AFC North: Cleveland Browns

Joe Thomas chuckled when the notion of him asking for a trade this offseason was mentioned.

"Sometimes," the Cleveland Browns' perennial Pro Bowl left tackle said, "there's a little bit of a misconception about how much control players have over their own careers."

Translation: The Browns didn't have to trade Thomas, even if he had asked for it.

The point to keep in mind, though, is that Thomas did not ask to leave the Browns. His disillusionment toward the end of his 2015 season dissipated when he saw the Browns had hired Hue Jackson to be the coach.

"Since I got here it's been my goal to turn the Browns into a winner and I think Hue is just the guy to do that," Thomas said Wednesday after the team's practices.

Thomas has said similar things before. He's the eternal and unshakable optimist, standing behind every quarterback he has blocked for and every coach he has worked for. He even said after the 2015 finale that he thought Mike Pettine was one of the better coaches he had in Cleveland.

Joe ThomasRon Schwane/APJoe Thomas is a fan of the offense that now-Browns coach Hue Jackson ran in Cincinnati.

But that doesn't mean his words should be disregarded.

"I think by the time that I got a chance to meet Hue and talk with [team executive] Sashi [Brown] and kind of see the direction they want things headed and see the assistant coaches that were being hired, those were the things that said to me that I can really get excited about this," Thomas said.

He added that he was jealous of his peers in Cincinnati when Jackson was their offensive coordinator.

"It was a very offensive line-friendly offense," Thomas said. "A lot of quick throws. A lot of easy fade balls. A lot of different formations to spread the defense out. Confuse them, really get them into vanilla looks. A lot of up-tempo stuff. Smash-mouth football; he really wants to run the ball between the tackles.

"The thing that appeals on offense is we're going to make the defense guard every blade of grass on the whole field. Because we're going to be throwing it from sideline to sideline and we're going to be running it inside. We're going to be moving tackles, guards, different formations all over the field. I think that gives the offense a big advantage, and it makes life a lot easier on an offensive line."

Thomas admitted he did not enjoy seeing center Alex Mack and tackle Mitchell Schwartz leave as free agents, but shrugged it off as part of life in the NFL. He also said he recognized the team's overhaul that included the release of several veterans and a youth movement might have led the team to trade him on its own.

"It wouldn't have surprised me if I had been traded," Thomas said, "but I'm happy that I didn't. So it's kind of a happy ending."

Can a team go into a season with four rookies and a converted quarterback playing wide receiver?

Hue Jackson may believe so. Because the release of Brian Hartline seems to indicate Jackson firmly believes in the team's rookies. Add in that the coach has been impressed with Terrelle Pryor and the team may have Pryor along with rookies Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton among the wideout group.

At this point, that's speculation and guesswork, and much can change -- including Josh Gordon possibly being reinstated. But at this point the team seems committed to the rookies.

Brian Hartline AP Photo/David RichardIn his one season in Cleveland, Brian Hartline had 46 catches for 523 yards and two touchdowns.

If you'd have asked which of the returning receivers the new Cleveland Browns regime would let go of first, the last pick would have been Hartline.

Instead, he's the first.

Hartline fell victim to the numbers game at receiver, something that was unthinkable the past two seasons when receivers in the offseason were treated like they had the plague. But when a new coach is involved in the drafting of four receivers, it's a safe bet that at least three and probably all four will make the team.

That puts the jobs of holdovers such as Hartline, Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins in question. Add in Pryor, and the Browns had a logjam at a position where teams usually keep six.

Pryor may be the one to benefit most from this decision. He has impressed the coach in offseason work, and his versatility may be something Jackson likes -- and wants. Pryor still has to prove in games, though, that he has fully made the transition from quarterback to receiver.

Hartline is a pro's pro. He was invested in playing for his home team (he grew up in Canton) and was extremely active in community activities.

He started slow in 2015, his first year in Cleveland, but finished strong -- with 30 catches for 341 yards in his final four games. (Given Hartline's production, hands and dependability, it seemed like there would be a spot for him.

But new coaches want their own guys.

This was an on-field personnel decision, not a cap move.

ESPN Stats & Information reports the Browns have $41 million in cap room, so had the team wanted to keep Hartline and his $3.75 million cap cost, it easily could have done so.

Instead the team moved on.

And the "rebooting" of the Browns continues.

BEREA, Ohio -- Duke Johnson put it simply.

"We are here to give him whatever he wants," Johnson said last week at the team's open practice as part of organized team activities.

