Browns explain why they drafted Denzel Ward ahead of Bradley Chubb at No. 4

What would an NFL draft be without some angst about the Cleveland Browns’ picks?

A lot of people didn’t like the Baker Mayfield pick, but the NFL seemed to like it. It seems, in a lot of the post-draft reporting, that many NFL teams were high on Mayfield. That pick was fine; the Browns preferred Mayfield over the other quarterbacks and that’s justifiable.

There are more layers to the other first-round pick the Browns have been criticized for, which came three selections later.

At No. 4, it seemed the Browns would take pass rusher Bradley Chubb. They took Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward instead. Why take a 5-11, 183-pound cornerback over a sure-thing pass rusher?

[Check out the draft grades for all 32 NFL teams here.]

Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns general manager John Dorsey had Chubb and Ward graded equally. The tiebreaker came down to the Browns feeling their current pass rushers couldn’t be effective because the cornerbacks they had weren’t good enough. That’s why Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told Dorsey that he preferred Ward.

“I’ve got a video of 28 snaps of Myles Garrett pass-rushes last year where he gets within two steps or less of the quarterback when the ball comes out,” Williams told The MMQB, via Cabot. “Basically, we aren’t covering long enough to let him get to the quarterback. Myles and others — especially [defensive end] Emmanuel Ogbah — will get more chances because of Denzel.”

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That makes sense. The NFL is about making pieces fit together, not just collecting good players. The blowback on the Ward pick is a little strange, too. Some have said the Browns could have traded back, but the Indianapolis Colts at No. 6 (and perhaps even the Denver Broncos at No. 5) had a significant cornerback need. There was zero guarantee the Browns could have traded back and still got Ward. Ward was the top cornerback in the draft (Williams said Ward “probably plays that position [press cornerback] as well as anyone I’ve seen in college football in some time”) and he was likely going in the top 10. The Browns just thought one top-10 player fit their overall plan better than another top-10 player. 

That’s part of what makes the NFL draft great. It’s easy to pick apart, analyze and criticize. And the debate lasts for years as we see how the various picks turn out. In the case of the Browns’ pick of Ward, it will be watched a little more closely than most.

Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick Denzel Ward answers a question during a news conference after he was selected. (AP)
Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick Denzel Ward answers a question during a news conference after he was selected. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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