Most football experts agree you really can’t evaluate an NFL draft class for three years after the players are picked.
That doesn’t stop fans and some of the media from deciding already that the first year Browns players are busts, although even the harshest critics are softening on Emmanuel Ogbah, who has come on strong as of late.
While in Cleveland, we are certainly aware of Carson Wentz, who was acquired with a pick originally owned by the Browns, and we also know Ohio State products Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott, who have both made great impacts with thus far, not every rookie in the NFL appears to be headed to Canton.
Somehow, that seems to be the expectation when the players are picked by Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta.
Think back to before this season actually started and the opinion most people had of last year’s first round pick, Danny Shelton. He was considered a bust. However, look at how much progress the nose tackle has made in his second year.
You can also see the progress made by third year pro LB Christian Kirksey, who looks to be a building block for the future. Kirksey, along with injured G Joel Bitonio, are the lone remaining players from the ’14 draft.
You can’t be successful if you only have two players left from three years ago. However, don’t pin that mistake on Brown and DePodesta, they weren’t here. It’s not fair to blame them.
While Shelton looks like the best of the ’15 selections, Duke Johnson was also in the draft, and we still like Ibraheim Campbell. Of course, you also have the Cam Erving question. Many think he’s a bust, but others still see him as a serviceable NFL offensive lineman.
And while fans wonder why at least a few of Cleveland’s picks didn’t turn out like Elliott and QB Dak Prescott, with the Cowboys, who have the best record in the NFL, it’s a lot easier for those two to be productive surrounded by solid veterans, a luxury the Browns’ rookie class doesn’t have.
Certainly, Ogbah has stood out on defense and Carl Nassib flashed early, but seems to have plateaued. Corey Coleman got hurt, which seems to have set back his progress.
We haven’t seen much of Shon Coleman, but Joe Schobert, Ricardo Louis, Derrick Kindred, Seth DeValve, and Spencer Drango have all been on the field this season with various degrees of success.
It will be interested and necessary to see the progress of those players when they go through an NFL off-season conditioning program, and can be in that program from the end of the season until training camp.
We feel we tend to underestimate how much these players lose attending scouting combines and personal workouts instead of getting ready for an NFL season.
Any criticism of this draft class is reactionary and premature. It’s simply way too soon to form judgments, and comparing all picks to Elliott, Prescott, and Joey Bosa is not fair.
You have to see the process through. With all the picks Cleveland has in the 2017 draft, they will likely have half of the opening game roster next year be first and second year players.
Making the playoffs would be a miracle next year, but there should be reason for optimism. Just don’t let your impatience get the best of you.