Cleveland Browns Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington – Round 1
In the 2015 NFL Draft, Shelton was one of the safest picks. The 6-foot-2, 339-pounder is a mauler at the point of attack and is nearly impossible to move in the ground game. The Browns had the worst running defense in the NFL last year, and Shelton will make an immediate impact for Cleveland. The physical rookie is an overnight upgrade to the middle of the team’s defensive line.

Shelton was an absolute force for the Huskies in 2014. He had 87 tackles with nine sacks as a senior. While Shelton isn’t projected to be a big pass-rusher in the NFL, he has the ability to help bull rush the pocket and contribute to taking away space to step up in the pocket.

Sources say that Shelton was one of the best players off the field in the 2015 NFL Draft. He worked hard at conditioning to stay on the field every down, and also had a great motor. Shelton is projected to start immediately for the Browns and is a great fit in the middle of their 3-4 defense. He could be Mike Pettine’s version of Haloti Ngata in Cleveland. While Shelton may never reach Ngata’s level of play, Shelton is a very safe bet to become a good starter in the NFL.

Most Likely To Bust

Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State – Round 3
This was a tough choice. I really like Cooper as a player. He is extremely fast at the point of attack and can fire into the backfield in a hurry. The reason that I’m picking Cooper as most likely to bust is because of the scheme fit. I don’t think that Cooper is a good fit at all for a 3-4 defense like Mike Pettine’s.

Cleveland’s two draft picks at defensive tackle could make sense for a 4-3 team with Danny Shelton being the powerful nose tackle and Cooper being the fast three-technique. However in a 3-4 defense, Cooper (6-3, 293) doesn’t have the size to play nose and looks short on the length needed to be a five-technique defensive end. Perhaps Cooper can overcome that – others have before – but most 3-4 teams don’t use players of Cooper’s proportions on the edge.

Cooper also has some veterans in front of him, including Randy Starks and Desmond Bryant. There are other recent draft picks competing as well in the form of Phil Taylor, Billy Winn and John Hughes. Cooper could have a hard time winning playing time, and it wouldn’t surprise me if ends up being a pick of little consequence for Cleveland.

Potential Boom Pick

Cameron Erving, C , Florida State – Round 1
This was a very interesting pick, and Erving was a complex evaluation. As a left tackle for Florida State, he had some problems in pass protection. The Seminoles didn’t help him with their alignments, but Erving still had issues with speed rushers. Projecting a move to guard or right tackle, Erving looked like a second-day pick. As a center, it was a different story as Erving was phenomenal in the middle of the line for the Seminoles. He is big, fast, strong and extremely athletic. For center prospects, scouting sources said that Erving’s skill set was similar and just a notch below the elite prospects of the Pouncey brothers.

The 6-foot-5, 313-pound Erving was very quick in the middle of the line for Florida State. He could fire out and get on top of linebackers in a hurry to blast open running lanes at the second level. In pass protection, Erving had the size and power to take on tackles while also being quick to adjust to other rushers. He was superb at center down the stretch of the 2014 season. That stretch really changed his evaluation.

The Browns were interesting landing spot because they already have a good center in Alex Mack. However, he is in a contract year and it looks like he wants to leave Cleveland. If Erving is a guard or right tackle in his career, I think he’ll be just a solid starter. If he plays center, I think Erving will be a Pro Bowler and one of the top centers in the NFL.

Future Depth Player

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami – Round 3
The Browns got a nice value pick in Johnson. I know some teams projected him to go in the second round, and some teams liked him more than running backs taken ahead of him. Johnson could become a starter for Cleveland, but I think he’s more likely to be a No. 2 back during his NFL career. The 5-foot-9, 207-pounder is fast and a good receiver, but a little undersized to take the role of an every-down back. Sources compared him to Giovani Bernard of the Bengals, which makes a lot of sense. Johnson could be the third-down and change-of-pace back to be paired with some bigger more physical runners like Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell or Terrance West.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