The "he" he refers to is new coach Hue Jackson, who showed a hefty dose of confidence in the Cleveland Browns returning running backs by not using one of the team's league-high 14 draft picks on a back.

It's a risk -- to everyone but Jackson.

"From top to bottom," Jackson said, "I think we have some good candidates here."

It did not necessarily show in 2015, when Isaiah Crowell averaged 3.8 yards per carry and totaled 706 yards. In two seasons, Crowell has 706 and 607 yards, statistical oddities but not Pro Bowl numbers. Johnson caught 61 passes as a rookie, but averaged 3.6 yards per carry."

Those are hardly the numbers of a feared hydra.

Duke JohnsonKen Blaze/USA TODAY SportsThe Browns see Duke Johnson as an every-down running back.

But Jackson has been talking up his backs without hesitation, telling 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland that the talent of Crowell and Johnson "is extreme."

Jackson will not hesitate to gush, but he backed up his words by committing to this pair -- with options sprinkled in. Glenn Winston and Raheem Mostert are back, and Jackson brought in Terrell Watson, who spent his rookie season on Cincinnati's practice squad.

Consider Watson -- 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds -- a legitimate dark horse. He led all of college football with 2,153 rushing yards in 2014, and set several Division II records at Azusa Pacific. The fact that Jackson saw him every day last season cannot hurt his cause.

For now, though, the job(s) are for Crowell and Johnson to lose.

In Cincinnati, where Jackson was offensive coordinator, Jeremy Hill gained 794 yards, Giovani Bernard 730. The two combined for 13 rushing touchdowns (Hill had 11) and 64 receptions (49 for Bernard). The previous season, Hill had 1,124 yards, Bernard 680, with 14 combined touchdowns and 70 combined receptions.

Jackson makes no secret he believes the team has to run the ball effectively to win. Cincinnati's two backs last season had 377 carries, 88 more than the Browns' pair. The Bengals ranked seventh in the league in rushing attempts, the Browns 27th.

Crowell can see a different approach already.

"I feel like we have a lot of different runs," he said, "and I also feel like [I see] him demanding to run the ball violently."

Crowell is the inside guy who came in as an undrafted free agent and played well enough that the Browns released Ben Tate during the season and traded Terrance West after the following training camp.

Jackson was among those watching Johnson's pro day at the University of Miami before the 2015 draft. His quickness allows him to run outside and be a weapon in the passing game. His 61 receptions set a Browns rookie record for a back, and were the second-highest total by any Browns rookie. Only Oakland's Amari Cooper -- a receiver -- had more receptions as a rookie.

Jackson sees Johnson as an every-down back. The previous coaching staff actually felt the same. They started training camp intending to make Johnson the starter. But a hamstring pull set him back, and then he was sidelined by a concussion.

The overall season was disappointing for the running game, but the Browns and the backs can point to the final four or five games when a greater commitment to the run led to more production.

Crowell averaged 5.2 yards over the final five games, when he had three of his four touchdowns. Johnson averaged 5.6 yards in the final four.

The numbers are skewed somewhat by a 223-yard day for the pair against San Francisco, but players have built momentum for the following season off less.

"I wish we could have had more of that during the whole season," Crowell said.

This season, they will get their chance.

BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson implored the media this week not to make snap judgments on players or systems based on two organized team activity practices (the media was able to watch the second).

We shall honor that request. But we shall also make the following observations, with this proviso: Jackson is right. It is wise not to read too much into OTA practices.

Here are five thoughts coming off the first OTA:

Temper the optimism. This May-June period is the second-most optimistic period of the year for Browns fans, the first of course being the draft. The annual May/June optimism makes immediate Pro Bowl players out of new acquisitions and brings excitement beyond the stage the team is in. OTAs are exciting only to teams that do not win. Winning teams use OTAs to refine and assess. The Browns use it to learn and start over. OTA's are far different from training camp, which is far different from preseason games, which is far, far, far different from regular-season games. May phenoms can turn into September cuts. Best to keep the May/June optimism to a minimum, and instead demand results in November and December.

Josh McCown
Tony Dejak/AP PhotoBrowns quarterback Josh McCown looked sharp in organized team activities.

Josh McCown is the best quarterback right now. Judge it on individual ability and arm strength, and Robert Griffin III leads the pack. Judge it on reading defenses and throwing the ball from the pocket and McCown leads. He has been in the league so long and learned new offenses so many times that this transition might be less challenging for McCown than it is for other players. One year ago, Browns players marveled at McCown's ability to pick up the offense. He's doing the same now. The question is whether McCown can actually win the job given the team's signing of Griffin, who was the choice of the new coach. It certainly seems that the job is Griffin's to lose. The other question about McCown is the same as it's always been, and the same as it is for Griffin: Can he stay healthy?

