Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry went into the 2021 NFL Draft with a clear focus on building on the additions to the defensive side of the ball that were made in free agency.
After three days, seven rounds and eight selections, it appears that Berry hit his goal.
The Browns added five players on defense - cornerback Greg Newsome II, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, linebacker Tony Fields II and safety Richard LeCounte III - all without sacrificing any players or future key draft capital in the process.
⭐️ Our 2021 NFL Draft Class ⭐️— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 1, 2021
Those additions will amp up the competition for roster spots this summer in training camp, Berry said during a media call via a team-released transcript:
”We really do believe in breeding competition in every position room. In terms of the defensive turnover – I mentioned this a little bit in January – every year, regardless of where your team is, something like one-third of the roster gets turned over on average. This year is a little bit unique in that we did have more turnover on the defensive side of the ball than on offense. Also, part of that is just a function of where our defense was contractually as we get into the year. We had a number of unrestricted free agents, and many of them were on that side of the ball. We love the guys we brought in this offseason and we are optimistic that they are going to be very capable producers, but I think turnover is pretty typical.”
Now that the draft is complete, let’s take a look at how the national media views Berry’s work. Grading drafts is one of those silly, but mostly harmless, exercises that accompany draft season - along with “expert” mock drafts that have far more misses than hits - but it is still nice to see the Browns receive some national love for their efforts.
Day 1: The Browns are one of the NFL’s smartest teams, and they attacked one of the most valuable positions in the game here. Newsome is also a very good prospect, representing incredible value here at No. 26. He was battle-tested on a small sample of snaps in 2020, facing 34 targets through his first four games. He held his own, allowing just 93 yards and five first downs while making eight plays on the ball. His feet are easily the best in the class. Whether Newsome is playing off-coverage or press-man, he’ll make plays.
Day 2: The Browns continue to make smart moves. It’s not easy to pinpoint a clear role for Owusu-Koramoah in the NFL, but he’s talented enough to contribute somewhere. He’s an off-ball linebacker who had slot cornerback coverage responsibilities in Notre Dame’s defense and looked good in that role. JOK is a smooth, explosive athlete who can fill multiple roles for Cleveland defensively. This is tremendous value for a top-20 player on PFF’s Big Board.
Day 3: Cleveland continues to commit highway robbery by getting Tommy Togiai, a Day 2 pick, here on Day 3. He has a powerful bull-rush and can be a forceful 3-technique in both facets. He posted an 87.8 run-defense grade and 77.0 pass-rush grade for the Buckeyes in 2020.
Finding a talented cornerback like Newsome waiting to hear his name called at No. 26 was a big bonus for the Browns. He’ll be a stopper on the outside for a defense looking to become championship-caliber. The trade up for JOK was a good move, especially considering the small amount of value they relinquished in the deal. Schwartz will take the top off defenses if he’s able to add consistency to his game.
Cleveland found another Chris Hubbard-type prospect in the early fourth round in Hudson. The Browns picked him a bit earlier than I had him valued because of his inconsistency. Togiai was a great pick to fill a need at defensive tackle, given his combination of strength and foot quickness. I love the Fields selection as additional talent at linebacker and on special teams. LeCounte’s film was much better than his pro day workout. I view him as a solid find in the fifth round. Felton is a versatile weapon. He lacks elite speed but seems to always make plays.
How does it feel, Browns fans, to not have to worry too much about an NFL draft? You’ve got a good, ascending team, and general manager Andrew Berry has shown that he can draft well. The one criticism I have about Berry’s top three picks is that he didn’t address the defensive end spot. Yes, Jadeveon Clowney was signed to a one-year deal, but there is not much young, talented depth after Clowney and Myles Garrett. They can’t rely on former first-round pick Takk McKinley.
Top pick Greg Newsome II (26) had an outstanding 2020 season and then had a great pro day workout, vaulting him into the first round. Injuries decimated the Browns’ secondary a year ago, but now they have an outside corner to compete with 2019 second-rounder Greedy Williams opposite Denzel Ward (they also signed fantastic slot corner Troy Hill). Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (52) could be one of the steals of the draft, as he dropped all the way into Round 2. He’s a sideline-to-sideline player who is good in the run and pass game. I see him as a rookie starter for the Browns at one of the linebacker spots. Cleveland also needed a slot receiver, and it got one with elite track speed in Anthony Schwartz (91).
I thought offensive tackle James Hudson (110) would have been a good pick in Round 3, and the Browns got him a round later. Receiver Demetric Felton (211) and defensive tackle Tommy Togiai (132) are solid value picks who could eventually find playing time.
If Clowney has a breakout year, great, but the Browns will have to give him a big contract to keep him. They had a chance to get a high-ceiling edge rusher on Day 2 and didn’t take it, which means I can’t go too high here.
Vinnie Iyer at The Sporting News: A
GM Andrew Berry had a terrific weekend taking his playoff team to another level. Newsome and Owusu-Koramoah filled the final defensive needs in a great offseason for that side of the ball, to the point Cleveland can be dominant there. The team got plenty of valuable depth across positions and added some big-play flair on offense and special teams with Schwartz and Felton.
It’s hard to think of a team that picked as late as the Browns did and filled as many needs with high-end starters over the first few rounds. Greg Newsome II could be the final bit of mortar holding together one of the best secondaries on paper in the NFL. Let me say that again three times before I get chewed apart for this: ON PAPER. ON PAPER. ON. PAPER. John Johnson III, Ronnie Harrison, Grant Delpit, Denzel Ward, Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are going to present some serious matchup issues for their opponents. Cleveland, thanks to this draft, is probably going to be one of the few teams in the NFL capable of dictating what most offenses do instead of the other way around.
At the back end of the draft, experimenting with a player like Demetric Felton out of UCLA could really pay dividends. As more teams hone in on what the Browns do well offensively in their double-tight personnel, Felton is a running back/receiver/returner hybrid who can show up in 10 or 11 personnel and scare teams as he shoots across the backfield in sprint motion.
The Browns had an exciting draft, particularly given their unfamiliarity picking so late in each round. They grabbed talented cover man Newsome (the 29th-ranked player on my board) in the first round before selecting spark-plug playmaker Owusu-Koramoah (the ninth-ranked player on my board) in the second. The latter represents incredible value, and both offer day-one starting potential. I’m also a fan of Schwartz, who has world-class speed. He could be a field stretcher and gadget player in head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense―with the upside to develop into something more.
Have your say, Browns fans. How would you grade Cleveland’s 2021 draft class?
How do you grade the Browns 2021 draft class?
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