The AFC North has not had much success lately in attempting to acquire cornerbacks from Houston in the draft. Last year, the Bengals lost their first-round pick, William Jackson III, to a season-ending injury during the summer, and, needless to say, he never got a chance to play for them in 2016.
This year, the Cleveland Browns dipped into that Houston pool, trading up in the fourth round to take cornerback Howard Wilson. In his very first practice at rookie minicamp, he suffered a fractured kneecap. The immediate belief was that he was going to require surgery that would end his season as well, but a second-opinion diagnosis was more optimistic.
The follow-up diagnosis projected a recovery time from the injury in the ballpark of three to four months, which leaves open the possibility that he could return to the practice field at some point during the 2017 season, though getting up to speed to be able to contribute to the defense may be another matter.
“It’s disappointing but this is a part of playing football”, the rookie defender recently told reporters. “It was kind of a freak thing. I was just running around and my knee just kind of locked up on me. I didn’t think much of it but the training staff wanted to get the proper testing so I got the MRI”.
This was a statement that he made on Saturday prior to getting a second option, so it reflected the contemporary belief that he would not be able to recover on his own. He continued, saying, “I’m a positive person so I will have the surgery, work hard in my rehab and look forward to getting back to out there and helping this team win some games”.
Though the Browns annoyingly do not distinguish between cornerbacks and safeties on the roster listed on their website, one would figure that the recently-signed Jason McCourty may well start opposite Joe Haden for Cleveland this year at the cornerback position.
Jamar Taylor and 2016 undrafted free agent Briean Boddy Calhoun are two other players at the position who played significant roles a year ago. Much of the other names are new, or at least fresh faces, with many featuring the “R” or “1” designations next to their name.
The Browns traded two fifth-round picks in order to move into the fourth round to draft Wilson, the earliest cornerback that they drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft, though they also took versatile defensive back Jabrill Peppers in the first round.
It is reasonable to believe that Wilson could have played a role for their defense as a rookie, especially at the time, before they acquired McCourty. Even if he is able to return to football activities this season, it still seems like a longshot that he would be prepared to contribute in a way that would justify taking somebody else off the field.