Terrelle Pryor has made strides. Pryor looks far more comfortable at receiver than he did last season, and his skills seem to be the kind that Jackson likes. Pryor is a big guy who can run and who can be moved around the offense. The Browns signed Pryor just before training camp last season, then he was sidelined by injury. The team never got to really see what he could do. Now he's healthy, running well and catching the ball. It's way too soon to say Pryor has made the transition — Pryor has yet to play in pads against Joe Haden in press coverage — but as Jackson said: "He's flashed the last several days."

The practice was energetic, and coaches were loud. This is not a quiet staff. The head coach races around the field, making corrections and giving encouragement. After Isaiah Crowell caught a short throw and ran down the field, Jackson called him to his side from 30 yards away, put his arm on Crowell's shoulder and gave him tips on how to make the play work better. Receivers coach Al Saunders is like the Tasmanian devil. The days of quiet practices seem to be over.

Jackson's effervescence boils over. The coach challenged his rookies to work to get in better shape, but his outlook usually is sunny. Consider Alvin Bailey, an offensive lineman snatched by the Browns after Seattle did not make him an offer as restricted free agent. Bailey started eight games in three seasons in Seattle, one in the NFC Championship Game. Said Jackson: "[Bailey] was at Seattle and did a tremendous job for them." Being positive isn't necessarily a bad thing. Players do pay attention, even though they say they don't. It's just interesting.

videoBEREA, Ohio -- On the second day of Cleveland Browns organized team activities, Robert Griffin III threw the ball like it was ... well ... the second day of OTAs.

For every good deep throw Griffin made, there were overthrown outs -- as in several feet over the receivers' heads.

For every short cross to tight end Gary Barnidge, there was a short throw that went into the hand of rookie linebacker Joe Schobert -- and stuck for an interception.

This wasn't exactly a textbook display of passing-game football, but coach Hue Jackson wasn't concerned -- even if Josh McCown got the ball downfield to receivers better than Griffin did.

Cleveland's Robert Griffin IIIAP Photo/Tony DejakRobert Griffin III "doesn't have any accuracy issues," his coach said. "The defense sometimes is in the right spot."

"We're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we don't need to be right now," Jackson said. "We need to work at it."

The "perfect" reference was interesting, because Griffin strives for perfection.

"If you ever get to the point where [you think], 'Hey, that was good enough,' then you're really not trying to perfect your craft," Griffin said.

Griffin is learning a new offense and a new team, as well as new terminology. Jackson said it will take time, and this was just the second day Jackson had his team on the field. Jackson added that he throws a lot at his players early to see what they can handle. When he finds out, he pares it back.

As for the errors, Jackson said he wants to avoid "catastrophic mistakes."

"Because that means we're not growing," he said.

He chalks the smaller errors up to it being "football."

"RG III doesn't have any accuracy issues," Jackson said. "The defense sometimes is in the right spot."

What Griffin has had are processing issues -- whether he can process the reads, defenses and route adjustments as he drops back to throw. That's a necessity in the NFL, and Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden were not successful in making Griffin into a pocket passer in Washington.

Jackson believes he can help, and Griffin seems to have embraced the chance Jackson has given him. He sprints downfield after completions to run with the receiver. He races from one drill to the other. At one point in an early quarterback drill, he lined up on defense to give Connor Shaw a better look at a play.

And he wasn't biting when asked about a story on ESPN's The Undefeated that went over Griffin's days in Washington.

"Man, I'm so far removed from Washington now and focused on this opportunity here in Cleveland that I don't even worry about those things anymore," Griffin said.

He also had an intriguing answer when asked how he gauges his progress.

"I haven't played in a year," he said. "So I really wasn't able to get a gauge on where my game had evolved from my first year in Washington to last year. I just want to get out there, have some fun, play ball, get completions and win football games.

"At the end of the day all of us are focused on winning."

Jackson said it is way too soon to ask about or discuss things like depth charts and starting positions. He said he wants this time to be about challenging players to see what they can or can't do.

"I think there's a tall challenge ahead," he said. "We're starting at the bottom and we've got to climb our way to the top. We're just going to keep grinding through it."

Griffin included.

In mid-April, Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III flew to Gainesville, Florida, to pay a surprise visit to 11-year-old Samantha Foss, who has cystic fibrosis. Griffin gave Foss a jersey he had made for her -- and left the family stunned at his visit.

