General Manager Ray Farmer has nine draft picks at his disposal in next month’s NFL Draft, including Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round. By the talk in Cleveland, you’d think those were the only picks the Browns could make. Many Browns fans tend to forget about rounds two through seven due to previous regime’s failure with those selections. But with Farmer at the helm, the rest of the NFL Draft is no longer a lost cause.
In 2014, Farmer demonstrated that he has a knack for finding late-round gems – late-round being any round after the first – and signing undrafted free agent rookies. If his first year was a true indication of his positional valuation, wide receiver is not his top priority; however, he discovered undrafted rookie Taylor Gabriel who had a productive rookie season with the Browns.
This year’s draft may see a similar trend for Cleveland. Head coach Mike Pettine wants to win with defense and within the trenches, so the latest indications point to the Browns using both first-round picks to help their offensive and defensive lines, choosing to wait on adding playmakers.
If Farmer again chooses to wait until the later rounds, or even until after the Draft, to add a wide receiver, he may be able to snag Bud Sasser, former Missouri Tiger and first team All-SEC selection in 2014. Despite Sasser’s success this past season – 77 receptions for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns – he was not invited to the NFL Combine and he’s currently ranked as the 43rd best wide receiver on CBS Sports’ prospect rankings.
Sasser’s 1,003 yards were good for third best in the SEC and his 12 touchdowns tied him for seventh in the entire FBS (Division 1-A). He had more touchdowns than highly-touted wide receivers Kevin White (10), Jaelen Strong (10) and DeVante Parker (5). If I’m general manager of the Browns, I’m looking for a wide receiver who has a nose for the endzone, and Sasser has just that.
Sasser stands at 6’2” and 210 pounds, a bigger body which he uses to effectively shield himself from defenders. He also has good ball skills, positioning himself to make the catch based on where the ball is thrown, and has shown that he can go up and get it in traffic. He was beloved in Missouri for his reliable hands and remarkable catches.
While Sasser doesn’t have game-changing speed to take the cover off of a defense, his body control makes up for it when fighting for the football on the sidelines and in the endzone. Along those lines, he sometimes struggles to get a quick step off the line, but after making a move on the cornerback, he finds himself open more often than not.
He’ll have a chance to prove himself to pro scouts and quiet the doubters this week. Because he was not given an invite to the Combine, Sasser will get his first chance to perform the 40-yard dash and the rest of the Combine’s “underwear Olympic” events at Missouri’s Pro Day this Thursday, March 19. Look for him to raise his Draft stock with an impressive performance.