The draft is tonight, folks! Let’s get hype.
These players represent the final third of my top 32 in this draft. Keep in mind that I am ranking them based on our current roster, so these rankings are specific to the 2021 Browns. I am also in no way trying to mock what will happen tonight, but rather I am saying who I would draft if the 1st-25th picks fell a certain way.
On to the prospects!
32. Payton Turner, DE, Houston
There is a lot to like with Turner, and his size and physical ability immediately jump out at you. This guy looks huge on tape, and he uses his size to clog lanes and gets his hands up to bat down throws.
Turner flashes power and a lot of agility for a guy his size on tape, and if you believe pro day testing numbers his 3 cone time is absolutely ridiculous. When he is keyed up, he can get off the ball in a hurry and then become a downright scary combination of power and speed on the edges of offensive tackles.
Turner is a bit of a projection pick for me because he doesn’t always beat blocks the way he should. He needs to work on consistently timing the snap of the ball (he flashes this, but isn’t consistent enough), and he needs to drop his pad level and shield his torso from linemen better. Too often he would get stuck on an OL’s block at the moment of contact, and you could tell he was powerful enough to wreck the guy because he would sort of regroup and then shove him away. If Turner gets it together he can play right through those blocks before they ever get established.
Turner often rushed from a 2 point stance in college, and if he is able to play lower it would be easy to see him line up all over: at OLB, at DT, and at strongside DE in a 4-3 where his body fits the prototype the best. Yes, he’s a projection, but every guy I’m ranking after 26 is essentially a 2nd round pick for us. I’d take him there in a heartbeat.
31. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Darrisaw has immense physical gifts, probably second only to Penei Sewell in this OL class. The skill that he has that I like the most is patience and ability to sift through defenders to find the right guy to block. Because of this he handles stunts and gap exchanges well, and knows where his teammates are helping.
Have you heard of the cliche that a guy “plays through the whistle?” Darrisaw is like the anti-that. I get so frustrated watching him because instead of finishing a guy he often will just get his hands on a defender and think the play is over. I hate to say it, but he just really does not play hard, and he does not finish. I don’t know if you can fix that, but you might take the chance in the 2nd round because of how gifted he is.
30. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
I like Etienne a lot, especially in our system where speed, vision, and one-cut ability are what we need. I think he can help a team in the passing game too, which makes him more valuable.
With that said, our team situation is such that a first round pick on a RB would be inefficient. Arguably, a 2nd rounder would be too. But despite being downgraded because of position I have to have Etienne no lower than this spot. This would certainly be a luxury pick with the best back alive already on our roster.
29. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Ah finally, the quarterbacks. The fact that I have none of them ranked above 26 (spoiler alert) means that there is zero chance I draft one in the first round onto this Browns team. We have our guy, and I want first and foremost to support him and our mission of winning games by adding players at other positions.
With that said, in the extremely unlikely event that one of these guys made it to us in the 2nd round, I’d pick him and pull a Belichick. You talk him up publicly, you play him in garbage time here or there and make him look decent, and you wait for the rest of the league to get desperate and offer you big ROI on your pick. I bet we could get two 2nds and a 4th for Wilson by the trade deadline.
Wilson as a player reminds me a bit of good Johnny Manziel. He’s got a good sense of the entire field, sneaky dangerous mobility, and a gunslinger mentality. He’s got good enough accuracy and arm strength to make all the throws he will need, and I think he would hold or build his value behind Baker.
28. Justin Fields, QB, The Ohio State Univeristy
I have no idea why people think Fields is freefalling in the draft. In my opinion if the 49ers traded up to pick Mac Jones when Fields is still available, they are crazy.
Fields is a legit 6’2”-plus and 220-plus pounds, runs a legit sub 4.5 at that size, has a huge arm, and is incredibly accurate down the field on difficult throws. He has been 1a or 1b to Trevor Lawrence his entire life, and it is easy to see why: he is dripping with talent and already a skilled and productive player. I see a lot of lazy takes on Fields that say is going to have to adjust to playing under center (OSU had plenty of snaps from under center the past two years), that he played in a “college offense” (Ryan Day used the same passing game with Chip Kelly in the NFL), or that Fields is the mythical “one read quarterback”–remember when people said that about Baker? I have a whole lot of thoughts to spill on the “one read quarterback” so I’ll save those for another time. But this idea is not only flawed, it is also wrong.
Fields absolutely benefitted from a good offensive line and outstanding receivers at Ohio State, as well as a great coach and great offense. But if you’re telling me that Mac Jones didn’t benefit the same way you’re lying to yourself. If you’re telling me that Zach Wilson didn’t benefit from playing against teams that he was clearly better than, you’re lying to yourself. Trevor Lawrence often had both of those advantages with insane talent around him and playing in a weak conference. Evaluate the player, not the situation.
Fields as a player has a lot of strengths, but he needs to mature in two key areas. The first is that he will not be able to play “heroball” as much in the NFL. He’ll have to find the fine line between daring and stupid, and he’ll have to walk it. Secondly, Fields will need to speed up his clock in terms of when to come off of his first read and get on with his progression. He does this now, but he just holds on a bit too long on average at the moment. When he’s throwing to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, I can’t really blame him for doing that. He might not be a maestro out there, but he can get through 1-2-3 quicker as time goes on.
27. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
While he doesn’t have Fields’ physical gifts, Lawrence appears to read the entire field and deliver the ball with a timing and an accuracy that is not matched in this draft class. His arm is not NFL-elite, but it is plenty strong enough. He’s a little thinner/longer, so you might worry about injury, but any NFL team would be wise to shield him from the types of hits he took at Clemson anyway. He’s the most complete QB prospect in this draft.
26. Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
Vera-Tucker looks the part of a thickly built guard who has the power to bowl you over but also the nimble feet to make cutoff blocks and succeed in our zone system. Physically, he’s exactly what we want inside.
Technique-wise, Vera-Tucker has flashes on tape but too often lets defenders bounce off of his blocks for a 2nd or 3rd shot at making a play. You can see his power in that he is often knocking those defenders backward, but you’d like to see him stick to guys a bit more. Even though he kind of lets these defenders off the hook it isn’t for lack of effort (unlike Darrisaw), as he will seek out contact a second or third time. He plays with a naturally low pad level, and I’m willing to bet I can coach him into better technique.
25. Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Collins won a lot of awards in college, and he is absolutely huge. He has maybe DE size to go along with above-average long speed for chasing ballcarriers down. My question about Collins is: is he actually special? He doesn’t appear to use his size advantage to blend power into his game on a frequent basis, and he plays like a smaller LB than he is. He isn’t as quick as some of the other LBs in this class in the short area, and appears stiffer than they are in terms of changing direction.
So I wonder if Collins is a high-floor, low-ceiling guy. That’s what he looks like to me.
24. Kadarius Toney
Toney is silky-smooth and reminds me a lot of Jarvis Landry: he isn’t huge but plays really tough for his size, he can freestyle some of his moves but will instantly change direction, he is slippery with the ball in his hands, and he seems like a guy who can do all of the dirty work in at the NFL level. Honestly, if we didn’t already have Landry on the team I’d bump Toney up, as this pick would kind of signal that Jarvis won’t play forever (which I something I don’t want to think about). I love Toney’s game.
23. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Bateman’s stock is on the way down a little because he checked in much smaller than anticipated at Minnesota’s pro day. He’s got some size and speed, but that really isn’t his game. To me, Bateman is a rich person’s Rishard Higgins: he’s just got a great feel for the game and will get open.
Bateman’s releases are excellent, which is more important in the pros than in college. He has a knack for feeling the soft spots in coverage, and incredible hands to pluck footballs out of the air. He lacks that “wow” kind of physical trait, but just being simply good at the game of football is underrated this time of year, and Bateman is.
22. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Yes, Farley has injury concerns. I am no doctor, and I trust that whatever team drafts him will have more knowledge than I do about his back.
But injury concerns aside, Farley is a ridiculous athlete. He’s got a burst and speed like maybe no one else in this class (though I’d put Greg Newsome in that category as well). Farley’s athleticism absolutely pops off of the tape.
However, for someone with those types of gifts Farley gets beaten way too often. And by players that should have no business beating him. He is inconsistent with his leverage, at times biting too hard on areas of the field that aren’t dangerous for him. He doesn’t finish enough contested passes with PBUs for my liking and will need to develop his ability to break up passes once he catches up to the receiver (he almost always catches up to the receiver). Some of that is finding the ball, some is playing it.
I think if Farley’s back checks out he will have a chance to improve these things and become a real impact player in the NFL. But he has work to do to get there even without the injury concerns.
21. Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Man, I struggle with where to put Davis. He plays our top position of need, his measurables are absolutely bonkers, and he could become the type of LB/S/Pass rusher hybrid that is really going to unlock things for defenses over the next 5 years. If he achieves his potential he could make an impact on our team like no one else in this class.
And Davis flashes the ability to be that kind of playmaker on tape. But that’s all it is at this point: flashes. He’s so young and inexperienced that I think Davis is going to need to grow into his role, and I’m not sure if he will end up being productive or not.
This is your classic high ceiling, low floor type of prospect, but if Andrew Berry is ready to make a bet on Davis, I am too.
Rufio’s final top 32 big board:
1. Christian Barmore
2. Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah
3. Micah Parsons
4. Patrick Surtain II
5. Ja’Marr Chase
6. Kwitty Paye
7. Jaycee Horn
8. Devonta Smith
9. Rashawn Slater
10. Azeez Ojulari
11. Greg Newsome II
12. Jaelan Phillips
13. Elijah Moore
14. Rondale Moore
15. Trevon Moehrig
16. Teven Jenkins
17. Landon Dickerson
18. Penei Sewell
19. Jayson Oweh
20. Kyle Pitts
21. Jamin Davis
22. Caleb Farley
23. Rashod Bateman
24. Kadarius Toney
25. Zaven Collins
26. Alijah Vera-Tucker
27. Trevor Lawrence
28. Justin Fields
29. Zach Wilson
30. Travis Etienne
31. Christian Darrisaw
32. Payton Turner
Thanks for reading, and go Browns!