This was not an isolated occurrence, though. Whether intentional or happenstance, Griffin has been very active in representing the Browns. It's tough not to notice all he's been doing with community activities since he signed with the Browns March 24.

This might mean nothing in terms of completing a third-down throw with Geno Atkins in his face mask, but for Griffin to immediately become a part of the community should not be dismissed.

There are some who say Griffin views this opportunity with the Browns as a last chance to revive his career. If so, he has been proactive in many ways in showing the same commitment off the field that he's trying to show on it. (Browns WR Terrelle Pryor posted an Instagram video showing he had arrived at the team facility at 7 a.m., and Griffin was already at his locker studying the playbook.)

Griffin was a voluntary part of the team's Fan Fest on Saturday. He and guard John Greco sat together signing autographs and taking photos, mainly with kids. Griffin and his teammates also visited with other kids in attendance.

Robert Griffin IIINick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III is staying busy making appearances on behalf of the Browns this spring.

Griffin took the other quarterbacks, quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton and strength assistant Art Tolhurst to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ home victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 4.

That same day, Griffin joined teammate Cam Erving in presenting new helmets to the North Ridgeville (Ohio) High School football team, courtesy of the Browns. Griffin posed as a mannequin wearing the helmet, and surprised a couple of students who approached him.

Griffin and a dozen other teammates also visited patients at University Hospitals on April 25. He joined another group at St. John Medical Center on April 27

Of course, Griffin is not the only player making these appearances. (For instance, Erving took 17-year-old Elna Wright to her prom after her boyfriend died; Wright is in a wheelchair because of a condition called hereditary spastic paraplegia.)

Too much should not be made of Griffin's actions, nor should he be canonized for them. However, when a quarterback with his Q rating does these things, it stands out. And when a new player makes the kind of effort Griffin is making, it shows a commitment.

It also helps Griffin get to know his teammates. He rode to University Hospitals with Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.

Griffin has been quiet on social media. In the past, social media had been an issue for him. In Washington, he got in debates with fans, and he was advised by Magic Johnson on the Mike & Mike show on ESPN Radio to "quit focusing on your brand."

The only photos Griffin has posted on social media since he joined the Browns are of him practicing and smiling with fans or with his daughter Reese. He hasn't been silent, but he has avoided anything quirky or controversial.

Does this add up to success on the field?


In fact, when Griffin was with the Redskins, he was active in the Washington, D.C., community.

The quarterback position involves leadership as well as ability, so every action and choice means something. Griffin could have sat back, rested on his reputation and his second-overall-draft-pick status from 2012, and just tried to win the job. He didn't. He's done more.

When it comes to quarterbacks, any positive step is a good one for the Browns.

videoThe Cleveland Browns have not addressed what they will do if Josh Gordon is reinstated by the league in August.

They may not have to. The team's actions speak loud, and they do not seem to bode well for Gordon's return.

The Browns took an armada of receivers in the draft. The four drafted receivers match the most in a draft in team history (the Browns took four in 1966, per Though another talented player is always welcome, drafting four players at one position sure seems to indicate the team is moving on.

More important, another not-so-subtle policy shift (for lack of a better term) by the team also seems to indicate that Gordon's behavior and actions do not mesh with the way the Browns want to operate in the Sashi Brown-Paul DePodesta-Hue Jackson era.

Josh GordonKen Blaze/USA TODAY SportsThe Cleveland Browns took four receivers in the draft and seemed to make a conscious decision to focus on high-character players, which could mean the end of Josh Gordon's tenuous tenure with the team.

That method was first made public by Jackson at the combine, when he said that certain behavior would no longer be tolerated by the team, that a line would be drawn. On Tuesday, owner Dee Haslam appeared on ESPN Cleveland and said the organization made a conscious decision to focus on high-character players in the draft.

"It was definitely part of something we discussed," she said. "And it was part of the entire football organization. That was an agreed-upon goal."

Could this be called the anti-Johnny/anti-Josh approach?

Nobody will say that, of course, but the Browns did find themselves surrounded by drama associated with the off-field actions of Johnny Manziel and Gordon for the past two years.

Manziel's issues have been well-documented. He is no longer a Brown. Gordon has been suspended by the league or the team for 27 of the Browns' last 32 games. When his application for reinstatement was considered in the spring, the league delayed a decision because of a drug test with questionable results. That just doesn't seem to mesh with the way the current Browns regime is operating.

The Browns have no reason to say anything until the NFL decides if Gordon can play again. At that point, the team could keep Gordon, cut him or try to trade him. It would be interesting to see if the Browns could get a draft pick for Gordon; he has talent, but he has baggage.

