Entering this offseason, it was pretty clear the Cleveland Browns needed to make some upgrades on defense. Boy, have they done exactly that. Not only did they add the best safety on the market in free agency (John Johnson III), they added a starting corner (Troy Hill), and a versatile edge rusher who can slide inside and doubles as an elite run-stopper (Jadeveon Clowney).
In the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Browns have kept right on adding to their defense. With the No. 21 overall pick in the first round, Cleveland added Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II. And on Friday night with pick No. 52 , the Browns saw Notre Dame linebacker/safety Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fall right into their laps.
Widely projected as a first-round pick, Owusu-Koramoah instead fell all the way to the back half of the second round. Apparently, there were concerns about what role he will play in the NFL. He's ostensibly a linebacker -- and he hits like one -- but he has the size and movement skills of a safety.
And that's exactly what makes him a perfect fit for the Browns. According to Pro Football Focus, Owusu-Koramoah lined up as a slot corner on 51.4 percent of his snaps in college, as a box safety/striker on 32.2 percent of his snaps, and along the defensive line on 14.7 percent of his snaps. That's the kind of versatile chess piece Joe Woods can move all over the field and create multiple different looks. It also gives him something in common with Johnson, as we wrote when the team signed him:
Last season, Johnson aligned as a free safety on 394 snaps, a box safety on 459 snaps, and a slot corner on 264 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. It was his most versatile season yet, as he had previously spent his time almost exclusively as a true safety. But under new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, he was freed up to utilize other parts of his skill set.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry specifically mentioned Johnson's versatility when explaining why the team prioritized signing him in free agency.
"He can play free safety, strong safety and he can play in the box in the nickel or dime," Berry said. "His breadth of skills that he brings to the table, that he can play man coverage, he can play center field, he can support the run and really do everything at a pretty high level. It's perfect for what we want to be as a defense. On top of that, you have his intelligence and his natural leadership. That's something we'll always look to add to the mix, and we feel like we're fortunate that he was available."
It's not at all difficult to imagine Berry saying similar things about Owusu-Koramoah in his post-Day 2 press conference. When you add two extremely versatile defenders like this to a team that already had Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, and throw in Newsome, a returning-from-injury Grant Delpit, and development from players like Jordan Elliott and more, it's hard not to like where the Browns are going on defense.