BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns have come out on top several times. This time, however, the circumstances will be quite different.
With an overloaded roster with few bright holes, the Browns’ starters next week in the draft will have a luxury they’ve rarely had since returning to the league nearly two decades ago.
In the not-so-distant past, Cleveland’s team had so many weaknesses that adding top talent at every position was a priority. Secondly, the Browns had such a void at the left tackle position in the last draft that the bookmaker’s top pick was a given, even before Jedrick Wills Jr. accidentally fell to Cleveland at No. 1. 10.
But after another breakthrough in free agency, culminating in the signing of linebacker Jadeveon Clowney last week, the Browns may face this draft with their 26th pick in enviable fashion:
You can just take the best player.
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The Cleveland Browns don’t have many desperate needs, ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller said in an interview with the team’s internal podcast last week. You don’t need much this year. So many holes.
So much, if anything.
Cleveland’s team is certainly not a perfect or finished product. After signing a number of big contracts in free agency last year and with the possibility of several more offices on the horizon, Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was released Friday.
This saved the Browns $11 million, but left a big hole in the middle of the defensive line. A source in the league told ESPN that Cleveland has no intention of seriously restructuring Richardson’s contract, as it did last season with linebacker Olivier Vernon. However, if Richardson doesn’t find a tempting offer, the door is open for him to return to Cleveland at a lower price.
Regardless, even without Richardson, the Browns have a team that most in the league envy.
In his first season in Cleveland last year, general manager Andrew Berry helped transform the Browns’ offensive line from an Achilles’ heel to one of the best in the league. In addition to drafting Wills, he signed Jack Conklin. Behind these additions, combined with the surprising emergence of Wyatt Teller as an All-Pro right guard, the Browns’ offensive line became one of only four units to finish in the top five in pass blocking rate wins and also in the top five in run rate wins.
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After Cleveland ranked sixth in offensive efficiency last season, Berry has focused on defense this season. In addition to Clowney’s arrival, the Browns also contracted John Johnson III, who is probably the best available safety in free agency. Berry also plays with linebacker Anthony Walker, defensive end Tuckarist McKinley, nickelback Troy Hill and fullback Malik Jackson, all of whom will play important, if not leading roles in Cleveland next season.
Until last week, Cantor stood out for Myles Garrett as a remaining need for the Browns. Then Cleveland recruited Clowney, who despite all his injuries and inconsistent production since 2018 has been one of the top five pass rushers in the NFL.
Now you have a code pen and you’re talking: OK, that’s off the table, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. told reporters during a conference call Thursday, shortly after the signing of Clowney was made official. You don’t have to take that road.
The Browns might be heading in the same direction.
After all, Clowney and McKinley only had one-year contracts. Talents like Aziz Ojulari, Quiti Peay, Gregory Russo, Jaylan Phillips or Jason Ou could also be on the roster if Cleveland chooses.
But the Browns don’t need to go that way anymore. Especially when a particularly coveted talent as a cornerback, linebacker or even receiver falls into their lap at the age of 26.
It’s so hard offensively, Miller said of the draft. The most valuable defensive players have been pushed somewhat into the background. This is good news for the Browns. At the end of the first round… …You get a lot of good starts on the [defensive] side of the ball.
This is what you can expect at the NFL level from the top players at these positions:
– Quarterback: QBASE 2.0
– Receive width: Playmaker:
– Running Back: BackCAST
– Passwheel : Bag
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay highlighted Cleveland’s options, and the Browns still chose Russo in his last spot draft. But NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and Kiper chose Cleveland, Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis.
He’s a long-distance guy, Kipper said. He can pass the ball around like a safety – a very good sniper in the open field.
Cleveland certainly could have pounced on Davis or Tulsa’s Zaven Collins, the playmaker Kiper used to rough up the Browns. Cleveland could also be in the rotation, especially if Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II escapes them.
The Browns might even choose to bolster their offense with a speedy receiver like Elijah Moore from Ole Miss, Kadarius Toney from Florida or Tutu Atwell from Louisville – although that same receiver could be available in the second round.
They could also try to fill the void at linebacker, perhaps with the help of Christian Barmore (Alabama).
Whatever the plan, the Browns have the ability to add top talent to a team that is suddenly overmatched.
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