Every team talks at some point or other about bringing in character people. The Browns talked about it when they drafted Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft and Manziel 22nd overall two years ago. They did all the background checks and talked to all the people, they said at the time.


This latest rendition of the Browns, though, seems to have backed its words with its 14 draftees. The group of 14 has the juice to back up the "character" claim.

In her interview, Haslam pointed out that the team drafted a cancer survivor (Shon Coleman) and two former walk-ons (Carl Nassib and Joe Schobert). When a third-round pick such as Coleman spends the draft with other patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital rather than at a party, it says something. And when a team drafts the kind of players the Browns drafted, it's an indicator the team wants to stand for something other than numbers and talent.

Every organization is always one slipup from negative publicity. But the chances of minimizing problems increase with the quality of people on the team.

At the NFL meetings in March, Browns executive VP Sashi Brown and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta touched on what they and the team could learn from the two-year experience with Manziel.

"Big question," Brown said. "You got a lot of different directions [you could go]. I'm not sure how much I want to look backwards, but to your point about what you take from every experience is how we can make better decisions, how to make sure that we stay on plan and strategy."

He added that it's important not to get caught up in emotions, to stick with the on-paper and eye-test analysis. Focus on what's important before making decisions, then follow through.

"I think it's a combination of things, certainly what Sashi's talking about in terms of what you value when you're making decisions," DePodesta said. "And then even once you have players, what can you put in place to make them as good as they can possibly be.

"That said, there's no guarantee that this won't happen again. These are human beings and we have to recognize that. We're still going to make mistakes and there's still going to be things that happen that we don't like, but hopefully we can put some things in place that will help prevent those things from happening.

"Nothing's going to be sure or guaranteed. But it certainly makes you take a step back and reanalyze what you did and why you did it and sort of what you valued at the time."

The reanalysis clearly has led to a particular approach.

That approach did not include Manziel.

It's tough to see how it includes Gordon.

videoThe Cleveland Browns wound up with 14 players in the NFL draft. They also wound up with a laundry list of achievements and accomplishments that would make Wikipedia check twice.

In their 14 players, the Browns drafted six consensus All-Americas, eight players who made first team in their conference, three who won national awards, five who were the player of the year offensively or defensively in their conference, two who led the nation in a particular category, five who set school records, and three who were a team MVP.

The Browns called it coincidence.

"I wasn't really aware of big-time awards until people started taking about it on TV ... " director of strategy Paul DePodesta said. "We are certainly happy that those are some of the accomplishments that those guys had in the past, but ultimately that is not a great predictor of what they are going to do at this level."

Browns' Cody Kessler, left to right, Shon Coleman, Carl Nassib, Emmanuel Ogbah and Corey Coleman AP Photo/Tony DejakThe Browns introduce top picks Cody Kessler, left to right, Shon Coleman, Carl Nassib, Emmanuel Ogbah and Corey Coleman.

Jimmy Johnson would disagree, politely of course. Johnson always said that production in college was the best predictor of production in the NFL. That's why he felt comfortable taking an undersized inside linebacker in Zach Thomas. Thomas wound up an outstanding NFL player.

It's also why Johnson traded up for Emmitt Smith when many teams thought he was too small or too slow. Johnson looked at Smith's college production and wound up with the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

Even if it's a coincidence, the Browns seem to have followed Johnson's blueprint.

First-round pick Corey Coleman was an All-America, first team Big 12 and the winner of the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top receiver.

Coleman led the nation in receiving touchdowns. DL Carl Nassib led the nation in sacks. DL Emmanuel Ogbah was the MVP at Oklahoma State and the Big 12 defensive lineman of the year, linebacker Joe Shobert the MVP at Wisconsin. Nassib was the defensive MVP at Penn State.

Coleman set a school record with 33 receiving touchdowns, Nassib a single season Penn State record with 15.5 sacks, quarterback Cody Kessler a USC record for completion percentage (67.5), WR Jordan Payton a UCLA record for receptions (201) and WR Rashard Higgins set Colorado State records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Seventh-round pick Scooby Wright's 2015 season was limited by injury. But in '14 Wright earned All-America and first-team All-Pac-12 honors; he was also the Pac-12 defensive player of the year and won the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award.

DePodesta said the front office joked when it heard people on TV talking about the accomplishments of the draftees.

"I was like, 'What? did they want us to take guys who weren't productive in college? Would that have been better?'" he said.

But the list of achievements becomes more impressive when the background of the players is factored in.

