Chad O'Shea knew Anthony Schwartz was a special player before he spoke with him for the first time in a pre-draft Zoom meeting.
Anyone who watched the tape on Schwartz, a receiver from Auburn, could pinpoint his best trait within seconds: speed. He was capable of burning defensive backs on deep balls and racing around defenders without the need of a juke move. No player on the field was faster than him.
But when O'Shea, the Browns' pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach, met with Schwartz to discuss his tape and test him on his playbook knowledge, he knew his game could extend far beyond the occasional deep ball that pairs well with speedy athletes.
"We visit with them, we watch their tape and we have them try to communicate exactly what they did," O'Shea said about the process in a recent interview on Best Podcast Available. "And then we teach them, just like we would on Day 1 of rookie minicamp. At the end, we do a test and see how they did on the information we taught them.
"He was definitely very impressive on the testing and his ability to discuss his offense and be very detailed in what he was doing."
That observation has been echoed by every Browns coach when asked about what attracted them most to Schwartz, who was drafted by Cleveland in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Yes, the speed is certainly appealing on its own. Who wouldn't want a football player who also won a gold medal in the 4x100 relay at the IAAF world championships? A 4.25 40-yard dash? That'll draw attention from all NFL scouts, too.
But the Browns believe Schwartz will quickly learn how to use his speed to make plays across any formation and call from the playbook. Fly routes and deep balls are always fun to watch, but if Schwartz can turn curl routes, slants and an occasional screen play into big gains as well, the Browns offense will have a whole new bag of tricks to complement a receivers room that already contains Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and other playmakers who showed promise under coach Kevin Stefanski's playbook last season.
"Anytime you have a player that has this attribute of elite speed, there are so many things that you think, as a coach, that you can do with them," O'Shea said. "One of the things is just get the ball in his hands. We feel like he can come in here, mentally, and we can move around different spots to maximize his speed."
Check out the best photos from 2021 rookie minicamp by the Browns photo team
The Browns are still in the process of figuring out the most efficient ways of doing that. For now, the main goals are to slowly acclimate Schwartz and the rest of the rookie class to the playbook and ensure they're not overloaded with information.
Last weekend was an optimal time to do that. Each rookie received plenty of 1-on-1 time with coaches throughout rookie minicamp, which contained less than half of the usual participants due to COVID-19 protocols. With only 18 players — rather than 40 or more — in meeting rooms and on the practice fields, O'Shea spent hours of personal time coaching Schwartz.
"It's going to be a very different environment than what we've been used to in the past because of not having the numbers," O'Shea said. "We can spend so much time with him individually, and it's going to be a great benefit to him and us. We can devote all our time toward the guys that we're looking to try to get to contribute to our offense this year."
The real fun should begin in training camp. That's when the Browns will put Schwartz's speed to the test against the top players from their secondary, and that's when they'll find out just how far he can stretch a defense.
With Schwartz's mix of speed and intelligence, the Browns believe that shouldn't be too tall of a task.
"He's young. He's smart. He's got a rare trait of elite speed," O'Shea said. "Usually when you have that combination, the work to go with it and a good attitude … that culminates to somebody that we can really use in our offense and can be a productive player for us."