The Browns finally addressed their glaring need at quarterback Friday night in the NFL Draft by picking Southern California’s Cody Kessler late in the third round at No. 93 overall.
The 6-foot-1 1/4 , 220-pound Kessler went 27-14 in three seasons as a starter and had four head coaches in five years. He completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 88 touchdowns with 19 interceptions.
Browns coach Hue Jackson has told reclamation-project quarterback and presumptive 2016 bridge starter Robert Griffin III to be prepared to compete with a rookie in training camp. But it would be surprising if Kessler became a serious threat to win the starting job out of the gate. The Browns signed Griffin, the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2012 whose downfall resulted in him not playing last season in Washington, last month to a two-year, $15 million contract.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, a Walsh Jesuit High School graduate, and Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones were available when the Browns picked Kessler, a two-time captain at USC. Cook and Jones still haven’t been drafted.
Kessler was the sixth quarterback selected this year. California’s Jared Goff (No. 1 overall, Los Angeles Rams), North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz (No. 2, Philadelphia Eagles), Memphis’ Paxton Lynch (No. 26, Denver Broncos) were taken in the first round. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg (No. 51, second round, New York Jets) and North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett (No. 91, third round, New England Patriots) also were off the board before the Browns picked Kessler.
The Browns traded down from earlier in the third round (No. 77 overall) to No. 93 in a deal with the Carolina Panthers. Then they used No. 93, their third pick of the third round, on Kessler.
NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler did not give Kessler a draftable grade. Analyst Nolan Nawrocki assigned him a fifth-or sixth-round grade and described him as a player with “quality backup potential in the pros.”
Slight motivates Nassib
Scorn can be a powerful motivator — it was for former Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib.
The Browns chose the 6-foot-6, 277-pound defensive end with their first pick in the third round, the 65th choice overall.
Nassib didn’t walk into Happy Valley a football golden child. He joined the team as a preferred walk-on. In other words, he had to earn his scholarship after his arrival. It was no picnic when then-coach Bill O’Brien told him to forget his dreams of pro football glory.
“You could see that he had good instincts,” O’Brien told a Houston TV station last year. “He came in and I basically questioned, this is how smart I am, questioned how important football was to him. He said to me, ‘Football is really important to me. I’m going to play pro football.’ I said to him, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re going to play pro football? You need to be concerned about playing at Penn State, forget about pro football.’ He proved me wrong.”
Nassib took the criticism in stride.
“I always had dreams of playing in the NFL as long as I can remember,” he said after the Browns selected him Friday evening. “A lot of people didn’t agree with that, but that never deterred me from my dream. Bill O’Brien told me what he thought. I just kept working my hardest and never let that faze me.”
Nassib won the Lombardi Award, the Ted Hendricks Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy in his final year as a Nittany Lion.
He also has experience dropping back into coverage, but is unsure where the Browns want him to play.
“We haven’t decided that, but wherever they need me, that’s where I will play,” he said. “ I’m just so, so excited to be in Cleveland.”
With their second pick in the third round, the 76th overall, the Browns chose Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman.
The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Coleman survived leukemia, which was diagnosed in the spring of 2010, to realize his football dreams. Coleman will be a 25-year-old rookie in the NFL. He was a second-team, all-SEC selection in his final season with the Tigers.
Adding some jets
The Browns’ first two picks in the NFL Draft share a commonality — speed. Browns coach Hue Jackson said that was by design.
They selected wide receiver Corey Coleman, who runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, and on the defensive side of the ball, they added defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah who clocks in at 4.63 in the 40.
“This is something that’s been very important to us,” Jackson said. “We want to impact our team with more speed and with more play-making ability, and I think we all recognize in order to do that in the National Football League, you can do that a couple of ways. One is with power and the other one is with speed. We were able to get two players thus far that have both.”