Road to the Draft: 14+ months of preparation comes down to 3 big days

Fourteen-plus months of work boils down to 72 hours for the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the NFL's franchises. *[



With 11 picks -- five coming in the top 65 -- the Browns will be officially "on the clock" for 68 minutes this weekend. It's a short amount of time to make 11 decisions that will help shape the direction of the franchise but it's made easier, in a sense, by all of the work that goes into the entire draft process.

"We have three days really to reshape our team," Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said Monday. "We have the quantity and quality of picks we need to make a big step forward."

The Browns began the scouting process for the 2017 class before the end of the 2016 draft cycle. Pro Days are not only great opportunities to get a final look at draftable players going through various Combine activities, but also serve as one of the first stages of information gathering on players who will be eligible for the following year's draft class.

After months of scouting and analyzing the hundreds and hundreds of potential draft prospects, Cleveland's player personnel department spends the early winter months discussing players and constructing the team's draft board. Brown said, for the most part, it is set some time in January and February but is "massaged" in the next couple of months leading into the draft.

Brown classified the debate during those sessions as healthy and productive.

"That's the fun part," Brown said. "If we're in there reading a list and everyone agrees 'this is who we should take here and these are the best players,' that's no fun."

A large amount of focus externally, of course, has centered on the Browns' decisions at No. 1 and No. 12. Preparing for those picks, though, is just the tip of the iceberg. It's never more apparent than when the draft comes to a conclusion and teams around the league scramble to sign a handful of promising players who slipped through the cracks.

It's how the Browns landed leading rusher Isaiah Crowell and it's a way they hope to land the next diamond in the rough this coming weekend.

"We don't look at it as pressure. We look at it as opportunity," vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry said. "Obviously we get our first choice of player should we exercise it at the top of the draft, but really we look at the draft in totality as a whole. The draft doesn't end after pick 1. It is fun because there's an element of unknown but certainly once you get to draft day and you're prepared and then you can actually execute and get the players on the roster, that's the most rewarding part of the process."

Take a look at some of the kickers, punters, and long snappers in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

First Five

We've broken down just about everything in this space over the past 10 weeks. That is, except for the specialists. We're not expecting a kicker to go on Day 2 like last year, but here are five specialists who could hear their name called at some point during the draft.

  1. K Zane Gonzalez (Arizona State) - He made 23-of-25 field goals this past season, including 7-of-9 from 50 .
  1. P Austin Rehkow (Idaho) - He handled punting and kicking for the Vandals. He averaged nearly 42 yards per punt and put 26 of 56 inside the 20-yard line.
  1. K Jake Elliott (Memphis) - He was 10-of-12 on kicks from 40 as a senior.
  1. K Conrad Ukropina (Stanford) - He was 22-of-27 as a senior and made both of his attempts from 50 .
  1. P Kenny Allen (Michigan) - He handled both the kicking and punting duties for the Wolverines and projects as a punter in the NFL.

How many days until the draft?


Draft news you might have missed

Small school spotlight

S Xavier Woods (Louisiana Tech) - The Browns are expected to take a few swings on defensive backs throughout the draft, and Woods could be an attractive Day 3 option. He was a four-year producer for the Bulldogs, starting 10 games as a freshman and making the Conference USA first team in each of his final three seasons. Woods racked up 14 interceptions in those final three seasons, including two pick-sixes. According to's Lance Zierlein, Woods (5-11, 197) is limited from a physical standpoint but thrives on his instincts.

Did you know?

The last time the NFL Draft began on an April 27, the Browns selected linebacker Chip Banks with the No. 3 pick. Banks played with the Browns until 1986 and made four Pro Bowls.

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