For the first time in decades, the AFC North crown is within reach for the Cleveland Browns. General manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski have their team trending in the right direction. After some big-time free agent signings, Cleveland plans on finishing their case for being divisional favorites with a stellar draft class.
Berry and Stefanski added talented players in the 2020 NFL Draft, but John Dorsey’s 2018 class led the way last season. This year, Cleveland’s lead men plan on making their marks in Browns history by delivering a draft haul capable of securing a division title for the first time since 1989.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t create any trades and included an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
The Browns have several options with their first-round pick, all of which result in them taking a defensive player. At 26th overall, the Browns could have their choice of Christian Barmore, Zaven Collins, Newsome, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kwity Paye, and Jaelan Phillips. Besides adding another wide receiver, there’s no reason for Cleveland to address their offense early in the draft.
Cleveland invested heavily in its cornerback room over the past several years. The team drafted Denzel Ward at 4th overall in 2018, took Greedy Williams 46th overall in 2019, and signed Troy Hill, who offers inside-outside versatility, this offseason. However, Williams missed all of 2020 after a bumpy rookie year, and Ward hasn’t started more than 12 games in a season yet.
Newsome is a fluid athlete with 4.37 40-yard speed. He has the footwork and fluidity to mirror routes in man coverage and is already adept in zone. There aren’t many scheme versatile corners with Newsome’s ceiling in this year’s class. According to PFF, he didn’t allow a completion beyond 20 yards in 2020 and only allowed one completion over ten yards.
There are some concerns with Newsome. He has a history of penalties and suffered nagging injuries throughout his collegiate career. All of those issues could vanish in the NFL, but they’re worth keeping an eye on.
Ideal pick: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE Miami
Perkins is an explosive edge rusher with adequate bend. He amassed 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in his final 18 games with the Sooners. Perkins is only 6-2 and weighs 253 lbs., which is on the small side for a 4-3 defensive end. He’ll need to add weight in the NFL before becoming a full-time contributor. Tackles could throw him around right now.
The Browns recently reached a one-year deal with Jadeveon Clowney, but the former Pro Bowler only played in 21 games over the past two years. It seems unlikely he’ll make every start in 2021, especially after the league expanded the regular season to 17 games.
Clowney’s presence gives Perkins a year to bulk up and adjust to life in the NFL. The Oklahoma product could form a terrific duo with Myles Garrett if he adds some good weight and puts more power behind his hands.
Ideal pick: Levi Onwuzurike, IDL Washington
Stefanski’s team recently parted ways with former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. The veteran appeared in all of Cleveland’s games over the past two seasons. The Browns have several potential replacements on their roster, including Andrew Billings, Sheldon Day, Malik Jackson, and 2020 third-round pick Jordan Elliott. Wilson is a better option than any of those four.
Wilson arrived at Florida St. as a five-star recruit with a bright future. He had scouts salivating after strong performances in 2018 and 2019 but never took his game to the next level, especially as a pass rusher.
At 6-4, 303 lbs., Wilson has the size and strength to make an immediate impact in the NFL. However, he’s not an explosive player, and teams might ask him to cut close to 20 lbs. Playing near 280 lbs. might revitalize some of the stamina and playmaking teams saw in 2019. For now, he’s a run-orientated defensive tackle that can occasionally push pockets.
Ideal pick: Baron Browning, LB Ohio St.
Cleveland has the best offensive line in the NFL. Unfortunately, dominant lines rarely stick together for more than three or four seasons. A few years ago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh boasted the league’s best fronts. Now look at them. The Browns face an imminent issue with All-Pro guard Wyatt Teller entering free agency in 2022. Joel Bitonio, Jack Conklin, and J.C. Tretter are all free agents in 2023.
At 6-3, 344 lbs., Brown is enormous and converts size to power in the running game. He’s capable of walling off defenders and taking them for a ride downfield. While he’s not very agile, Brown can cause havoc at the second level simply because of his width and strength.
Some teams worry about Brown’s lack of length, especially in pass protection. I’m only mocking him inside the first 100 selections because of Cleveland’s run-heavy offense.
Ideal pick: Jackson Carman, OT Clemson
The Browns tried resolving their issues at linebacker for years. It felt like they got close with Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert a few seasons ago, but neither former top-100 pick is on the roster anymore. Adding free agent middle linebacker Anthony Walker on a one-year deal was a sneaky good signing, but the Browns still lack long-term solutions at linebacker.
Perhaps Moses is too much of the same for Cleveland. They’ve thrown mid-round selections at developmental linebackers in the past and gotten little in return. Moses is athletically a cut above Cleveland’s current linebackers, but he never became a game-changing player at Alabama.
Moses is a sure tackler and brings upside as a blitzer. However, he’s a reactionary player that doesn’t offer much in coverage.
Ideal pick: Tylan Wallace, WR Oklahoma St.
This year’s draft class features more than half a dozen slot receivers that could go in the first four rounds. Johnson separated himself from the other Day 3 slots with a fantastic showing at the Senior Bowl, proving his FCS production wasn’t just a product of playing against lesser competition.
Johnson amassed 139 receptions, 2,554 yards, and 25 touchdowns over his last two collegiate seasons. The Browns have players capable of lining up in the slot, including five-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry, but Johnson still offers value. He’s bursty off the line of scrimmage and has excellent agility in space. Johnson is surprisingly tough for a player his size.
Ideal pick: Cameron Sample, EDGE Tulane
Cooper spent five years at Ohio St., amassing only 77 tackles and ten sacks. He’s athletically limited and doesn’t have ideal length for a defensive end. At 253 lbs., Cooper could struggle to hold the edge in the NFL. However, he’s a strong player with a usable bull rush and active hands.
Perhaps the fifth-round is a bit rich for Cooper. He’s already 23-year-old and might be tapped out physically. Still, Cooper aided his draft stock with a solid 2020 campaign. He had 3.5 sacks in eight games.
Ideal pick: Ambry Thomas, CB Michigan
Drafting Moore continues Cleveland’s trend of adding quality backup talent along the offensive line. Moore was a three-year starter at Western Michigan but is still very unpolished. His stance is unnecessarily narrow, and he leans over his toes. Moore’s footwork is also a limiting factor, but the Browns could turn him into a starting tackle or guard.
Moore explodes out of his stance, prepared to take defenders for a ride. His mobility opens the door to move blocks and climbing to the second level. Moore should create plenty of movement for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Ideal pick: Tamorrion Terry, WR Florida St.
At 5-8, Williams is purely a slot corner in the NFL. However, the 187 lb. defensive back is a willing tackler with above-average speed and agility for any position.
The Browns already have Hill in the slot, but Williams could serve as a backup and see significant snaps on special teams. He blocked punts and field goals in college. Even more impressive, he returned six punts and three kicks for touchdowns in four years.
Ideal pick: Josh Ball, OT Marshall
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