The Browns bolstered their defense in a big way to kick off the 2017 NFL Draft, selecting Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett with the No. 1 pick.
Garrett, an athletic 6-foot-4, 272-pound defensive end, became just the fourth defensive player to be selected with the No. 1 pick in the last 17 years and the 20th since the draft started in 1936.
“They picked me because they think they see something in me, and they know that I can help them rebuild and turn this program around," Garrett said late Thursday. "That’s the mindset that we have to have. Starting next year, we can put the pieces together, not only the players but with a mindset that we can actually do this. I know that the players there have that same mindset. I am going to keep that feeling contagious. I’m just prepared for that.”
The Browns hold 10 more picks in the 2017 draft, including No. 12 in tonight's first round and three others in the top 65.
Garrett, an Arlington, Texas, native and former No. 1-ranked high school recruit, was a dominant, pass-rushing force during his three seasons at Texas A&M. He made an immediate impact as a freshman, compiling 11.5 sacks and landing a spot on the freshman All-American team, and only got better over the next two seasons. He racked up 19.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles as a sophomore -- leading the SEC in all three categories -- and concluded his career with 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in a junior campaign that was marred by an ankle injury.
"He’s a tremendous player," head coach Hue Jackson. "He’s going to come in here and make a difference in our organization. We’re looking forward to that.”
“You have to be a game-changer,” Garrett said. “You have to be able to turn the tide of a game at any given time. Somebody who, when it’s third-and-15 and maybe it’s the fourth quarter and we need a stop to get the ball back, they put you in and say you’re the guy. That’s how good you have to be.”
Browns selected Michigan Safety Jabrill Peppers with No. 25 pick.
Peppers is the second newest Brown, joining Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, who was selected with the No. 1 overall pick. Cleveland, which was originally slated to pick at No. 12, acquired the 25th pick in a trade with the Texans that netted Houston's first-round pick in 2018.
“I had a sense that they really took an interest in me when I spoke with the coaches and they visited me," said Peppers, who added he couldn't take his visit to Berea because he was sick. "I think they did like me and I was so upset because I couldn’t make that visit. We had a lot of conversations at the Combine and throughout the draft process. I’m just excited. I’m at a loss for words.”
He was the Big Ten's Linebacker of the Year and made the first team after collecting 72 tackles, 16 for loss, four sacks and an interception.
Peppers said he's also open to playing offense if the Browns need him to.
"I’m open to do whatever they ask me to do. I did some things that nobody else did. They are going to get 200 percent out of me," he said. "I’m just so excited for the opportunity. I told myself today that if the opportunity came, then my life would be change. It changed. I went a little earlier than I expected so I’m just excited to lay it all on the line for my family and my team. I’m excited for the new group of this organization.”
"I’m just excited. The sky is the limit. We’re going to make some big things happen," Peppers saod. "We have (DL) Myles Garrett. He’s going to be a terror up there, and I’m going to do my due diligence in the defensive backfield to hold it all together. I’m just excited for the future. We have a lot of great talent. I’m just excited for what’s to come.”
The Browns then grabbed Miami tight end David Njoku with the 29th pick in the first round.
Njoku, widely considered one of the best players at his position in this year's draft class, caught 64 passes for 1,060 yards and nine touchdowns in two seasons with the Hurricanes.
"I can'texplain how crazy it is," Njoku said late Thursday. "I still can't believe it. I'm so blessed to be here, honestly. People were so emotional today. I am just so happy to be here.”
Njoku, 20, joins a tight ends room that includes veteran Gary Barnidge, Randall Telfer and Seth DeValve, whom Clevleand drafted in 2016.