BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Known as a quarterback expert, new Browns coach Hue Jackson thinks he’s found a keeper.
“Trust me on this one,” Jackson said late Friday night after the Browns selected Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler in the third round.
After trading out the No. 2 overall pick and a chance to take Carson Wentz last week, the Browns waited until the No. 93 pick to nab Kessler, who threw 88 touchdown passes during three seasons for the Trojans.
The Browns have spent their entire expansion era looking for a franchise quarterback, and while Robert Griffin III is expected to start next season, Jackson sees Kessler as a major part of his team’s future.
“This young man has pinpoint accuracy,” Jackson said. “He has great poise, pocket presence. He works at the game. Comes early, stays late. He’s everything that I think you look for in a quarterback.”
Kessler was considered an afterthought in this year’s quarterback class led by top pick Jared Goff and Wentz, who was drafted by Philadelphia after the Eagles made a blockbuster deal with the Browns. There was also Memphis’ Paxton Lynch and players like Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who is still available heading into Saturday’s fourth round.
Jackson believes Kessler can play with any of them.
“This young man has proven to be exactly what I think he is over his career,” Jackson said, noting Kessler had to endure several coaching changes in college. “I was at the other young men’s workouts, they were drafted earlier. But we really think this guy is the right fit for us.”
The Browns were tempted by trade offers earlier in the draft, but not enough to pull off another big deal.
After wheeling and dealing their way around the first round, Cleveland held onto its second-round pick - the first one made Friday - and selected Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah at No. 32 overall despite numerous offers.
With the first of three picks in the third round, the Browns selected another pass rusher, Penn State’s Carl Nassib. The 6-foot-7, 277-pounder led the nation with 15 1-2 sacks and won the Lombardi Award, given to college football’s top lineman.
And at No. 76, the Browns selected Auburn offensive tackle Shon Coleman, who overcame leukemia to fulfill his dream of making the pros.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Ogbah, whose family immigrated to the United States when he was 9, gives the Browns a much-needed edge rusher to help a defense that recorded just 29 sacks in 2015.
“We had a first-round grade on him, so we were hopeful and really pleased leaving last night that he sat there waiting on us,” said Sashi Brown, the Browns vice president of football operations.
Ogbah, who was timed in 4.56 seconds in the 40 at the combine, had 13 sacks last season and 28 in three years with the Cowboys.
“I’m a relentless player and I love to get to the quarterback,” Ogbah said.
Brown said one of the team’s top offseason priorities was to add speed on both sides of the ball and the team will count on Ogbah to raise its sack total and the blood pressure of opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators.
Jackson also said Ogbah will be a candidate to play some linebacker.
“There’s not a lot of guys at 270-plus pounds who can do what Emmanuel can do, period,” Brown said. “He’s flexible. He can win with power and with speed. That is a rare combination.”
Nassib was once told by former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien that he would never play in the pros.
“I always had dreams of playing in the NFL and a lot of people didn’t agree with that, but it never deterred me,” he said.
Nassib’s dedication was impressive, but nothing compared to the commitment of Coleman, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a freshman, underwent two years of chemotherapy and went on to start 25 games for the Tigers.
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