Cleveland Browns: Is Caleb Brantley a steal?

Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley (57) against the Missouri Tigers during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley (57) against the Missouri Tigers during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Cleveland Browns selected Caleb Brantley amid battery allegations, it was said that if he was cleared, the Browns got a steal. Brantley’s charges have since been dropped, so is he a steal?

The first thing that makes things interesting for the Cleveland Browns regarding Caleb Brantley is that video was made public of the Brantley incident a few days before the draft, making it pretty apparent that he hadn’t done what the victim alleged. There’s no doubt teams saw the video and took it into account.

Related Story: Cleveland Browns: Anonymous Position Battle

Nevertheless, Brantley still fell to the sixth round to the Browns at the 185th pick. This is interesting because the Oakland Raiders, as an example, selected Gareon Conley 24th overall. Conley was and continues to face far more significant charges than Brantley.

So it’s not unfair to ask the question if the battery allegations even had a noticeable impact on his draft stock. The Browns took a PR hit when they initially selected Brantley and the team even said they might release Brantley in the event they were not satisfied with the court case, knowing full well that he would be cleared. So, what is it about Brantley that makes him a steal?

First, let’s look at his production at Florida.

Career Games: 38
Solo Tackles: 30 (2.2 percent)
Sacks: 5.5 (5.4 percent)
Tackles for Loss: 20 (7.4 percent)

Let’s compare those numbers to the other defensive tackle they took in the draft and a player already on the Browns roster.

Larry Ogunjobi

Career Games: 46 games (22 in FCS in 2013 & 2014, 24 in FBS in 2015 & 2016)
Solo Tackles: 123, 64 in FBS (6.7 percent in FBS)
Sacks: 13, 5.5 in FBS (15.7 percent in FBS)
Tackles for Loss: 47.5, 28 in FBS (20 percent in FBS)

More from NFL Spin Zone

Xavier Cooper

Career Games: 36 games
Solo Tackles: 69 (4 percent)
Sacks: 13 (15.2 percent)
Tackles for Loss: 32.5 (13.2 percent)

Brantley played in the SEC, but the Pac-12 is a good conference as well. And even if people wish to dismiss Charlotte and Ogunjobi’s production there, Cooper and Ogunjobi have double, and sometimes triple, the production Brantley in terms of market share.

The other thing worth noting for Brantley is the fact he had 10 offsides penalties just in the past two seasons. He had more penalties for jumping offsides than he had sacks, which suggests that Brantley is a prospect that is trying to guess the opposing snap count to gain an advantage. This is an issue the Browns will have to work to correct to get him off the ball quickly while not handing the opponent free yardage.

There’s another major question mark with Brantley. From his scouting report courtesy of

"While we haven’t seen Brantley play in even half of Florida’s defensive snaps in a single year, the talent is there to become an early starter and a defensive force up front."

This may account for some of Brantley’s lack of production, but it also shows that while Brantley was listed as the starter for 22 games, he didn’t play starter’s share of reps. There is a great deal of talk that Brantley has the talent to be a starter in the NFL, but that’s a little difficult to believe when he’s been a part-time player his collegiate career.

This may be yet another indication of his less than stellar work ethic, something Brantley admitted to at the Combine and then confirmed at his Pro Day. Based on his career to this point, it seems far more likely that he’d be suited to play as a rotational player in the NFL, focused on attacking the quarterback.

But maybe his athleticism points to the upside that people suggest Brantley has.

Height: 6’2 5/8″
Weight: 307 pounds
Age: 22 (Born Sept. 2, 1994)

40-Yard Dash: 5.14s
Vertical Jump: 27″
Broad Jump: 8’8″
3-Cone: 7.66s
Shuttle: 4.62s
Bench: 21 reps

He’s slow, not terribly explosive and doesn’t show much agility based on athletic testing. And for whatever reason, Brantley opted not to try to improve any of these numbers at Pro Day. In fact, Brantley was criticized for showing up out of shape at Florida’s Pro Day. During the live NFL Draft coverage, Mike Mayock of NFL Network touched on this issue.

