Rather than picking in the top 10, which has been the norm for years, the Browns are currently in possession of the No. 26 overall selection in the first round after a season that saw them advance to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
A year ago, general manager Andrew Berry focused much of his attention on fixing an offense that lost its way in quarterback Baker Mayfield’s second season.
This year, it is widely expected that Berry will turn his attention to the defense, which needs help, in no particular order, at defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback and safety. (Did we miss anything?)
With that in mind, let’s take a quick run through some of the various mock drafts that are starting to come out and see just who the Browns might select in the first round.
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri: Value and need match up for the Browns for the second straight year, as Bolton is the top linebacker on the board, and Cleveland must have better play from that unit. Bolton flies around the field, and despite taking a step back in 2020, his 2019 coverage grade of 90.4 shows what he’s capable of. Bolton has broken up 11 passes over the last two years, but he must cut down on his 28 missed tackles during that same period.
Aaron Robinson, DB, Central Florida: The Browns had major issues in their secondary last season, which started in training camp when rookie safety Grant Delpit tore his Achilles tendon and second-year corner Greedy Williams hurt his shoulder. Both second-rounders ended up missing the entire season. With Robinson, Cleveland could add a big, aggressive defensive back who can play multiple positions. The 6-1 Alabama transfer played corner and nickelback for the Knights, and I could see him playing some safety in the NFL. I moved him up my rankings after watching more tape of his last two seasons.
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: Collins is very similar to Leighton Vander Esch when he was coming out of Boise State. Collins has the same size, length and athleticism. Cleveland needs to upgrade at the linebacker position.
Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia: The Browns have Myles Garrett anchoring their defensive line and Denzel Ward leading their secondary. They could use some complementary pieces there, but they also were short on playmaking on the second level Ojulari has jumped into first-round consideration because he’s a unique pass-rusher who can fit a variety of schemes and alignments and has potential both in stopping the run and in coverage. Joe Woods is used to that type of linebacker from his 49ers days.
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: The Browns’ lack of talent on the second level is evident. The team hardly ever places early-round emphasis on addressing it, but Collins is a piece that should make them contemplate that philosophy. A versatile piece, he can be used as an edge rusher as well as a second-level threat.
Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia: The Browns were middle of the road in getting after the quarterback and there is little depth behind Myles Garrett. Ojulari had a standout season for the Bulldogs and while he hasn’t drawn the national attention of Kwity Paye or Jaelan Phillips, he’s a legit terror off the edge.
While the Browns clearly need help on the defense, it is a bit difficult to think they will use their first-round selection on a linebacker given that the position does not appear to be a high priority to the team. That can all change, of course, if there are no other good options available because they are picking so low in the first round.
What do you think, Browns fans? Does one of the players mocked to the Browns get you going? Or do you have your eye on someone else?
Let us know in the following poll and have your say in the comments.
Who should the Browns select in the first round?
This poll is closed
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Aaron Robinson, DB, UCF
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Azeez Ojulari, LB, Georgia
Other (leave a comment)