner (immediate upgrade from Jamar Taylor), or as a nickelback (my favorite position for him). The ability to be creative with Fitzpatrick should give all Browns fans a reason to be excited.
Minkah Fitzpatrick plays this route to a key, he's so versatile across the board. Reason why he's a top prospect this April. pic.twitter.com/kwTFhrucFG
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) January 9, 2018
Round 2, 33rd Overall: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
With the impending retirement decision of future Hall of Fame LT Joe Thomas yet to be announced, the Browns know they should be searching to find his heir apparent early in the draft with all their capital. If Kolton Miller were to somehow slip out of the first round, that pick for the Browns would automatically be in contention for “steal of Day 2”. Miller is the tackle prospect who isn’t being talked about enough as a first round talent. He’s a brute in the run game; and despite having an unorthodox pass block technique, he carries a strong base with an excellent punch power. Having Miller to start Round 2 is a better value than a team taking Williams, McGlinchey, Brown, or O’Neill in the top 20 or so of the draft.
Round 2, 35th Overall: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
Initially, it appeared that the Texans trading up for DeShaun Watson seemed like the way better move, given his success before his ACL tear. While that could still be the case, Houston lost out on significant value with the 4th and 35th pick. The Browns will continue the trend of drafting players that are electric and versatile. DJ Moore is an intriguing prospect. His skill-set as a receiver is Top 20 talent level, but his shorter frame of 5’11” and 215 pounds will have teams questioning his ability. There should be no concern; Moore is fast, quick-hipped, catches with natural hands, and is a technical, yet smooth, route runner. Moore will initially see his snaps come from being the primary target in the slot, but he can transition into the No. 2 opposite Josh Gordon if Corey Coleman cannot produce consistently. Young quarterbacks need dependability with their wideouts to establish trust, and Darnold can expect that from Moore.
Holy hell that is a textbook corner route from DJ Moore. pic.twitter.com/vjx7cFR7bj
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) December 13, 2017
Round 2, 63rd Overall: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
The now-infamous trade (depending on who you root for) with the Eagles to draft Carson Wentz will finally be completed with this draft selection. Meaning the Browns have to come out of this deal with a splash. With a draft class this deep with running back talent, grabbing someone like Rashaad Penny at the tail end of Round 2 howls splash. Penny is one of the most NFL-ready backs in this class, coming from a power run scheme in college. In Cleveland, Penny would see a Hue Jackson running scheme that prides itself on different formations composed of zone block runs entwined with pullers and traps. In this type of offense, a running back’s aim point is reliant on his vision, and Penny has arguably the best ball carrier vision in the class. Even with flipping Joe Thomas for Kolton Miller, this stout offensive line will give Penny opportunities. Rashaad Penny with Duke Johnson (and maybe Isaiah Crowell) could provide a complementary punch that would have defenses on their toes all game long.
PSA: Rashaad Penny is an NFL running back.
That's how you sell a run. pic.twitter.com/UW4q9GvVMF
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) January 10, 2018
Round 3, 65th Overall: Christian Campbell, CB, Penn State
This pick may surprise some folks now, but when April comes Browns faithful would be extremely fortunate to see a guy like Campbell fall into the third round. With many nickel type CBs on the board to begin round 3, drafting Campbell to be an islander wasn’t a difficult decision. Campbell put up some great measurables at the Senior Bowl. At nearly 6’1, 195 pounds and an 80” wingspan; Campbell has the length to be opposite of Jason McCourty. Now with McCourty and Campbell outside, Jamar Taylor sliding into the nickel, and Fitzpatrick and Peppers monitoring the back half of the field, the Browns have set themselves up to complete their defensive rebuild with promise.
A guy that's about to work his way into my Top 10 CB rankings. Christian Campbell of Penn State. He has some ideal length and fluid hips. Aggressive too at the point of attack.
Expecting him to show out at the Scouting Combine. pic.twitter.com/sEZ8hxh5Yv
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) February 1, 2018
Round 4, 103rd Overall: Mason Cole, IOL, Michigan
Along with left tackle, the center position could use some reinforcement as well. Mason Cole is one of the best natural center prospects in the draft. Cole is an initiator by being able to drive fast off the snap, and is always capable of gaining low pad leverage and getting inside hands. Cole did himself a favor in 2017 too. By playing the majority of snaps at left tackle, he was able to improve his craft as a pass blocker. Darnold will be comfortable knowing that Cole is in front of him to be his first buffer each snap.
Round 4, 125th Overall: Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State
Allen Lazard is a prospect who has seen his flashes, but also has down plays. When he’s rolling though, he’s a hard man to defend. Lazard is not going to be a deep ball threat due to his lack of separation ability, but he’ll test better in the 40 than some might assume. Where he’ll excel in the league is being an intermediate + possession-type target. Lazard has flashes that remind me of Marques Colston (Saints), a big and strong-handed receiver who’s going to make the tough catches across the middle and in the red zone.
Round 5, 140th Overall: Kylie Fitts, EDGE, Utah
If anyone is going to give Carl Nassib the boot from the starting edge spot opposite of Myles Garrett, Kylie Fitts deserves that honor. Fitts is a guy who the more you watch film on, the more he’s going to impress you. He’s a pass rusher that supplies both power and speed moves off of the edge. He might not see the sack totals that Garrett will accumulate, but you can be certain he’ll be disruptive.
Round 5, 161st Overall: Jessie Bates, SS, Wake Forest
While moving Jabrill Peppers back to strong safety is the proper business decision, there’s no guarantee that will pan out for the former first round pick. A guy that can sit behind Peppers and wait for the opportune time to showcase himself is Jessie Bates. Bates was an interesting declaration this year, but he could set himself up perfectly in this range of the draft. Bates has some valuable traits; he’s rangy in coverage with some explosion to flip his hips and plant with force downhill. The best aspects of his game are play recognition and field awareness, two things that could keep Bates in the league for a long time.
Round 6, 178th Overall: Chris Worley, LB, Ohio State
The main emphasis of Day 3 is always trying to find the best value prospect that can be a suitable role player but also correspond with your respective scheme. The Browns check all those boxes with this selection, and manage to keep the scouting local while at it. Chris Worley is a guy that can sniff out the ball and be a nasty run stuffer. If Joe Schobert ever needed a brief replacement, you can expect Worley to step into his shoes and contribute with limited downgrade.
Round 7, 219th Overall: Marcus Martin, EDGE, Slippery Rock
I heavily debated going tight end depth with this final selection, but then I realized Marcus Martin was on the board, and I couldn’t allow him to slip into priority free agency. Interesting fact, Martin is the all-time career leader in sacks throughout the ENTIRE NCAA (54.5). Much like being a surprise unknown at Division 2 Slippery Rock, the same can be same for his performance at the Shrine Game, where Martin scored a touchdown as a receiving fullback. Talk about versatility! He’s a guy that’s worth a late flier due to his production, and who could find himself at the very least a practice squad guy who can continue to gain knowledge.
— NCAA Stats (@NCAAStats) October 30, 2017