The draft was highlighted by the selection of left tacke Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round, and included what might be an impact player in safety Grant Delpit, solid rotational players in tight end Harrison Bryant and defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, and a potential deep threat in wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Now that the 2020 season is in the books, just how well did Cleveland’s draft class perform?
Well, that apparently depends on who you ask.
NFL.com released its 2020 NFL rookie report card this week and the Browns came in at No. 5 with a grade of A-, one of just five teams to earn a grade higher than a B.
The Browns were in desperate need of a legitimate left tackle, and in a draft full of them, they landed one of the top two, if not the best. (Jedrick) Wills made the PFWA All-Rookie Team after a very solid season protecting Baker Mayfield’s blind side. While he’ll need to improve his run blocking, Wills figures to be Cleveland’s starting left tackle for years to come.
(Grant) Delpit could have answered a huge question at safety, but an Achilles tear ended his season in camp. He looms as a promising prospect, should he return to form in 2021. (Jordan) Elliott was a rotational defender stuck behind two very good defensive tackles (Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi) but still made a few plays. (Jacob) Phillips showed flashes but hasn’t yet filled Cleveland’s dire need for linebacking talent.
(Harrison) Bryant was the No. 3 tight end in a deep group, yet he managed to find his own niche, catching 24 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll need to work on his tendency to drop a pass here and there, but the Browns landed a steal in Bryant, who also made the All-Rookie Team. (Nick) Harris filled in at guard when the Browns battled losses to injury and COVID-19. He impressed before suffering an injury. He’s a player who can grow into an effective lineman in the future.
Finally, (Donovan) Peoples-Jones was another steal in the sixth round, filling out Cleveland’s receiving corps and stepping in to help replace Odell Beckham. His most memorable grab — a 24-yard catch along the boundary for the game-winning touchdown in Week 7 — made him an instant fan favorite in Cleveland.
That seems like a fair and reasonable take. Wills had his share of rookie moments, but was also part of an offensive line that was the league’s best and did not give any indication that the Browns should regret the decision to select him with the No. 10 overall pick.
Losing Delpit was a major disappointment, and while there are legitimate concerns about the impact it will have on his future, having him back this season should be a boost to the secondary.
Bryant was a respectable third option at tight end, and Peoples-Jones showed enough to provide hope that he can be part of a solid wide receiver rotation.
Not everyone was as optimistic about the season, however, as Pro Football Focus dropped the Browns at No. 19 in their draft class rankings.
PFF uses its own Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric to determine how much production each team received from its draft picks relative to where they were selected in the draft.
And the Browns came up lacking in the eyes of PFF:
Cleveland had four picks on Days 1 and 2 of the draft, but none of the players selected made a positive impact. Second-round pick Grant Delpit missed the campaign with a torn Achilles, and the other three — offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., defensive end Jordan Elliott and linebacker Jacob Phillips — all generated negative PFF WAR.
Entering his rookie campaign, Wills was expected to bring a lot of value to the table with his run blocking in Kevin Stefanski’s wide zone attack while suffering through a learning curve when it came to true pass sets. The opposite occurred. Wills ranked 15th among left tackles in pass-blocking grade but fifth-to-last in run-blocking grade.
Those assessments might be a bit harsh, especially in the case of Wills, but that does not mean the draft class was a waste.
Wills should continue to improve in his second season playing at left tackle, Delpit is expected back, and Elliott appears to be in line for some increased playing time as the Browns are expected to allow defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to leave in free agency.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to looking at last year’s draft class. While their overall production may have been lacking due to a variety of circumstances, Wills is the team’s starting left tackle, Delpit should be able to help a secondary that was a weakness in 2020, and several of the other draft picks are in line for more playing time or add valuable depth to the roster.
What do you think Browns fans? Now that their first season is complete (with the obvious exception of Delpit), how would you grade the 2020 draft class?
The Browns 2020 draft class earned a grade of:
This poll is closed