Tight end Seth DeValve is the mystery man in the Cleveland Browns’ 2015 NFL draft class. The Browns caused a stir when the organization decided to select the Ivy League target with the 138th overall pick.
The move might have surprised some, but the recent fourth-round selection is an athletic target that played both wide receiver and tight end at Princeton. He's an ideal fit in a modern passing attack as long as he can stay healthy.
In the first installment of this exclusive interview with the rookie, DeValve discusses his draft-day impressions, a rookie's mentality and learning under Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge.
Orange and Brown Report: Did the Browns show the most interest in you during the predraft process, or were you surprised when Cleveland selected you in the fourth round?
Seth DeValve: “If a team really, really likes you, it’s unlikely they’ll show plenty of interest. If they do, it gets out to other teams and could spoil the pick. In the week leading up to the draft, a lot of teams will call. If a team is calling you or your coach a lot, it can be a good thing. But it can also mean you’re a bubble guy, and they want to build a good rapport if you go undrafted in order to pick them once you’re a free agent. A lot of it is recruiting if you’re considered a fourth- to seventh-round prospect.
“I didn’t have any clue when or where it was going to happen. Anyone expected to be drafted on Saturday runs the risk of going undrafted. Teams will continue to call the week leading up to the event. You try to glean a little bit on information from those calls to see if there is legitimate interest.
“The teams that really want to draft you seem to stay really, really quiet. Cleveland was one of those teams. They sent Coach [Greg} Seamon to Princeton for an afternoon to talk with me. I believe they had a scout at my pro day, but that was it. I didn’t see nor speak with them on any other occasion.
“My agent and I figured out it was those teams who were the most interested. Fortunately, we turned out to be right.”
OBR: Is it safe to say you were a little surprised when you were selected and it was Cleveland on the other end of the phone?
SD: “I wasn’t caught completely off guard. I was prepared to be drafted on Saturday. There were big ranges in my draft-day grades. I had third-round to undrafted free-agent grades.
“I watched on Friday thinking it could happen, but I watched closely Saturday expecting it to happen.”
OBR: Multiple times after your selection outlets referred to you as a wide receiver instead of a tight end. What was your initial reaction to their descriptions and overall feeling toward so many offensive targets being selected in this year’s draft class?
SD: “I don’t claim to know the reason behind the coaching staff’s plans. I trust the coaches. They've already earned my trust in a very short amount of time.
“It’s nothing huge one way or the other. It didn’t matter to me they selected four wide receivers. Nor would it have bothered me if I was the only target chosen.
“So much emphasis and attention is placed on the draft because it’s a major event a lot of people watch, but player acquisition is a year-long process. The draft is only part of it.
“Regardless of where you’re drafted, how many are drafted or the position you play, everything in the NFL is earned. A lot of the time it’s earned when people aren’t watching.
“I fully appreciate being selected and having an opportunity to earn a job.”
OBR: With this year’s massive class and knowing the Browns’ recent history, is the group taking it upon themselves to change the team’s culture?
SD: “Absolutely. We are motivated daily by the fans. It’s incredible being a professional athlete in Cleveland. It’s awesome to be an environment that cares about football and its team so much. It provides motivation to do your part and turn this into a winning program.
“This isn’t something foreign to me, either. In high school, I was in a losing program that turned into winning program. In college, I went to a losing program that won an Ivy League Championship in 2013.
“I’m going to do it again. I’m used to this type of situation, and it’s allowed me to develop some incredible relationships with my teammates along the way.
“Cleveland is a really good spot for me.”
OBR: Is there anyone among the rookie class you immediately bonded with?
SD: “I’ve grown close with all of the rookies, but I spend a lot of time with Joe Schobert and Carl Nassib. We had similar collegiate stories. Both Joe and Carl were walk-ons. I was in a little different situation, because Princeton is non-scholarship. I paid my way to go to school there. We have similar stories in how we got where we are today, and I think it allowed us to naturally bond.”
OBR: What was your first impression of getting to work with a Pro Bowl tight end like Gary Barnidge?
SD: “He’s been great. It’s really good for someone like me to be around a veteran who has been around the game as long as he has. He processes the game at a very high level at this point in his career. To be in the same meeting room, it’s helpful just listening to the questions he asks. I pick up on the little pieces of information he deems to be important. He’s been really receptive to the other rookies and myself.”