“Justin is a very gifted football player who brings a lot to a team, both on defense and in the return game,” OSU Mike Gundy said in a release. “He is a playmaker. His decision to come back to Oklahoma State for his senior season really paid off because he established himself as one of the top players in this year’s draft.
“We’re very proud of Justin and happy for both him and his family.”
One of OSU’s recent first-round draft picks was another Browns selection: quarterback Brandon Weeden in 2012. While that didn’t work well for Cleveland, who released Weeden after last season, the organization didn’t hesitate to turn to the Cowboys for a first-rounder again.
First, however, it took some maneuvering.
The Browns picked up future picks from the Buffalo Bills to move from No. 4 to No. 9. Then they parted with a fifth-round selection in this draft to flip spots with the Vikings.
“The thought process was simple,” Browns general manager Ray Farmer told Cleveland reporters. “We had an opportunity to move back, pick up some future considerations. We knew where we were in the draft and we felt like it was a good opportunity to continue to improve our team with the number of picks we could get so we made a deal to move back.
“Second trade was another opportunity to get the player we thought we wanted. It didn’t cost us much to move back into position when he was on the board. We took that opportunity, and we took the pick with Justin Gilbert.”
The Browns finished 4-12 a year ago, losing 10 of their last 11 games. Entering the Draft, they were perceived to have many needs, with quarterback the biggest among them.
That’s why Cleveland’s selection of Gilbert set off the room at Radio City Music Hall and surprised ESPN’s famed analysts.
“Justin Gilbert is a big-play athlete,” said longtime draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. “He returns kicks for touchdowns. He returns picks for touchdowns…
Ray Lewis, the former Ravens linebacker-turned-analyst, signed off on the pick.
“If you’re in this division, and you watch football enough, this division is a defensive division,” said Lewis, who played in the AFC Central. “If I’m the Cleveland Browns, I need to find me a lockdown corner.”
Farmer clearly agrees.
“We’ve improved our defense,” he said. “We’re going to do some other things to make our overall team better, but we definitely like the corner combination that we’re going to have. Hopefully, we keep those guys together for a long time.”