Why the Slide?: Caleb Brantley

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.

During the 2016 season, perhaps the most dominant and disruptive interior defensive lineman in the SEC aside from Alabama’s Jonathan Allen was Florida’s Caleb Brantley. The 6-foot-3, 307-pounder was a fast disruptor at the point of attack, a kin to a bowling ball rolling through offensive line. There was talk of Brantley being a first-round pick, and sources said that it was clear that Brantley had an early round skill set. However a few weeks before the 2017 NFL Draft, Brantley was charged with assault from an incident at a bar. Brantley ended up going off the board with the first selection in the sixth round.

This falls under the category of obvious, but the main reason that Brantley slid so low in the 2017 NFL Draft was the cloud of uncertainty stemming from his legal incident. Teams were unsure how that would impact Brantley’s status. Prior to the incident, sources said that Brantley didn’t interview well at the combine, and teams had major concerns about his maturity. Sources from teams that run a 3-4 defense also thought Brantley didn’t have a natural fit in their scheme. They thought he would have to be a situational three-technique pass-rusher in obvious passing situations, but his racking up only 2.5 sacks in his final season gave them some reservations about him producing in that role. Still, those sources had him graded much higher based off his tape and it was the assault charge that led to Brantley’s free fall in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Cleveland Browns got an absolute steal when they selected Brantley in the sixth round. Within weeks of the 2017 NFL Draft, the assault charge against Brantley was dropped and he was cleared. The Browns switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 set this offseason, and one of the toughest spots to fill on a 4-3 defense is finding a fast and disruptive three-technique defensive tackle. After taking Myles Garrett with the No. 1-overall pick, a speedy three-technique was all that was missing for the Browns to finish their young defensive line. Brantley is a perfect fit. With Garrett commanding attention on the outside, Brantley can line up over the guard’s outside shoulder and use his speed to cause problems in the backfield. Cleveland also has a good nose tackle in Danny Shelton to play next to Brantley. Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib can rotate at left defensive end to complete Cleveland’s talented young line. This young line can grow together as its members have a lot of athletic ability with speed, strength and athleticism. With the Browns building for the long haul, Brantley should have time to develop as well. With a respected Gator product in the building with Joe Haden, Brantley also has a veteran to look toward for helping him mature. It wouldn’t surprise me if Brantley ends up being one of the biggest steals of the 2017 NFL Draft.

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