Freddie Kitchens emerged from the Browns’ draft room looking like a wide-eyed rookie.
Things had been moving pretty quickly for Cleveland’s first-year coach, who seemed a little dazed after spending three whirlwind days observing general manager John Dorsey and his staff relentlessly work the phones with other NFL front-office executives while selecting seven new players.
“It was very intriguing and exciting,” Kitchens said Saturday.
And, for once, not distressing.
The Browns didn’t have any glaring holes to fill this year. They found their franchise quarterback, Baker Mayfield, a year ago and Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, appears to be the coveted game-changing edge rusher. Cleveland’s got star power in wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and there are enough talented pieces that they’ve become a fashionable pick.
The expectations are sky high. In some corners, Super Bowl high.
But Kitchens isn’t ready to stamp his team a contender, never mind a champion.
“This time of year, everybody wants to talk about the roster and wants to crown somebody,” Kitchens said, his Alabama accent dripping on words. “All of this is good, but this is not going to win us any games. This is not even going to win us a quarter. It is not going to do anything for us but set us up for failure if we don’t have our head on straight and we are ready to play football because the games are going to be won and lost in September.
“All of this other stuff is fluff. It is just things for people to talk about in April and May. You are going to have a different narrative come September, and that is when we want to control the narrative, not in April or May.”
With an eye on getting tougher, the Browns picked five defensive players — two cornerbacks, two linebackers and a safety — along with a kicker and an offensive tackle.
But, above all, Kitchens said the team wanted committed players.
“We added guys that enjoy the game of football, enjoy practicing football, enjoy playing football, enjoy competing on a day-in and day-out basis,” he said. “That is where I think we have made the biggest strides.”
Some other highlights from Cleveland’s second draft under Dorsey:
WHO THEY GOT
CB Greedy Williams (second round, LSU), LB Sione Takitaki (third round, BYU), CB Sheldrick Redwine (fourth round, Miami), LB Mack Wilson (fifth round, Alabama), K Austin Seibert (fifth round, Oklahoma), T Drew Forbes (sixth round, Southeast Missouri State), CB Donnie Lewis Jr. (seventh round, Tulane).
Staying put. The story line entering the draft was whether Dorsey, who had made 17 trades since coming to Cleveland in 2017, would move into the first round after dealing the No. 17 overall pick to the New York Giants in the Beckham swap. He targeted three players but found the asking price was too high for his taste. Dorsey did jump three spots in the second round to acquire Williams, considered one of the SEC’s best pass defenders.
It was mildly surprising the Browns hung on to running back Duke Johnson, who asked to be traded shortly after the team signed free agent Kareem Hunt. But Johnson remains in Cleveland — for now — and Dorsey doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to part with Johnson unless he’s overwhelmed by an offer.
HOW THEY DID
Defense dominated as the Browns added depth and potential special teamers. They never imagined Williams would still be around in the second round, and the team was equally pleased when Wilson, rated a first-rounder by numerous draft experts, dropped.
Wilson, who had 71 tackles for the Crimson Tide last season, intends to make teams regret passing on him.
“I just want to show that in this draft I was the best linebacker,” he said. “There were 31 teams that slipped up on me, and somebody is going to have to feel all the pain that I had built up these past few days.”
Johnson’s status will remain a topic of conservation while Hunt gets integrated. Hunt will serve an eight-game NFL suspension for two physical altercations before he’s eligible to play, but the Browns have been pleased with his progress.
“He is doing great,” Kitchens said of Hunt, who was on the field this week for the first time with Cleveland. “He is doing everything we are asking him to do, exceeding expectations from the standpoint of how he is in the building, how he is around the players, and how he is on the field.
“He is doing things in the community, he is continuing to work on an everyday basis, and he is not taking any days off from the standpoint of becoming a better person, a better player, and I think everybody is going to see the benefits of that.”