Nassib and Schobert arrived as walk-ons. Ogbah grew up in Nigeria playing soccer and moved with his family to the United States when he was nine. Offensive lineman Shon Coleman is a cancer survivor. Kessler always heard he was too small and had too weak an arm. And safety Derrick Kindred played his final season with a broken collarbone.

"I can't tell you that it was conscious election to hit a certain number of players who have overcome some pretty significant obstacle in their lives, but this is a tough sport and you need tough men to play it," VP of football operations Sashi Brown said.

The Browns have long talked about changing the losing culture in the locker room. Given how deeply it's ingrained, it's not an easy challenge.

These 14 players at least know what it means to work for something, what it means to overcome odds and challenges.

The Browns introduced the top five picks together, seated side by side at a podium. At one point, they were asked who believed the Browns could go to the playoffs in the next couple years. The players did not look at each other; they merely raised their hands one at a time until all five were in the air.

It's a moment that could be considered trite and meaningless without results, but somehow those five raised hands indicated belief and confidence that did not push cockiness.

"I truly believe that this class will start to put a stamp on what we are truly about and what we are becoming," coach Hue Jackson said. "We're not there yet by any stretch of the imagination. We have a long way to go. But you have to start someplace. I think this where we are starting."

The Cleveland Browns more or less ignored the wide-receiver position in the draft during the Ray Farmer era.

That course has been reversed under Sashi Brown and Andrew Berry.

The Browns took four receivers in the 2016 draft, as many as they selected from 2011-2015 (counting Josh Gordon as a supplementary pick).

If you count Seth DeValve, Cleveland actually took five receivers in this year's draft. DeValve played both tight end and receiver at Princeton, but the Browns list him as a tight end. He joins Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins as the new Browns pass-catchers.

"I wanted to get some bigger targets on our football team, but I'm also very happy with the group we had," coach Hue Jackson said. "I think you can never have too much talent or competition at that position because I think it helps improve your quarterback position. ... You have to have targets for him to throw at, and we have accomplished that in this draft."

Jackson said he wanted guys who could score, and in Coleman he has the nation's leader in receiving touchdowns in 2015. Similarly, Coleman and Higgins led their respective schools (Baylor and Colorado State) in receiving touchdowns.

Corey ColemanAP Photo/Tony DejakWith first-rounder Corey Coleman leading the way, the Browns took as many receivers in 2015 as they did in the five previous drafts combined.

"You have to score touchdowns and you have to put yourself in position to score touchdowns," Jackson said. "You need to have players that give you the flexibility to do that from a lot of different areas, from a lot of different places, whether it is from air or from land.

"I think we have accomplished that from this draft to go along with the guys we already have here."

The Browns have seven experienced receivers on the roster. Taylor Gabriel, Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins have the most cachet with the team.

Gabriel saw his catches drop from 36 in his rookie season to 28 in his second season, but the biggest drop was the number of times he was targeted: That number went down from 72 to 48. His yards per reception also plummeted -- from 17.3 in 2014 to 8.6 last season.

Hartline, meanwhile, had a strong finish after a slow start to the 2015 season. Some 34 of his 46 receptions came in the final five games he played before his season ended Dec. 13 when he broke his collarbone.

Hawkins' catches went from 63 in 2014 to 27 in 2015, and he ended the '15 season sidelined with his second concussion.

Former quarterback Terrelle Pryor continues to try to latch on at wideout. The Browns cut him after camp last season, re-signed him late in the season and then signed him to a new deal in the offseason. Jackson seems enchanted with Pryor's capabilities, and he looked good in the voluntary veteran minicamp, though that is a long way from the regular season.

Marlon Moore is one of coach Chris Tabor's favorite special-teams players, but with a new staff, that kind of carryover might not mean much. The final two fighting for a roster spot are Rannell Hall and Darius Jennings.

Barring a Vince Mayle-like performance, all the rookies have a good chance of making the team. It's possible three make the roster and one goes to the practice squad.

Coleman is a given by virtue of his status as a first-round pick and his talent.

Of the remaining three, Louis is the highest pick, but he also needs the most work. Payton and Higgins are more polished receivers who put up big numbers in college.

What could the final group look like? (It depends on whether the Browns keep six or seven receivers; eight is usually too large a group.

Two of the three among Hartline, Hawkins and Gabriel should make the team. Pryor seems to have caught the eye of the new coach, who loves to deploy players in unique spots. He could be an extra "receiver" who is used in creative ways. If three of the rookies make the roster, that makes a group of six. If all four make it, that's seven.

The competition will be tough for Moore, Hall and Jennings, but Jackson has said he will let it play out and see who's best.

