When the Browns picked Baker Mayfield over Sam Darnold, it was a big surprise to many of the analysts and fans watching the draft, but what may have been more surprising was when they selected Ohio State CB Denzel Ward at 4. The Browns brought in multiple DBs in the offseason before the draft, including new FS Damarious Randle, as well as CBs T.J Carrie, Terrance Mitchell, and E.J Gaines, and many thought that the DB group had been solidified. We’re going to go over all the different factors in detail to explain why Ward was the best fit for Cleveland.
How Large was the Opportunity Cost?
The difficult part about having a high draft selection, is that no matter what you’re passing on many talented athletes to make your selection. Even if you secure a decent starter, you might be leaving behind an all-pro player for someone else to pick. Therefore when you go against the grain and choose someone that doesn’t fit the narrative of the media, it’s. Viewed as a wasted pick. Let’s examine what the Browns gave up by choosing Ward.
Bradley Chubb - Chubb was the expected pick if he was available at 4. Fans and analysts imagined pairing him with last year’s #1 pick Myles Garrett and wrecking AFC North QBs for years to come. Chubb is an amazing prospect, but in order to play him the browns would have to bench their 2016 32nd overall pick Emmanuel Ogbah, which would be a huge waste in value. Ogbah has improved since his rookie year, and secured 4 sacks in 10 games last year, and should improve if he can play alongside Garrett for a full season. While Chubb would be an upgrade over Ogbah, the difference between them is not worth the 4th overall pick.
Trade Down - If Chubb wasn’t a good value for Cleveland, you can make the argument that the Browns could have traded down and secured Ward with a later pick, but let’s see how possible that would have been. At 5, the Broncos appeared to be locked into Chubb, Darnold, or a trade down, so they don’t have any incentive trading up to 4 if the Browns were not selecting Chubb. At 6, The Colts appear to be happy with their defensive line as far as starters go, and probably weren’t going to give up a reasonable amount of assets to move to 6. At 7 Tampa Bay clearly wanted to move back, at 8 the Bears would have been the best bet to move up, but moving from 8 to 4 might have been too much for Chicago to pay. Roquan Smith ended up being an excellent pick for them, and I think given the choice Chicago would have rather stayed at 8 if they knew Roquan was available. I think trading down any further the Browns would have risked losing Ward.
The Browns may have reached a little for Ward, but they also secured an elite boundary corner that should solidify their defense for years to come. Ward has elite physical abilities, and his 44” vertical more than makes up for his slightly shorter height. Browns fans got a great player here, and won’t be missing Chubb once the season starts.