In an NFL Draft with several players draped with red flags drawing attention to where teams take them, Caleb Brantley appears to have paid the stiffest penalty for his alleged crime.
Brantley, the Florida defensive tackle with the second-highest grade at his position according to NFL.com, was the first pick of the sixth round Saturday by the Browns, 185th overall. How long he stays with Cleveland is very up in the air, though, as general manager Sashi Brown quickly told reporters that they might release him, depending on what the team finds as they continue to investigate him.
Brantley was expected to be taken by the end of Day 2, in the first three rounds, before his arrest in Gainesville, Fla., earlier this month on battery charges. He is accused of striking a woman outside a bar, knocking her unconscious and knocking a tooth loose.
Brantley was immediately downgraded by virtually every draft speculation, with at least one team taking him off their board completely, according to Sporting News’s Alex Marvez. By the time the Browns took him, he was the highest-rated player available, by far.
On the final draft board posted Thursday by Eric Galko, Brantley was the 45th-rated player overall, a mid-second-rounder. NFL.com had him 24th-highest.
He also was one of the last players with a serious criminal issue and major character questions to be selected, many of them involving violence against women.
Another player with a first-round grade but a very recent criminal allegation right before the draft, cornerback Gareon Conley, was taken 24th overall by the Raiders. Conley is being investigated for rape over an incident in Cleveland last week.
Running back Joe Mixon, with his infamous assault on a woman in 2014 caught on video, went in the second round to the Bengals. Jourdan Lewis, awaiting trial on a domestic violence charge, went in the third round to the Cowboys. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook, Mixon's Oklahoma teammate who had been charged in incidents earlier in his college career, was taken in the fourth round by the Jaguars.
Two other players with notable records of trouble with the law went far earlier as well: tackle Garett Bolles was picked 20th by the Broncos, and running back Dalvin Cook went in the second round, 41st overall, to the Vikings.
The Browns had picks to spare; they had taken seven players in the first five rounds before taking Brantley, and at that point had two seventh-rounders remaining. They already had taken two defensive linemen — Myles Garrett first overall, of course, and Larry Ogunjobi in the third round.