12. Danny Shelton, NT, Washington: B Grade
I always thought that Danny Shelton was a bit overhyped. He’s a force in the middle, but it really worried me that he was gassed during the Senior Bowl. He’ll be just a two-down defender, but to be fair, the Browns desperately needed to improve their run defense. They have to go up against Le’Veon Bell, Jeremy Hill and Justin Forsett twice per year, and they had a huge hole at nose tackle. I never bought him as a top-10 prospect, but he makes sense at No. 12.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

19. Cameron Erving, C/G/OT, Florida State: C- Grade
Uhh… did the Browns forget that they have Alex Mack? Was this a byproduct of Ray Farmer’s suspension, or was Farmer too busy texting to remember that Mack was still on the roster? Cameron Erving projected as a solid center, but he won’t be able to play that position in Cleveland. So, where does he fit in? Right guard? Right tackle? Erving can start there, but those aren’t ideal spots for him. Perhaps Farmer should’ve actually drafted a real right tackle.

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51. Nate Orchard, DE/OLB, Utah: C+ Grade
This is a round too early for Nate Orchard, as there were were better pass-rushers available. I get the selection – Barkevious Mingo does a lot well, but doesn’t do a good job of rushing the passer – so Orchard makes sense, given that he nearly had 20 sacks for the Utes last season. The Browns could’ve gone a different direction in terms of taking an edge rusher, but they at least moved down prior to making the pick.

77. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami: B Grade
This is a solid pick, but I’d like it a lot more if the Browns actually, you know, needed a running back. They already have two decent ones, but Duke Johnson should be able to fight for some touches, especially with Mike Pettine’s chaotic and confusing game-planning. Johnson fits the range, and I like him as a prospect, but there’s a chance he’ll only be the third running back.

96. Xavier Cooper, DE/DT, Washington State: A- Grade
The Browns had major issues stopping the run late in the year, so they had to make multiple upgrades on the defensive line. They selected Danny Shelton in the first round, and now Xavier Cooper was added to complement him. Cooper is an athletic lineman who could have been chosen a bit earlier than this. It’s a solid choice for the Browns.

115. Ibraheim Campbell, S, Northwestern: B+ Grade
I had Ibraheim Campbell going at the end of the third round in my mock as an underrated safety prospect, so the Browns are getting some value again. Cleveland pretty much had nothing behind Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner, so this is a quality pick for depth. Campbell could eventually start down the road.

123. Vince Mayle, WR, Washington State: C Grade
Finally, a receiver! Unfortunately, Vince Mayle is a slow athlete, much like Cleveland’s current wideouts. Mayle is a bit of a reach here, as he was seen as a fifth- or sixth-round prospect. At least he fills a need.

189. Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville: A Grade
The Browns needed to add some cornerback depth, and they found a good prospect for the position in Round 6. Charles Gaines, who could have easily gone in the third frame, is a skilled player with nice measurables. If the players in front of him continue to disappoint, he could emerge as a starter at some point in his career.

195. Malcolm Johnson, TE, Mississippi State: C Grade
I didn’t think Malcolm Johnson was going to be drafted, given that he’s just a 230-pound tight end. However, he’ll have a chance to fight for playing time once Rob Housler gets injured.

198. Randall Telfer, TE, USC: B- Grade
Another player who would have gone earlier had it not been for an injury, Randall Telfer wasn’t able to work out prior to the draft because of a Lisfranc issue. He also has work-ethic issues. However, he has good ability and could emerge as a contributor if he gets his act together.

219. Hayes Pullard, ILB, USC: B Grade
I was yelled at by some readers to have Hayes Pullard earlier than the seventh round, but I thought this was the right spot for him. He makes sense as yet another Pac-12 prospect for the Browns, given that they needed help at inside linebacker.

241. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: A+ Grade
Another A+ in the seventh round! If only we could have back-to-back Millens… At any rate, the Browns are making a great selection here with a player who was once considered a first-round prospect. Charlie Campbell reported a couple of weeks ago that Ekpre-Olomu was off many teams’ draft boards because his AC was worse than reported, but I think he’s a great gamble in the seventh round. What do the Browns have to lose? If they blow this pick, so what?

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: C- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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