The Cleveland Browns have some very obvious roster holes that need addressing in the offseason.
Defensive tackle should be at the top of general manager Andrew Berry’s to-do list, along with adding a respectable backup quarterback given the expectation that Jacoby Brissett will find a better opportunity elsewhere. And continuing to add depth to the offensive line is always a nice idea.
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One other area to keep an eye on is wide receiver. A year ago, Berry added Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys for the low, low price of a 2022 fifth-round draft selection and an exchange of sixth-round picks. That worked out well for the Browns as Cooper led the team with 78 receptions, 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns.
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Josh Downs snags his second TD of the night!— Carolina Football (@UNCFootball) August 28, 2022
Even with the improvement from third-year wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who finished with 61 receptions (more than his first two years combined) and 839 yards (just 62 yards less than his first two years combined), the Browns could be in the market to add another pass catcher in the draft.
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If Berry agrees, it will be interesting to see how he prioritizes when position — defensive tackle or wide receiver — is more vital, with some of that decision driven by who will be available when the Browns are on the clock with their first selection of the 2023 NFL Draft, which is currently the No. 42 overall pick since the team does not have a first-round selection after the trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
ESPN’s Matt Miller took a stab at answering that question and tapped North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs as the team’s second-round pick, with Berry addressing defensive tackle in the third round with Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey in the third round:
The Browns lack a first-rounder after the Watson trade and must use their eight picks in Rounds 2-7 to address the wide receiver and defensive line needs. North Carolina’s Josh Downs would slot in perfectly opposite Amari Cooper and will likely be available in Round 2 for Cleveland. Defensive tackle is arguably the team’s biggest need, though, and the Browns are more likely to find a rotational option like Pitt’s Calijah Kancey in Round 3.
A two-time, first-team All-ACC selection, Downs declared for the draft in December after three seasons with the Tar Heels. For his collegiate career, Downs caught 202 passes for 2,483 yards and 22 touchdowns. He did all of his work the past two seasons as he set single-season records for the North Carolina program as a sophomore with 101 receptions for 1,335 yards, and followed that up last season with 94 catches for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Downs is only 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, but he makes the most of what size he has, an unnamed NFL scout told ESPN’s Pete Thamel:
“He’s not big, but he’s muscled up. He’s got enough thickness to him. He’s quick as a cat, can get open and can be a dynamic playmaker with the ball. All these NFL receivers are such playmakers now, it’s changed the way that teams look at the position.”
The Browns can certainly use as many playmakers as possible for Watson, so it will be interesting to see how Berry approaches the situation this offseason.