BEREA, Ohio — Three minutes into the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns were on the clock, and Hue Jackson was on the move. Jackson, the Browns‘ second-year coach, anxiously paced around the War Room on the second floor of the team’s training facility Thursday night as the organization’s chief powerbrokers, owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam and executive vice president Sashi Brown, prepared to formalize the selection of Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick.
Even though the team’s intention to choose Garrett had been reinforced to Jackson earlier that day, he still had some nervous energy to burn. Coming off a miserable 1-15 season, Jackson — like virtually every respected NFL coach and talent evaluator — regarded Garrett as the best player in the draft, and he wanted him badly to be a member of the Browns, preferably as soon as possible.
“Once I knew the draft was gonna start, I was feeling good — but you still never know till you do it,” Jackson said early Friday morning as he prepared to leave the facility for a few hours of sleep at his nearby condominium. “You just want to get it going. You just want to get him on your team as fast as you can. So yeah, it was like, ‘Let’s go!'”
If Jackson’s draft experience started with a bang, he emerged from the war room following Thursday’s first round with an exhausted sigh, with the Browns having taken their fans through the gamut of emotions while landing three potential impact starters — and securing an extra first-round selection for 2018. The rollercoaster ride included Cleveland trading down from 12th to 25th overall with the Houston Texans, ultimately selecting Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers in that spot, and then trading back up from the top of the second round (33rd overall) to nab Miami tight end David Njoku with the 29th overall pick.
When all was said and done, the Browns still had plenty of work to do, with two picks on the board for Friday’s second night of the draft — in the second (52nd overall) and third (65th overall) rounds — and seven remaining overall. And, to the chagrin of many of their increasingly impatient fans, they still had a roster devoid of an obvious answer at quarterback, a situation Jackson and Brown vow to remedy before the start of the 2017 campaign.
“It’s not just about the quarterback,” Jackson insisted early Friday morning. “I know everyone wants to view it that way, but we have a lot of holes to fill. You can’t force something and make a bad decision. We’ll keep exploring our options, and we’ll look at everything.”
To that end, the Browns had debated the idea of drafting North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky first overall, ultimately opting for Garrett. Then they contemplated a dream scenario in which they could come away with both players: According to Brown, they contacted every team in the Top 11 in the weeks leading up to the draft to gauge the possibility of moving up from 12, but when Trubisky went off the board earlier than expected (he went second, to the Bears, who moved up a spot by trading with the 49ers), that plan was scuttled.
Another quarterback Jackson liked, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, was scooped up 10th overall by the Chiefs, following a trade with the Bills. And a third highly regarded passer, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, was there with the Browns on the clock at 12, but Brown elected instead to do the deal with the Texans, who took Watson with the pick.
So Thursday ended with the Browns pondering a quarterback competition between Brock Osweiler, acquired in a March trade with the Texans following a disappointing season in Houston, and second-year holdovers Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan. Their options for adding to that mix include targeting someone in the remainder of this draft, such as Cal’s Davis Webb, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer or Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs; signing a current free agent like Colin Kaepernick or Jay Cutler; or attempting to trade for a passer, with the Bengals‘ AJ McCarron, and the Patriots‘ Jimmy Garoppolo among the possibilities.
In the meantime, Jackson put his head on the pillow early Friday morning content that the Browns had gotten better — and landed a potential star in Garrett, whose ability to harass opposing quarterbacks could inject the Browns‘ defense with some much-needed punch.
“We feel like Myles is special,” Jackson said. “But we’ve got a long way to go.”
In other words, Jackson hopes the Browns are on the move — just like he was before Garrett came off the board.
Follow Michael Silver on Twitter @mikesilver.