You can understand why Browns fans would be skeptical. They're quite familiar with the team's inability to evaluate and identify talent at the quarterback position, a sad reality reinforced every time out-of-work former first-round pick Johnny Manziel's name comes up.
But two years after the Browns selected Manziel 22nd overall -- and less than two months after they cut ties with him altogether -- they again drafted quarterback, this time in Round 3: USC's Cody Kessler, who will join Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown and Connor Shaw on Cleveland's depth chart.
Cody Kessler: Grade: D. This must be the Hue Jackson USC connection. RGIII is safe— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) April 30, 2016
Kessler was rarely mentioned in the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, primarily because the conversation was dominated by Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and to a lesser degree, Paxton Lynch. In fact, NFLDraftScout.com ranked Kessler as the 13th-best prospect, though he was drafted ahead of Connor Cook, Dak Prescott and Cardale Jones.
And if your knee-jerk reaction is that this is just the Browns being the Browns, new coach Hue Jackson would like a word.
“He almost completed 68 percent of his passes," Jackson, who has a history of getting the most out of young quarterbacks, said via the team's website. "The guy has had a tremendous career. I understand where everybody is coming from, but you’ve got to trust me on this one. This is a guy that we feel very comfortable with, and we think he’s going to have an opportunity to ascend.”
So comfortable, in fact, that the Browns were willing to trade out of the No. 2 slot, where they could have had Wentz, and instead hoard picks to restock a roster in desperate need of depth and talent.
But the Browns' have a spotty track record when it comes to taking quarterbacks early: Remember Brandon Weeden, a 2012 first-rounder, was coveted for having a strong arm. When the Browns cut bait after two seasons, Weeden had completed just 56 percent of his throws and averaged 6.5 yards per attempt. Wessler might not have a cannon, but he is accurate. In addition to a 67.5 completion percentage, he also threw for 3,536 yards, 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions during the 2015 season.
"Accuracy (is what I'm looking for),'' Jackson continued. "He has pinpoint accuracy. He can throw the ball straight to the guy he's throwing it to, and if you can't, you can't play in the NFL. ... He's everything you look for in a quarterback. We're bringing him in for a reason -- because he has the characteristics we're looking for. Let's give him an opportunity to compete. Hopefully he'll ascend up the ladder.''
And if he doesn't, the Browns can always draft another quarterback.