May 24, 2017; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (65) runs a drill during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 24, 2017; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (65) runs a drill during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Larry Ogunjobi

Height: 6’2 5/8″
Weight: 305 pounds
Age: 22 (Born June 3, 1994)

40-Yard Dash: 4.97s
Vertical Jump: 32″
Broad Jump: 9’8″
3-Cone: 7.55s
Shuttle: 4.75s
Bench: 26 reps

At basically the exact same size, Ogunjobi is noticeably faster, stronger, and more explosive. The one drill where Brantley bested Ogunjobi is the shuttle, so his ankles might be slightly better than Ogunjobi’s.

Xavier Cooper

Height: 6’2 7/8″
Weight: 297 pounds
Age: 25 (Born Nov. 30, 1991)

40-Yard Dash: 4.86s
Vertical: 29″
Broad Jump: 9’2″
3-Cone Drill: 7.23s
Shuttle: 4.37s
Bench: 29 reps

Cooper is entering his third year, which accounts for the age difference. Brantley is similar to Cooper in terms of the style of player he is. Both are penetrators that look to attack the opponent and Cooper weighs more in line with where Brantley should. In testing, Cooper is significantly better across the board than Brantley. Brantley doesn’t come close to Cooper in anything.

More from Cleveland Browns

If the case for Brantley is on athletic upside, he did nothing to support it. His athletic testing is pretty poor. The best case scenario is that Brantley was lazy and didn’t do the work in training and he can get significantly better. If not and this is what Brantley is capable of at his best, it’s not a good indicator of future success.

Nevertheless, with all of this information easily accessible, the talk is still that Brantley has immense talent, upside and is a steal. And it’s possible he could be the next Athyba Rubin, who was the 190th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft and was a steal on the defensive line. Rubin, a nose tackle, is entering his 10th year in the league, the first seven as a member of the Cleveland Browns. It’s probably not ideal that Rubin had better explosiveness coming out of college than Brantley does.

It seems as though fans are hoping that Brantley can be the next Rob Burnett. Burnett was a fifth round pick in 1990 and finished a 14-year career with 73 sacks. The case for this seems based around the idea that Gregg Williams can get it out of Brantley.

Maybe Williams can get something out of Brantley that he frankly hasn’t shown to this point. But this is the same Williams that said this in his introductory press conference when he was hired as the Browns defensive coordinator (via the team’s official website):

"What we as coaches – and I am serious about this, I do not want it to appear real bad yet, yet – is I can only affect what mom and dad gave him in the gene pool about that much [putting his fingers together], and how I do that is not accept what mom and dad says has been alright their whole life"

This begs the question — what is it the Browns see in Brantley that made him worth the pick? Clearly, not only the Browns, but many that cover the NFL Draft see something in Brantley that the data (and tape for me) do not.

Based on the data, Brantley went right where he should have, battery charges or not. His tape, athleticism and production show a mediocre player that shows some occasional flashes of top-tier talent. They also show a player who consistently quits on plays.

So the Browns are being asked to get Brantley to put in the effort he’s never put in before and produce in way he didn’t in college, all with underwhelming athleticism. It can be done and Brantley could make those who doubt him (myself included) look foolish and reward the Browns for selecting him. But it’s not going to be easy.

Brantley and Cooper, along with Desmond Bryant, are going to be competing for the same job as the primary pass rushing 3-tech defensive tackle, but they could also be fighting for the same roster spot if the Browns only keep eight defensive linemen. The former third-round pick has not produced yet and it’s now or never for Cooper with his third different defensive coordinator in three seasons.

The good news is the defensive scheme under Williams should be a good fit for him, much as it is with Brantley. At the same presser as referenced earlier, Williams said, “There are several guys on this defensive roster that I wanted to draft.” Based on his style and ability, Cooper might be one of them.

Related Story: Cleveland Browns 2018 Mock Draft, Projecting Needs

Cooper and Brantley play the same type of game the same way, relying on quickness to beat opponents to the spot off the snap, trying to put the opponent at an immediate disadvantage and finishing the play from there. Based on the collegiate data, from production to the athleticism, Cooper would appear a heavy favorite to beat out Brantley.

So, is Brantley a draft steal? It’s possible, but very unlikely. In fact, it may prove difficult enough for Brantley just to make the final roster for the Browns, but here’s hoping that Brantley proves me wrong.