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Mitzel: Cleveland Browns add explosive players in off-season

Browns fan and OBR columnist Jeff Mitzel reflects on the Browns rookie camp, and the signs of an emerging philosophy and explosive players...

Last week's rookie minicamp gave fans their first look at this year's draft and also gave an opportunity to reflect on forward progress.

  1. Analytics' focus on numbers in last year's draft class led to a league high 14 picks as the organization discarded veterans and fielded the farm team en route to a 1-15 record.  Hue Jackson arrived with expectations to win immediately as things kicked off.  Analytics, out with the old and in with the new, fresh faces, and optimism not unsurprisingly failed to yield much.

  2. This year's draft figures differently amidst explosive playmakers, a heavy investment on the defensive side of the ball, and picks delivered thoughtfully and purposely from front to back.

  3. A consistent message is emerging across this year's draft picks and that message is about working hard and earning acceptance from the veterans through how they show up and work. When have fans ever heard this delivered as strongly and consistently?!

  4. TE David Njoku flashed on video provided by the team following rookie minicamp and appears as a big, athletic receiver. Njoku appears as athletic as any tight end in recent memory including Kellen Winslow II. Browns quarterback Cody Kessler called Njoku a freak following minicamp, and suddenly the loss of Terrelle Pryor as a large downfield target appears as less of a concern.

  5. Njoku, S Jabrill Peppers, and DE Myles Garrett can each be argued as more explosive than any player currently on the roster. This is a team positioned to both make and form an identity around explosive plays, and it starts with these three players.

  6. No position group figures more prominently than defensive line. Both DL Larry Ogunjobi and DL Caleb Brantley figure to compete at the three technique and also figure in 3-4 alignments.  Moving chess pieces in the box proves successful only when matchups don't compromise clever thinking. Getting the defensive line right kicks things off, and Williams has a complete toolbox to work with across both 4-3 and 3-4 alignments following the selection of Garrett, Ogunjobi, and Brantley.

  7. The Browns seized opportunity when they selected Brantley in the sixth round well below his draft grade. Someone took notice as Brantley fell, and nimble thinking may have emerged as a side effect to a front office with divergent voices. Brantley did not appear to be on the Browns draft board as the team announced they were investigating Brantley shortly after his selection. Brantley has now been cleared of possible charges, appears humbled through the ordeal, and appears as a commendable selection who arrives with a chip on his shoulder after being passed over by teams multiple times.

  8. The Browns entered the draft with two first round picks and two second round picks and left with three first round picks, two players with second round grades and an additional 2018 first round selection.  This is how teams turn things around.

  9. Fourth round pick DB Howard Wilson figures to miss games and will sit as his fractured knee cap heals. Wilson played for Tom Herman who turned around the Houston program before picking up the reins at Texas in the off season.  Herman is well regarded in coaching circles including Nick Saban, who invited Herman to explain how he dismantled Alabama's defense. Saban coached for Bill Belichick in Cleveland, and Belichick accepted an invitation to talk to a packed room of Texas high school coaches when asked by Herman. Herman is a demanding coach who pits his players against each other and scores players as winners or losers after each practice with consequences for each. Wilson is a player to watch as the Browns picked up a well coached, hard-nosed competitor with upside at a position of need.

  10. 9 out of 11 players in this year's UDFA class are on the defensive side of the ball and includes two safeties with a nose for the ball. J.D. Harmon picked off seven passes last year, and Kai Nacua intercepted 12 passes the past two years. Both players figure to be given an opportunity.

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