The annual run-up to the NFL draft has been blunted for Cleveland Browns fans after decades of it being the lifeblood of the fan base. Since 2019, the Browns have had just two first-round selections due to trades for Odell Beckham Jr. and Deshaun Watson.
Barring a trade, Cleveland won’t draft in the first round again until 2025.
The draft doesn’t end with the first round and GM Andrew Berry has eight picks to improve the team. The lack of first-round selections just minimizes hope of immediate impact and interest in the draft.
Another piece of the annual run-up is a conference call before the NFL combine kicks off. For years, Mike Mayock would hold court answering questions about the upcoming draft class, what he is hearing around the league and what he predicts will happen in April. After Mayock was hired (and since fired) as the Las Vegas Raiders GM, Daniel Jeremiah has taken over the post.
In this year’s call, Jeremiah linked two players on the defensive line to the Browns as potential day-two selections:
They have a premier player in Will McDonald IV in terms of burst and athleticism. He’s a little bit undersized at 241 pounds. We’ll see what he weighs (at the combine). He can really get off the ball. He can win with spin moves. He can win just turning the corner. Burst and bend is his calling card.
“I really like Felix Anudike-Uzomah from Kansas State,” Jeremiah said. “He’s kind of right in that range for me, too. He can get off the ball. He can win with his hands.”
Based on Berry’s history, there is almost no way that McDonald will be the team’s selection. Under their current GM, Cleveland has never drafted a player over the age of 22 in the first three rounds. McDonald will be 24 to start next year.
Anudike-Uzomah does fit the age criteria and could be of interest to Berry in the second or third round as Jeremiah notes. He is expected to measure a little bigger than McDonald and hold up better against the run based on the use of his hands and feet tied together.
Given the Browns needs on the defensive line and Jim Schwartz’s arrival as new defensive coordinator, expect a lot of links to prospects that could fill needs throughout this draft process.