General manager Andrew Berry used the team’s first four selections on players from the SEC - yes, Missouri is part of the SEC despite what you may have heard elsewhere - picking offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (Alabama), safety Grant Delpit (LSU), defensive tackle Jordan Elliott (Missouri) and linebacker Jacob Phillips (LSU).
While Berry said the Browns did not specifically target players from the SEC, he pointed out that it makes sense to dip into the nation’s best football conference come draft weekend, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“I can assure you that we did not plan it, but these are all really good football players in arguably the best conference in college football. It is certainly a good place to start for us, but it just happened to work out that way.”
In addition to the dominance of the SEC during draft weekend, the selections of Delpit and Phillips helped LSU become the go-to school for many general managers.
Q: Grant Delpit played both safety positions as well as nickleback for LSU. That type of versatility is nice, but can lead to a player being good at multiple positions rather than being very good at one. What do you think is Delpit’s best position at the NFL level?
Zach: I’ve always liked Delpit more as a strong safety than a free safety. In fact his worst stint at LSU, pre-ankle injury at least, was when he had to play further away from the line of scrimmage in the early part of the season. It was out of necessity, LSU’s original free safety was lost for the year with an ACL injury, and Delpit had to help ease the transition and keep the other defensive backs lined up properly. But man when you watch Delpit utilized properly, like he was in 2018 when he had five sacks and five interceptions and he should have won the Thorpe Award that year instead of this year, you’re looking at the closest thing LSU’s had since Tyrann Mathieu. I can offer no higher praise to an LSU defensive back than that.
Q: The biggest question mark about Delpit is his tackling. He explained that the high-ankle sprain he suffered in 2019 was the cause of his issues. Do you buy that or is this going to be a problem?
Zach: Yeah it’s a fair concern to have. Delpit had the highest missed tackle rate out of all the safeties in the draft and he missed 42 tackles for his career. Bad ankle or not, he didn’t miss all 42 just last season. But to his credit, after the ankle and the shoulder healed up Delpit began to look more like … well, Delpit. And I think falling to the second round will be the best thing to happen to him; he’ll be motivated to play like the top-10 pick everyone in Baton Rouge expected he’d be this time last year.
Q: Phillips has no problem with tackling, but was often taken off the field on passing downs. Is he going to be limited to a two-down linebacker in the NFL or can he become an asset in the pass defense?
Zach: Sadly, I think so. He’s not the athlete that other Tiger linebackers are. He’s not Devin White, Debo Jones or Patrick Queen, who all can reliably keep up with tight ends or running backs. Phillips is sturdy, but almost to a fault. He could absolutely rack up 100 or so tackles, but if he’s on the field in passing situations, I’d go at him every time and force Cleveland to take him off the field.
Thanks Zach! Browns fans are definitely looking forward to seeing what Delpit, Phillips and the rest of this year’s draft class can bring to Cleveland.