Southern California's Cody Kessler is far from the highest-rated quarterback in this year's NFL Draft, but he is Browns coach Hue Jackson's guy.



Jackson made a valiant attempt to sell the franchise's choice to select Kessler late in the third round (No. 93 overall) Friday night.



"The guy has had a tremendous career," Jackson said. "I understand where everybody's coming from, but you've got to trust me on this one. This is a guy that we feel very comfortable with, and we feel he's going to have an opportunity to ascend."



The 6-foot-1 1/4, 220-pound Kessler went 27-14 in three seasons as a starter and had four head coaches in five years. He completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 88 touchdowns with 19 interceptions.



But NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler did not give Kessler a draftable grade. Brugler ranked him 17th out of 24 quarterbacks in this class and projected him as a priority free agent. Analyst Nolan Nawrocki assigned him a fifth- or sixth-round grade and described him as a player with "quality backup potential in the pros."



Jackson, who has established a reputation as a quarterback whisperer, sees greater upside.



"This young man has pinpoint accuracy, 88 touchdowns, 19 interceptions over three years, tremendous touchdown-to-interception ratio," Jackson said. "[He] knows how to play in a pro-style offense and has a lot of the characteristics that we look for in a quarterback. I think he has great poise, pocket presence. He works at the game. Comes early, stays late, he's everything that I think you look for in a quarterback. We're very excited about him."



Jackson has told reclamation-project quarterback and presumptive 2016 bridge starter Robert Griffin III to be prepared to compete with a rookie in training camp. But it would be surprising if Kessler became a serious threat to win the starting job out of the gate.



"Whether I come in and I'm a backup or get a chance to compete right away, I'm going to do everything I can to have the best opportunity I can because I do believe that I can play in this league," Kessler said during a conference call. "I know that, and I'm excited for the opportunities and challenges that are ahead."



Jackson was asked whether he sees Kessler as more than just a developmental, long-term prospect.



"I think what's most important is not to try to see what he's going to be," Jackson replied. "Let's give him an opportunity to compete and see where he is. Obviously, we're bringing him for a reason 'cause we think he has the characteristics that we look for. Hopefully we're right and he will ascend up the ladder, but he's going to have to compete and earn it and do the things that we think he can do."



Now the Browns have five quarterbacks on their roster: Griffin, Kessler, Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Connor Shaw. McCown has been expendable since the Browns signed Griffin, the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2012 whose downfall resulted in him not playing last season in Washington, last month to a two-year, $15 million contract. However, head of football operations Sashi Brown said doesn't feel the need to make a roster move involving a quarterback in the next few days.



Kessler was the sixth quarterback selected this year. California's Jared Goff (No. 1 overall, Los Angeles Rams), North Dakota State's Carson Wentz (No. 2, Philadelphia Eagles), Memphis' Paxton Lynch (No. 26, Denver Broncos) were taken in the first round. Penn State's Christian Hackenberg (No. 51, second round, New York Jets) and North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett (No. 91, third round, New England Patriots) were also off the board before Kessler.



Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, a Walsh Jesuit High School graduate, and Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones were available when the Browns picked Kessler, a two-time captain at USC. Cook and Jones still haven't been drafted, even though the vast majority of analysts rated them higher than Kessler.



The only quarterback the Browns didn't have a chance to draft was Goff. They essentially passed on Wentz by trading down from No. 2 overall to No. 8 on April 20.



Jackson spent extensive time with Kessler during the pre-draft process and came way impressed.       



"Very extensive, and he reacted really well," Jackson said. "I got to see him face to face here in my office for quite a while. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him. Obviously, I have connections at USC. This young man has proven to be exactly what I think he is over his career. I was at [Goff and Wentz's] workouts. They were drafted earlier. But we really think this guy is the right fit for us."



Kessler's less-than-ideal size and arm strength are the biggest knocks against him.



"My junior year, that year, we threw a lot of deep balls," Kessler said. "The majority of my passes were deep shots. I aired it out when needed to, and if it wasn't there, I checked down. We were one of the top teams in country for long passing game, long touchdowns. Last year we had some injuries, our center got hurt, we had some other offensive linemen get hurt. We had to bring in a couple guys at receiver, moved a quarterback to wideout. We had to burn a couple redshirts for receivers.



"The role turned into more of a short to intermediate [passing game]. I didn't mind that. I knew I had the arm strength, that I could make all the throws. I wanted to do what was best for the team. The coach called me and said we might have to be a more run-heavy team. Pro day, going out and throwing the deep posts and some of the longer comebacks from the opposite hash showed I can still make those throws."



Kessler thought he hit it off with Jackson during his pre-draft visit, so he wasn't surprised the Browns picked him.



"I flew to Cleveland in March and had a great meeting with coach Jackson and everyone in their facility," Kessler said. "It was awesome, I was very excited and I knew that was one of the teams I had a great connection with. Personally I was sitting there waiting and I knew they had a lot of picks. I kept talking to my family, my agent was sitting there, and I was hoping it would be Cleveland. I was excited every time their name came up and every time they had a pick and it worked out. I'm very blessed and very thankful to be heading to Cleveland."



Now he's Jackson's guy, no matter what anyone else thinks about him.