The day after the NFL Draft is always one of the brightest for the league’s 32 teams.
Across seven rounds and 262 selections, each team was able to acquire every player they coveted, the various general managers selected only players that they had graded higher than the selection, and “value” was to be found as far as the eye could see.
In the case of the Cleveland Browns, they welcomed nine players to the roster starting with cornerback Martin Emerson in the second round and closing with center Dawson Deaton in the seventh round.
Not all those players will make the final roster naturally, but creating competition and depth is something the Browns looked to accomplish this weekend, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta said on Saturday while reflecting on the weekend’s work (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“Years ago, we were drafting rookies so they could come play on our team because we had holes on our team. We wanted to get to a point where we were drafting players who were going to have to compete for any kind of playing time at all. I think that is where we have gotten to now. We were not really drafting for need necessarily in these last couple of days. We were drafting for best player for the most part. These guys are going to have to come in and compete. There have been some questions about depth in different rooms. Hey, those are first-world problems, right? That is what we wanted to try to create and what we have been trying to create for years.”
The completion of the draft also brings the instant analysis of each team’s selections. Grading a draft before some of the selections have even set foot in a team’s headquarters is a bit nonsensical, but the report cards are out there so no harm in taking a look at a few to see how the Browns did. We’ll also include the grades for Cleveland’s divisional rivals the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers to see how things stack up.
Before we get started, here is a recap of Cleveland’s selections:
- Round 3 — CB Martin Emerson, Mississippi State
- Round 3 — DE Alex Wright, UAB
- Round 3 — WR David Bell, Purdue
- Round 4 — DT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
- Round 4 — K Cade York, LSU
- Round 5 — RB Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
- Round 6 — WR Michael Woods II, Oklahoma
- Round 7 — DE Isaiah Thomas, Oklahoma
- Round 7 — C Dawson Deaton, Texas Tech
Martin Emerson may prove to be a better player in the NFL than in college, where he was miscast in a system that didn’t quite play to his strengths. He has elite length for the position and could make a real name for himself in press coverage, but he struggles in off coverage and in space. He snagged just one interception in his college career despite facing 130 targets.
Alex Wright was one of the best-graded edge rushers in the nation in 2021, earning a 90.4 PFF grade at UAB after two solid years and a consistently improving pass-rushing grade. He had 51 pressures and some of the most dominant reps of any prospect. He has real size and power and has flown under the radar throughout the process.
Bell is slow and fell down boards as a result, but he still was a super productive wideout in the B1G. He attacks the ball well and has great physicality at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds. He isn’t a dynamic player by any means, but he does enough of the little things well to come in and produce early in Cleveland.
Winfrey started his college career at Iowa Western Community College for two years before transferring to Oklahoma. He made an impact as a penetrator with an elite first step to get upfield. However, he was often miscast in Oklahoma’s defense, playing 236 snaps at nose tackle despite being on the slimmer side. The former Sooner joins a team that has already selected an edge rusher and a cornerback in attempts to strengthen their defense.
Baltimore A+, Cincinnati B+, Pittsburgh B+
Most of Cleveland’s early draft capital (now and for the next couple of years) is tied up in the Deshaun Watson trade, but it did have three third-round picks to try to plug holes. Even with the addition of Amari Cooper, I thought the Browns would attempt to add a wideout with one of those picks, and that’s exactly where they went.
David Bell (99) dropped because of his speed — he ran a 4.65-second 40 at the combine — but he put up huge numbers at Purdue. He could be a nice target on curls and crossers because of his sure hands. I expect Cleveland to be in the market for veteran receiving help after the draft, but Bell could fill a role as a rookie.
Martin Emerson (68) is an outside press corner, defensive end Alex Wright (78) has long arms for his 6-foot-5 frame and has some upside as a pass-rusher, and Cade York (124) is my top-ranked kicker. Perrion Winfrey (108) is a nice value pick; I thought he could go 50 picks earlier. As a 3-technique tackle, he can wreak havoc against centers and guards. I bet his Oklahoma teammate Isaiah Thomas (223) will make the team as a rotational edge rusher too.
It’s tough to get starters without picks until Round 3, but I thought Cleveland did a good job with what it had.
Baltimore A, Cincinnati B, Pittsburgh B
The Cleveland Browns did not have a pick until the third round, thanks to the Deshaun Watson trade. But they managed to add some talented players on defense with their first two picks, adding cornerback Martin Emerson from Mississippi State and Alex Wright from UAB. Wright might be more of a developmental edge prospect, but his frame, change-of-direction skills and athleticism are a heck of a foundation. He can step in as a rotational edge rusher along with Chase Winovich across from Myles Garrett, and with Garrett on the field he will see a bunch of protections slid away from him, giving him some one-on-one opportunities.
Cornerback was not a huge need in Cleveland, but how the organization feels about Martin Emerson might be reflected in a move that came later on Saturday, when the Browns traded Troy Hill to the Los Angeles Rams, perhaps opening up a spot for Emerson to slide into their slot cornerback role. The most interesting selection is Bell in the third round, as the Browns added one of the most productive receivers in the NCAA who slid due to poor testing. If they can get out of Bell what Purdue did, this B+ grade becomes an A+ overnight. Then at the start of the fourth round they added Perrion Winfrey, a penetrating defensive tackle who earned some first-round buzz after his performance at the Senior Bowl.
Baltimore A, Cincinnati B+, Pittsburgh B+
Mid-round DE Alex Wright (Round 3), WR David Bell (Round 3), DT Perrion Winfrey (Round 4) and K Cade York (Round 4) could all pay off right away. And don’t forget they essentially surrendered a fifth-rounder to get WR Amari Cooper. But this draft and future ones will ultimately be defined by what QB Deshaun Watson, and all the baggage he comes with, provides to this franchise.
Baltimore A, Cincinnati B, Pittsburgh B
This is about as good as a team can do when it doesn’t have a pick in the first two rounds. The Martin Emerson pick was initially the one I was scratching my head about, but it makes more sense following the Troy Hill trade. David Bell and Perrion Winfrey were great value picks. They needed to get a kicker and got a potentially great one in Cade York. A couple of guys can contribute right away, but true to his word, Andrew Berry kept his focus to the future. He even added two Day 3 picks for 2023.
Baltimore A+, Cincinnati B, Pittsburgh A-
The trade for Deshaun Watson sets the direction of the franchise for the foreseeable future, as the Browns gave up three first-round picks as part of the deal. Cleveland has its quarterback, but I believe the price was too high for Watson, who is currently facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and misconduct, as well as potential discipline under the NFL’s personal conduct policy pending the outcome of an ongoing league investigation.
On Day 2, Emerson, Wright and Bell all met needs and provided good value at premium positions. The Browns can count receiver Amari Cooper as part of their Day 3 haul, which was a good start. Getting the aggressive, quick Winfrey at the three-technique spot in the fourth round was a steal, as was selecting his teammate, Thomas, as a power end in the seventh round. York went a bit earlier than I expected, though he showed a nice leg on field goals and kickoffs at LSU. Ford, an Alabama transfer, is vastly underrated.
Baltimore A, Cincinnati A-, Pittsburgh A-
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