The Cleveland Browns advanced to the AFC Divisional Round before falling to the Chiefs. The roster showed tremendous improvement under the direction of head coach Kevin Stefanski and EVP and GM Andrew Berry but there is work to be done. Last month, I constructed a mock 7-round draft for the Browns. In this article, I delve more into the strategy behind what they may set out to accomplish and break it down into five easy steps.
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Step 1: Take best player available at No. 26 overall
Cleveland entered the offseason with a few needs but they have been able to address those through free agency. The Browns are largely in a position to take the best player available at No. 26 overall. The decision-making may be skewed towards a handful of positions such as edge rusher, cornerback, defensive tackle, linebacker and wide receiver, but that leaves EVP and GM Andrew Berry significant room to add a key contributor.
Here are some of the names that could intrigue the AFC North franchise:
- Alabama DT Christian Barmore
- Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II
- Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr.
- Washington EDGE Joe Tryon
- Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye
- Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips
- Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau
- Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari
- Penn State EDGE Jayson Oweh
- Kentucky LB Jamin Davis
Step 2: Use extra draft capital to move around
The Browns made it to the AFC Divisional Round last year and there is a strong case to be made that they have improved the roster since. With nine draft picks, the team is in a position to move up depending on how the board falls and take fewer players of a potentially higher caliber. There are fewer needs on the roster and that places a higher importance on adding the right players to the locker room. It is not necessarily something that they must set out to do but it gives them flexibility.
Step 3: Use extra draft capital to gain additional picks in 2022
In the 2020 NFL Draft, Cleveland moved back 14 spots with the Saints and picked up an additional third round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Browns can continue investing in the future by exchanging picks for one of a higher round the following year. Berry has shown a good understanding of how other teams view players, which has resulted in the ability to trade back, pick up additional picks and still select players high on their board. The situation played out with LSU safety Grant Delpit last year.
As the roster adds players deserving of large contracts, the addition of contributing draft picks becomes essential.
Step 4: Add at least one offensive lineman
The Browns may not be in the market for a first round offensive lineman but it is never too soon to look toward the future. Center J.C. Tretter and offensive guard Joel Bitonio each have two years remaining on their current contracts. Offensive guard Wyatt Teller is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. The interior offensive line could undergo changes in the next few years to maintain salary cap flexibility. A swing tackle could be useful considering Kendall Lamm left in free agency. The upcoming draft class has been lauded for its depth and it would be wise for Cleveland to capitalize.
Here are some options on Days 2 & 3:
- Illinois OG/C Kendrick Green
- Stanford C Drew Dalman
- Nebraska OT/OG Brenden Jaimes
- Wisconsin-Whitewater OG/C Quinn Meinerz
- Pittsburgh OG Bryce Hargrove
- Kentucky OT Landon Young
- Merrimack OG Sam Cooper
- UMASS OT Larnel Coleman
- Marshall OT Josh Ball
- Miami (Ohio) OT Tommy Doyle
Step 5: Take a flyer on a wide receiver
Wide receiver is the deepest position in the 2021 NFL Draft and there is an opportunity to add really good value on Day 3. Cleveland executed a similar strategy a year ago when they took Michigan's Donovan Peoples-Jones in the sixth round. As a rookie, he recorded 14 receptions for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Veteran wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are on expensive deals and are likely salary cap casualties down the road. By getting a look at players at the position now, the AFC North franchise prevents themselves from being in a position of desperation. The hope is that they find some capable talents and potentially land a key contributor on a rookie deal.
Here are some potential Day 3 options at the position:
- Michigan WR Nico Collins
- Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace
- Iowa WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
- Clemson WR Amari Rodgers
- USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
Here's the prospects CBS NFL Draft writer Josh Edwards has the Browns taking in his mock draft:
Round (Overall pick)
Joe Tryon (EDGE)
Alim McNeill (DT)
Ambry Thomas (CB)
|3 (91)||Amari Rodgers (WR)||Clemson|
Talanoa Hufanga (S/LB)
Keith Taylor (CB)
Jose Borregales (K)
Seth Williams (WR)
Jalen Camp (WR)