The Cleveland Browns’ final pick in the 2016 NFL Draft on Friday night was spent on the quarterback position—one the Browns were long expected to address this year. They selected USC’s Cody Kessler with the 93rd overall pick, and while Round 3 quarterbacks are rarely productive starters in the modern NFL, it’s obvious that the Browns’ brain trust view the accurate passer as much more than a young player with career backup as his ceiling.
Kessler had overall outstanding collegiate output, completing 67.5 percent of his passes over four seasons and throwing for 10,339 yards, with 88 touchdowns scored to 19 interceptions. But his 2015 was not as good as his 2014—his completion percentage dropped for 69.7 percent to 66.8 percent, his yards dropped from 3,826 to 3,536 and while his interceptions stayed the same, at five, his touchdowns decreased from 39 to 29.
This, though, can be attributed to a number of factors, ranging from coaching changes to a reworking of the roster. Kessler himself noted that losing his center and other players to injuries, adding new receivers and decreasing the number of deep passes he attempted could have skewed scouts’ minds about his arm strength. But one thing is for certain—Kessler is accurate, a trait that cannot be taught and rarely coached up. Though there is a lot of "average" about Kessler and he's slightly undersized from the positional prototype, there is also much to like. He plays the game intelligently, knowing that protecting the football is among his most important responsibilities. He is even-headed and doesn't panic, with good pocket awareness. He ran a pro-style offense. He's got a lot of Andy Dalton to his game, and that’s why Hue Jackson set his sights on him in the third round.
Kessler’s addition means there are now five quarterbacks on Cleveland’s roster. Plus the rookie, they have Connor Shaw, Austin Davis, Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III. Immediately, Shaw and Davis need to be concerned about their job security. McCown isn’t safe, either; he could be released eventually, but not before the Browns exhaust all trade options. No matter what, Kessler seems penciled in as the Browns’ QB3 and potentially even QB2. Perhaps McCown will stick around as the backup to Griffin, who appears more and more likely to actually serve as Cleveland’s starter this year, or maybe the staff would rather it will be Davis. Shaw, who has had one career start and spent 2015 on injured reserve, is a mostly unknown quantity as a talent and a holdover from the Mike Pettine days. These are not good signs for his ongoing employment in Cleveland.
Can Kessler win the starting job, either this year or eventually? The history is a mixed bag. From 2000 to 2015, 20 quarterbacks have been drafted in the third round and while numerous have started games for myriad reasons, less than half have had any consistent career success. Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Matt Schaub, Colt McCoy, Trent Edwards, Charlie Frye and McCown are the only ones who have had more than 20 starts (Frye is at the low end with 23, while Schaub leads the group with 92). While it’s not out of the question that someday Kessler may become the Browns’ franchise passer, the odds are higher that he sees some starting action that doesn’t lead him to taking over the job entirely or for multiple years. One never knows, of course, and in the ever-changing landscape that is the Browns, Kessler could get a shot, perform well and become a long-term fixture in Cleveland. It does help that he has a coaching staff that truly believes in him and with whom Kessler has already connected, as well as a desire to play and play well for the Browns, specifically.null