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2020 NFL Draft

Experience, durability a common theme with Browns draft picks

In the 2015 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns were looking for versatile and productive college players whose passion for the sport was evident in conversations.

In analyzing all 12 of Cleveland's picks, the club also appeared to treasure other undervalued, crucial football traits: durability and experience.

General manager Ray Farmer and his scouting staff did their due diligence in adding players to the Browns' roster who proved they were not only solid players, but also rarely left the field.  

It starts with defensive lineman Danny Shelton, who started 39 consecutive games at Washington, even while battling a shoulder injury throughout the 2013 season. During the pre-draft process, a narrative was created by pundits that the 339-pound Shelton might be only a two-down player in the NFL.

That's not how the Browns see it.

"I think he can play on third down. He did have nine sacks," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "If he is not getting production, he is causing production."

Fellow first round pick Cameron Erving's stability as a football player might be even more impressive.

After his freshman season was spent as a defensive lineman, Erving converted to the offensive side of the ball, won a positional battle at left tackle and started the next 37 games at the position. Erving was considered the anchor of a Florida State offensive line that was a backbone for the 2013 national championship team and was a regular on the All-ACC team.

But when the Seminoles needed him most was last season. Florida State's offensive production had tapered off because of inconsistencies running the football up the gut. The team asked Erving if he would switch to center for the last five games. He did, and Farmer said he looked like an "All-Pro" doing so, while also demonstrating leadership.

"I have always been the type of person to do what was best for the team," Erving said. "I got older and matured and realized that it was for the betterment of the team and myself."

The list goes on and on.

Second-round pick Nate Orchard started 36 of his 37 final games at defensive end and was the team captain, finishing the 2014 season with an astounding 18.5 sacks. Third-round pick Xavier Cooper started nine of 11 games as a redshirt freshman and never looked back. The Washington State defensive tackle registered 10 sacks in 25 straight starts during his sophomore and junior seasons.

Safety Ibraheim Campbell, a fourth-round pick from Northwestern, was a four-year starter and team captain who finished his college career with 11 interceptions, which ranked second in school history. Sixth-round pick Malcolm Johnson was also a four-year starter at Mississippi State – and a multi-purpose one. Johnson saw starts at tight end, wide receiver and fullback.

"We've got guys in here that will compete and play relentless, chase the ball on defense and be aggressive on offense," Farmer said. "I'd say the core of football is about imposing your will on your opponent, and we're going to try to do those things."

Perhaps the two most decorated college players the Browns selected were their seventh round picks.

Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was a first-team, All-Pac-12 selection for three straight seasons – and a projected second-round pick –before a December knee injury clouded his situation. He started 39 straight games before sustaining the injury.

USC linebacker Hayes Pullard started all four seasons, leading the Trojans in tackles in three campaigns while playing in three different defenses – 4-3, 3-4 and a 5-2.

Cleveland communicated to most of these players how much they respected their college production and stability on the field. 

"That's why I'm so excited to be part of the Dawg Pound defense," Pullard said. "They're physical, they're quick, they're fast and they have that passion to play every week. They are there to show up for their fans and play for their fans. That's something we cherished at USC and I'm looking forward to bring that over to the NFL."

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