Road to the Draft: Player visit season in full swing as days wind down

Corey Coleman knew he wasn't going to be the No. 2 pick in the draft. Still, when he was summoned to Cleveland for a pre-draft visit, he put his best foot forward as if it were a possibility. *[



"They loved me, but at that time it was kind of impossible," Coleman said shortly after he became a Brown. "Something amazing had to happen. It's crazy because something amazing did happen."

Ultimately, there were a couple somethings.

A week or so later, the Browns made a big trade with the Eagles, swapping first-round picks to acquire an array of assets. During the draft, as Cleveland sat on the clock at No. 8, the team worked out a similar deal with the Titans, moved down to No. 15 and selected Coleman as the first receiver in the draft.

Coleman was one of 30 players to make an official visit with the Browns before the 2016 draft. It served as an important experience for both Coleman and the Browns -- one final, important checkpoint for each side before the long-awaited draft night.

It's something to keep in mind as players shuffle in and out of Berea over the next couple of weeks. Even if they're projected to land nowhere near where the Browns are picking, there's purpose and meaning in every one of the visits.

"The top 30 visits are a very important part of the process," senior draft analyst Dane Brugler said Friday on Cleveland Browns Daily. "It's not a workout, it's more of a 'let's get to know you better,' put them on the whiteboard, just get to know them as a person, show them around the facilities, see how they interact with everyone in the building. It's a more casual job interview rather than just being on the field going through drills.

"There's only 30. If a team brings in a player for a top 30 visit, you know there's interest in that player. They're not going to waste one of those top 30 visits on someone they're not interested in."

It's an inevitable reality, though, that almost all of the players who visit, if not all them, will end up somewhere else. It's reflective of a franchise's approach to the draft every year. Hundreds and hundreds of players will be researched and vetted but only a handful end up being a part of the team.

But each visit is taken with a seriousness that briefly ignores the improbability of the player and team coming together on a permanent basis. Even when it seemed "kind of impossible" as Browns coach Hue Jackson sat down with Coleman, a connection was made.

"What I tried to do with him when I had an opportunity to meet with him is really find out about his personality," Jackson said after Coleman's selection. "He has a lot of charisma. He's very confident. Mainly, receivers are very confident. Some of the ones I've coached, they're kind of like that. They want the ball. He's going to be one of the guys who want the ball, and you want a guy who wants the ball. At the same time, I think he recognizes that our culture here is one that you have to come in and work extremely hard to have an opportunity to do what he's done in college. I think he's willing to put in the work, but he's a young man who's very intelligent, willing to work, willing to grind, as you would say, to get it done. That's very exciting."

Who could the Browns take with pick 33 in the 2017 NFL Draft?

First Five

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay dropped a whopper today with their dueling, two-round mock draft. The draft experts made picks they've made before for the Browns at Nos. 1 and 12. What they slated at 33, though, was interesting, as Kiper Jr. pegged the Browns to take Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon while McShay went with Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. Here are five other interesting names they expect to be available when the Browns kick off Day 2 of the draft.

  1. S Obi Melifonwu (Connecticut) - The athletic safety was one of the biggest stories at the Combine after posting eye-popping numbers in a number of events. Both McShay and Kiper expect the 49ers to pounce on him at No. 34.
  1. TE Evan Engram (Ole Miss) - Maybe more of a receiver than a tight end, Engram is one of the main reasons why this year's tight end class is considered one of the deepest in some time. Kiper and McShay agree the Jaguars would like to have him at No. 35.
  1. DB Chidobe Awuzie (Colorado) - A versatile defensive back who can play both cornerback or safety, Awuzie has seen his stock rise in recent weeks. Kiper pegs him to land with the Bears at 36 while McShay sees him going 53rd to the Lions. Cleveland also has the 52nd pick.
  1. WR Zay Jones (East Carolina) - One of the biggest standouts at the Senior Bowl, Jones seems to represent the leader of the draft's "second tier" of wide receivers. Kiper and McShay see him as a nice fit with the Chargers, who hold the 38th pick.
  1. DT Malik McDowell (Michigan State) - He's one of the draft's most polarizing prospects because of his immense talent but lack of production. McShay projects him to land with the Giants (23) in the first round while Kiper slots him at No. 41 to the Bengals.

How many days until the draft?


Draft news you might have missed

Small-school spotlight

WR Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) - He made a name for himself in college with monster performances in his rare opportunities against FBS opponents and he proved he belonged when he torched defensive back after defensive back at the Senior Bowl. Now, many believe Kupp could go as high as the second round later this month. In four games against the Pac-12, Kupp caught 40 balls for 716 yards and 11 touchdowns. Over his career, he shattered all sorts of records on his way to 428 receptions, 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns.

Did you know?

The Browns have selected at least one player outside of the FBS in six of their past nine drafts: They are: 2008 - LB Alex Hall (St. Augustine's); 2009 - DB Don Carey (Norfolk State); 2011 - DB Buster Skrine (Chattanooga); 2013 - DL Armonty Bryant (East Central Oklahoma), OL Garrett Gilkey (Chadron State); 2014 - RB Terrance West (Towson), DB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood); 2016 - TE Seth DeValve (Princeton).

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