The Cleveland Browns added six players through the 2014 NFL Draft and believe they will make an impact in the future.
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns came into the 2014 NFL Draft with 10 picks, and after five trades, they selected six players, cornerback Justin Gilbert, quarterback Johnny Manziel, offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, linebacker Christian Kirksey, running back Terrance West and cornerback Pierre Desir.
"It's been a long three days, but it's an exciting time," Browns general manager Ray Farmer said. "Everyone is always excited for the draft and what happens. It's good to have the process complete.
"The team is better. We feel like we went into this draft and we acquired players that could help our roster, and we're excited about that. They all seem to have 'Play like a Brown' attributes, and we're excited to get those young men here, coach them up and move the team forward."
The Browns started the reshaping of their roster on the defensive side of the ball when they selected Gilbert, a former Oklahoma State cornerback, with the No. 8 overall pick in the first round.
Gilbert comes into the NFL after a career year with seven interceptions in 2013. He also returned 18 kickoffs for 453 yards, earned first-team All-American honors from The NFL Draft Report, Football Writers Association, and Walter Camp, and was also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the best cornerback in college.
"I do believe that the players that we added to this football team will give themselves a chance to compete. That's really what we wanted to do, improve the quality of depth on this football team and give guys that we thought we had a chance to be starters. Whether that's day one, day two, that remains to be seen, but everybody will have to earn their respect and their responsibilities to be a starter in the National Football League."
Then, the Browns selected Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, after trading with the Philadelphia Eagles to move up from No. 26.
As a freshman, Manziel threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions while completing 295 of 434 attempts despite taking 22 sacks. His production was so good that Manziel made history in being the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.
Then, as a follow-up to his Heisman campaign, Manziel completed 300 passes for 4,114 yards with 37 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and was sacked only 19 times in leading the Aggies to nine wins last fall.
"I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that Jimmy Haslam, at no point, demanded, requested, tried to influence the process in any way," Farmer said. "He definitely asked questions. He'll definitely give his opinion of what he thinks and that's fine, but at the end of the day, he trusted the football staff to make the decisions that we thought were the right decisions for this football team."
On day two of the draft, the Browns added an offensive lineman, linebacker and running back.
During his final two seasons at Nevada, Bitonio recorded 249 knockdowns/key blocks, which averaged out to 9.96 per game, and served as a lead blocker for 58 plays that resulted in touchdowns, 41 of which were rushing scores.
"You talk about 'Play like a Brown,' and what we're looking for in an offensive lineman, he truly embodies that," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "We wanted to upgrade our toughness, our nastiness, and that's one of the things that jumps off the table when he plays."
Desire is one of those intangibles that cannot be measured by a football drill at the NFL Scouting Combine or in a private workout with a pro team.
Beyond getting an aggressive defender, when the Browns selected Kirksey, the former University of Iowa linebacker, with the 71st overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, they got a player who was passionate to play in Cleveland.
In three years with the Hawkeyes, Kirksey registered 315 total tackles, the 15th best total in school history, including 151 solo stops, 5.5 sacks for 40 lost yards, 13.5 tackles for 60 lost yards and eight quarterback pressures. He forced five fumbles, recovered seven others and broke up six passes.
With his 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Northern Illinois this past season, Kirksey became only the third Iowa player ever to score three defensive touchdowns in his career. During his junior season, Kirksey returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns.
After making a trade back into the third round, the Browns selected West at No. 94 overall, and got a player, who in just three years at Towson, rushed for 4,849 yards and 84 touchdowns.
Last season, West proved to be a workhorse rusher who gained 2,509 yards and scored 41 touchdowns on 413 carries for a Towson Tigers team that advanced to the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision Championship Game.
With what was supposed to be the first of two picks in the final four rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Browns picked cornerback Pierre Desir from Lindenwood University at No. 127 overall.
Desir, a 6-foot-1, 198-pound cornerback, earned the Cliff Harris Award, which is given annually to the top small-college defensive player, as well as invitations to both the 2014 Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game after he registered 33 tackles, 27 of which were solo stops, defended eight passes and intercepted four others in 2013.
A three-time NCAA Division II All-American and four-time All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association honoree, Desir combined to intercept 25 passes, which he returned for 305 yards and two touchdowns at Lindenwood and Washburn University.
"We have a plan of how we're going to build this team," Pettine said. "We're going to build it on character and we're going to build it on toughness. What we've done in this draft, we'd done that so far. That was important to us, not just to talk about it.
"We're not going to stand in front of a room and say, 'Let's get tougher.' What you do is get tough people in that room. We've said that all along. It's football. It's a tough sport for tough people, and we feel, for us to compete in this division and in the NFL, that that's the model we're going to take."