Seventh-round draft picks often glide in and out of sight quickly.

But for some reason, it feels like Scooby Wright III, the Cleveland Browns' seventh-round pick, might be hard to miss.

Wright leaped sideways into a pool after he was drafted, and the video went viral in a hurry. But Wright seems far more substantive than some silly video provides.

The Browns might have snatched a potential steal in the seventh round.

Wright played just three games for Arizona in 2015 after tearing a meniscus in his left knee and spraining his right foot. But his performance in the New Mexico Bowl was indicative of how he had played in the past. Wright returned from the injuries and had 15 tackles, 3 1/2 for loss, and two sacks even though he was not 100 percent.

At 6-foot and 239 pounds, he might be considered undersized.

But when he played, he was productive in impressive ways.

As a sophomore in 2014, Wright was one of the best players in the country. He was a unanimous All-America and the Pac-12 defensive player of the year. He finished the season with 163 tackles, 29 for a loss. He also had 14 sacks and forced six fumbles.

That came after he started 12 games as a freshman.

Yes, the comparisons to Miami Dolphins standout Zach Thomas have already been heard.

Wright was four players away from being Mr. Irrelevant but made himself known with his leap into the pool. That's only part of Wright's flamboyance. He paints his face for games, and his Twitter handle is @TwoStarScoob because he was a two-star recruit out of high school.

Will Wright make it?

He was projected as a third-to-fifth-round pick and was drafted in the seventh.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told that he was on the phone with Wright as the draft wound down "begging him to come with us as a free agent."

"Because I think he has something special about him," Arians said.

Players last until the seventh round for a reason, but when it comes to taking a chance with a late-round pick, the Browns seem to have done well with Wright.

The Cleveland Browns will not pick up the fifth-year contract option on linebacker Barkevious Mingo.

It's really not a surprise.

That option would have cost the Browns $11.9 million in guaranteed money to keep Mingo through the 2017 season.

The only two outside linebackers this season who will make more than $11.9 million in base salary are Kansas City's Justin Houston and Denver's Von Miller. Mingo is not near that level of player.

Barkevious MingoAaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesThe highlights have been few and far between for Browns LB Barkevious Mingo.

Mingo will be a free agent after this season.

Since being the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Mingo has been a disappointment. Drafted to be a pass-rusher, he has seven sacks in three seasons -- and he had none in 2015.

His numbers his first three seasons: 70 tackles, seven sacks and one interception. In 2014, he played with a painful shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.

Mingo played his first three seasons at between 235 and 245 pounds. His agent told that he ended 2015 at 227.

This offseason, he reported he was "bigger, stronger, faster." But he would not confirm one report that said he was up to 265 pounds.("It's not important," he said of the exact number.

The previous coaching staff wanted Mingo to be lighter so he could be used more in coverage. But defensive coordinator Ray Horton will let Mingo rush the passer more, thus the weight gain.

Mingo is still playing on potential, though, which makes it tough to swallow a salary of almost $12 million in 2017.

There was one clear winner in the Cleveland Browns' three-day draft of 14 college players, and that was Robert Griffin III.

Never has it been more evident that the 2016 season belongs to Griffin, that the quarterback job is his to lose, and that the Browns will rise and/or fall with Griffin at the helm.

That truth became evident when the Browns traded out of the second spot in the draft to move down to No. 8. Goodbye, second-pick quarterback. It became more evident when the Browns did not trade up to late in the first round to take another quarterback. Goodbye, second-tier quarterback. And it was driven home with a sledgehammer when the Browns took their quarterback in the third round and the quarterback was Cody Kessler. Hello, RG III.

Kessler is widely viewed as a backup -- far more Colt McCoy than Ben Roethlisberger. ESPN's Kevin Seifert offered that the Browns had found their "backup of the future" before they had their long-term starter. Kessler, of course, could prove people wrong and work his way into a starting spot, but that doesn't figure to happen in training camp his rookie season.

The Browns insist that nothing about the opening-game starter is written in pencil, much less etched in stone. Vice president of football operations Sashi Brown even offered that he would "not sleep on" Kessler.

"The best quarterback for us is going to start -- period," Brown said. "I don't think there is a need to compare contracts or longevity in the league or anything like that. We'll roll the ball out and see who's the best at throwing it."

Brown isn't being disingenuous. There are enough questions about Griffin, as he comes off not playing a down in 2015, to challenge him. Griffin lost his job in Washington with poor play, and Kirk Cousins retained it with good play. Even so, it would take a pretty serious stumble on Griffin's part for him to lose this job.

