July 23, 2014

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Draft notes: Bryant brings baggage to Browns

BEREA — The Cleveland Browns used the word character several times when discussing first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo.

It didn’t come up much after they selected Armonty Bryant with the No. 217 pick in the seventh round Saturday.

Bryant bounced from Abeline Christian to Cisco Junior College (Texas) — due to “academic issues” — and eventually transferred to Division II’s Eastern Central (Okla.). He put up stellar numbers for the Tigers, but saw his senior season cut short when he was arrested on a felony charge of marijuana distribution in a school zone.

An officer spotted him selling marijuana to a friend in the back lot of the school dorms, and he was pulled from practice in October and arrested. He received a five-year deferred sentence and two years of supervised probation.

“Good people make mistakes, that’s what my coaches always told me,” Bryant said. “It was just a stupid move on my part. I should have been more mature about the situation and focused on football, because that’s something I really wanted to do with my life.

“Now that I’ve got that second chance, I feel like I won’t let anyone down — I won’t let myself down, I won’t let the people around me down and I won’t let the Cleveland Browns down. I appreciate them taking a chance on me.”

Bryant’s on-field production had a lot to do with the Browns’ sign of faith.

The 6-foot-4, 263-pound defensive end was a first-team All-Great American Conference pick as a junior after finishing with 62 tackles, 12½ tackles for a loss, three sacks and three blocked kicks. In eight games last season — he missed the final three after being suspended for the drug arrest — he finished with 54 tackles, 17½ tackles for a loss, 10½ sacks, four forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. He also had 13½ sacks during his sophomore season.

“He has explosive speed off the edge,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He’s a good-sized defensive end that is able to apply pressure to the quarterback. We think he can put some more weight on still. He’s real raw, and we’re excited about what he can be.”

The 2012 production was particularly encouraging as Bryant tore his labrum at the end of his junior season and had to recover from surgery.

“I feel like I’m 100 percent right now,” said Bryant, who was unable to perform in the bench press at the combine due to the injury. “I just had a minor tweak.”

Ready for the show

The Browns dipped into the Division II pool twice during the seventh round, selecting Chardon State tackle Garrett Gilkey with the No. 227 pick.

The 6-6, 314-pounder said the step up in competition should be no problem.

“It’s not anything that I’m afraid of or intimidated about,” said Gilkey, just the third player from Chadron State to be selected in the NFL Draft. “I have a chip on my shoulder and I want to be as successful as I can be. I’m excited and I’m ready to come into camp and compete for a job.”

Gilkey played in 37 games for Chadron State with 34 starts. During the last three seasons at left tackle, he recorded 36 touchdown-resulting blocks, had 280 knockdowns and had 28 downfield blocks.

He might be asked to play guard in the NFL.

“I’m ready to play either position, I just want to be versatile,” Gilkey said. “I played at guard and tackle when I was at college, so … wherever they put me.”

Some Sipe hype

Browns third-round pick Leon McFadden said he spent the morning in Cleveland learning about the program, yet he already had been given a history lesson on the program before his name was called Friday night.

McFadden starred at San Diego State, the alma mater of former Browns star quarterback Brian Sipe, who is currently an Aztecs assistant coach.

“Brian Sipe left me a voicemail last night,” McFadden said. “He was pumped up, you could tell by the tone of his voice on the phone. He’s happy for me.”

The cornerback said Sipe, who starred for the Browns from 1974-83, often talked about his former pro team.

“I’d stop by his office every time I’d go upstairs to the coach’s office,” McFadden said. “We talked a little bit about the Browns through this process, but I had no idea that I’d be coming here.

“When my name got called yesterday, I know he was probably jumping for joy. He was probably like, ‘Yeah, another Aztec with the Browns.’”

What’d they get?

The Browns traded out of six picks in the 2013 NFL Draft and these are the players that were selected with those picks:

• Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins went to Miami at No. 104 in the fourth round.

• Syracuse defensive back Shamarko Thomas went to Pittsburgh at No. 111 in the fourth.

• Tennessee-Martin defensive tackle Montori Hughes went to Indianapolis at No. 139 in the fifth.

• Florida running back Mike Gillislee went to Miami at No. 164 in the fifth.

• Virginia Tech tackle Vinston Painter went to Denver at No. 173 in the sixth.

• Utah defensive end Joe Kruger went to Philadelphia at No. 212 in the seventh.

Extra points

Cleveland’s trade with Miami for wide receiver Davone Bess was completed Saturday morning when Bess flew in and passed a physical. The Browns also announced they had signed Bess to a three-year extension, meaning he’ll be under contract through 2016.

• Browns CEO Joe Banner said the team had signed 17 undrafted free agents within two hours after the draft’s completion, and they said they still have a couple more spots to fill. Banner said the names wouldn’t be released until this morning, but several players tweeted about signing with the team, including Youngstown State running back Jamaine Cooke, Utah defensive tackle Dave Kruger and Kansas State tight end Travis Tannahill.

• Two Ohio State defensive linemen — Johnathan Hankins was selected in the second round — No. 49 overall — by the New York Giants, and John Simon was selected in the fourth round — No. 129 overall — by the Baltimore Ravens — and one offensive lineman — Reid Fragel was selected in the seventh round — No. 240 overall — by the Cincinnati Bengals — were the only Buckeyes drafted during the three-day event.

• Elyria Catholic and Ohio State star linebacker Matt Wilhelm was at Browns headquarters in Berea providing draft analysis for ESPN Radio on Saturday.

• Joe and Dave Kruger are the younger brothers of Browns linebacker Paul Kruger, who was part of the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl-winning team last season and was signed as a free agent in March.

• The last time the Browns selected defensive players with their first four picks was in 1988, when they used their first five picks on defenders.

• Ed Stewart — a 14th-round selection in 1972 — is the only other player the Browns have drafted from East Central Oklahoma.

Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.