Browns' rookie draft class might wind up among team's best ever

Baker Mayfield set an NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes this season. AP Photo/Ron Schwane

The Cleveland Browns might look back on the 2018 draft class as one of their best ever, perhaps even the best. The Browns' draft classes of 1964 (Hall of Famers Paul Warfield and Leroy Kelly) and 1978 (Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome and this year’s semifinalist, Clay Matthews) are generally regarded as the best in franchise history. If this class stays healthy and continues what it started, 2018 could one day be held in the same esteem.

Grade: Near perfection. General manager John Dorsey appears to have nailed his first draft with the Browns.

Best rookie: It’s impossible to go against Baker Mayfield here, but there were three rookie standouts. Mayfield set the record for rookies with 27 touchdown passes and energized a city and fan base. Nick Chubb was six yards short of 1,000 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry despite not starting the first six games of the season. Cornerback Denzel Ward was named to the Pro Bowl for his aggressive shut-down coverage skills. Mayfield will carry the torch, but those three are the heart of one heck of a draft class.

Most improved rookie: Call this a tie. Wide receiver Antonio Callaway arrived with many questions as a fourth-round pick, but his play steadily improved, culminating in one of his best games as a receiver and as a returner in the season finale. Callaway showed he belongs, and he should get even better. Linebacker Genard Avery started the season as a pass-rush specialist but got valuable experience on early downs following the injury to Christian Kirksey. That every-down experience should help Avery improve his overall game.

Jury is still out on ...: Defensive lineman Chad Thomas, who spent most of the season on the inactive list. Thomas plays at a crowded position; the Browns have Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. But a third-round pick is expected to contribute at least situationally. Instead, Thomas was a regular on the inactive list.

Undrafted rookie evaluation: The Browns gave the left tackle job to Desmond Harrison to start the season, but he lost the spot to Greg Robinson after eight games. Harrison has physical tools and good feet for a big (6-foot-6) tackle, but he needs to work on his strength and technique. The Browns want Robinson back, but they will work to bring Harrison along as well.