A team can't prepare five guys to start, and there will be a pecking order for practice. Griffin figures to be at the top of that order. He has the full affection of coach Hue Jackson, who was behind Griffin's signing, and he has a $15 million commitment from the Browns for the next two seasons.

"Robert understands -- and we had extensive conversations with him throughout the process when we had him in for a visit and prior to signing him -- about where he is in his career," Brown said. "I think he's very realistic about that. He's very serious about competing.

"We look forward to giving him an opportunity to do that here. There is no reason he can't, but this is going to be a competition. We would not have made the investment we made in him if we didn't feel like he was capable of being our starter."

Brown said the team wished all its quarterbacks the best. The Browns have five, and Brown said there are no short-term plans to reduce that number. The most likely three to make the team are Griffin, Josh McCown and Kessler. The only two virtually certain to make the team are Griffin and Kessler.

Connor Shaw and Austin Davis might prefer an early release so they can catch on with another team. McCown is in a weird limbo as he waits to see what will happen; the team could keep him as veteran insurance.

But sharing reps and running quarterback competitions has been completely counterproductive for the Browns in the past. One guy has to come out of the spring as the starter and take the starter's reps in training camp.

The job is in Griffin's hands. All he has to do is hold onto it.

Here is a wrap-up look at the Cleveland Browns' draft.

Best move: The Browns no longer ignore the receiver spot. They not only took a receiver in the first round (Corey Coleman) but also took three more as the draft went on. Ricardo Louis came in the fourth round and Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins in the fifth. This does not seem to bode well for the possible return of Josh Gordon and seems to bring some serious competition at the position. Coleman is a talent who seems guaranteed a spot by virtue of his first-round status. Louis has speed, but Payton and Higgins both had better numbers. This group will be interesting to watch come training camp.

Riskiest move: There were two intertwined moves that came well before draft weekend. The first was the Browns' signing of quarterback Robert Griffin III, and the second was when they traded the second pick in the draft. That meant the team was giving up on drafting Carson Wentz and turning to Griffin to be the quarterback. There is a strong feeling around the league that if you have a chance at a franchise quarterback, you have to take the shot. The Browns, however, chose to pass up that chance, amass numbers of picks and rely on Griffin. It's an iffy proposition, but that's how the Browns will go in 2016.

Most surprising move: The Browns knew they needed to add a quarterback; the question was which one it would be. Connor Cook ... Paxton Lynch ... Dak Prescott ... all were mentioned. But when it came time to take a quarterback, Hue Jackson turned to Cody Kessler of USC. Jackson said Kessler has everything a team wants, which is good. But the pre-draft scuttlebutt had Kessler as a guy who could not get the ball downfield with consistent success. Kessler is a confident guy, and Jackson believes in him. He was very accurate in college, and he made quick reads and decisions. It could work. But not many expected Kessler to be the quarterback the Browns selected. The Browns head to 2016 with Griffin, Josh McCown and Kessler as their top three QBs.

File it away: A receiver who can make tough catches and doesn't drop the ball has not been a common sight in Cleveland, especially among draft picks (think Quincy Morgan, Greg Little and Vince Mayle). But Payton comes out of UCLA having dropped only 4 percent of the catchable throws sent his way, according to ProFootballFocus. Payton had the surest hands in the draft, and he had 2,060 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final two seasons. He might not have the blazing speed of Louis (the team's fourth-round pick), but he is a much more polished receiver coming out of college.

Thumbs-up or thumbs-down: Thumbs-up but barely. It's tough to gush over the Browns' draft picks, but they had a ton of them -- and they added players at many positions. A team with many needs made five trades and ended up with 14 picks and a cornerback acquired via trade (Jamar Taylor). That's a serious infusion of players to a roster that needs them. The marquee pick, obviously, is Coleman, but receivers Payton and Higgins were very productive at UCLA and Colorado State, respectively. College production was a theme of this draft, as was quality of character. It's tough to say the Browns are appreciably better than they were three days ago, but they have 15 new players to throw in the mix. For that alone, the draft turned out

The 14th pick in the Cleveland Browns' draft is the second linebacker: Scooby Wright III of Arizona. The 14 picks were the most in the draft by any team -- and the Browns added a 15th via trade. Wright is 6-foot-1 and a stout 246 pounds, making him a physical presence inside.

My take: Wright played only three games in 2015 due to a torn meniscus in his knee, which is a concern. But at this point of the draft, after 13 picks and a cornerback acquired via trade, the Browns are wise to take a chance. If they see something they believe in, they made the smart move by drafting Wright.