Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry has been hard at work this offseason renovating the team’s defensive line.
Out are defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Chase Winovich, and defensive tackle Taven Bryan. In their place are defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson, Maurice Hurst and Trysten Hill.
It has been a solid start, but Berry is likely not done tinkering, especially at the defensive end position.
The Browns signed Okoronkwo with the expectation that he will start opposite defensive end Myles Garrett, and they are still feeling positive about what Alex Wright, a third-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, can bring off the bench for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Berry told cleveland.com:
“We feel good about Alex. Jim (Schwartz) feels good about Alex. It’s tough for young and rookie linemen. That’s usually a slower-developing position. But as we look at our third and fourth edge guys, those are guys we want to play 35% of the time, play with a high energy, a high motor, and Alex’s physical skill set and work ethic and makeup are perfect for Jim’s defense.”
While there are still some name players available to pursue in free agency — most notably Frank Clark and Yannick Ngakoue — the Browns are currently not feeling an urgency to pay a higher price for a defensive end, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
That leaves the upcoming NFL Draft, where the Browns are currently not scheduled to make a selection until the third round (No. 74 overall) after sending their second-round pick (No. 42 overall) to the New York Jets in exchange for wide receiver Elijah Moore.
Most overlooked freaky thing from #NFLCombine Day 1 is Louisville DL YaYa Diaby’s 1.56 10-yard split at 263 lbs.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 3, 2023
Georgia OLB Nolan Smith’s 1.52 10-yard is highly impressive but he’s 25 lbs lighter.
Diaby’s explosive take-off is ELITE for his size.
And he had 9 sacks this year. pic.twitter.com/tYugyJ0JSp
One player to keep an eye on when the Browns are on the clock could be Louisville defensive end YaYa Diaby, who is the pick by ESPN’s Steve Muench in a paywalled article looking at teams without a first-round selection:
You can’t have enough pass-rushers. Diaby is coming off a breakout season and tested well at the combine, running a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash and leaping 10 feet in the broad jump at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds. He’s at his best pass-rushing between the tackles, as his first-step quickness and good length give interior offensive linemen problems. But he’s just scratching the surface in terms of his ability to get after the quarterback, and I think Diaby has the potential to develop into a starter on the outside.
The 6-foot-3 and 263-pound Diaby was second on the Cardinals defense in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (nine) last season in 13 starts, which earned him a selection to the All-ACC third team.
Despite playing three seasons at Louisville, Diaby still has areas to work on, as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein highlights:
Diaby plays with strong hands and clear eyes at the point of attack. He can strike and separate as a two-gapping five-technique or pursue and tackle as a 4-3 base end. He’s a power rusher lacking an instinctive approach to beat better NFL tackles, but his lateral quickness and short-area burst make Diaby perfect for a twisting/gaming front. His frame and skill set could attract attention as an odd- or even-front end with his ceiling being defined by how much he’s able to improve his creativity as a rusher.
Diaby picked up some additional exposure at this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl as he showed off his athleticism in a variety of formations, he said at last month’s NFL Scouting Combine:
“I feel like it helped me a lot just showing what I can do, not just on the edge, but on the inside. I can be on the edge or in the three (technique) but I see myself as an edge. If I need to come in on third down and be three, then you got me. I’ll definitely bring juice and bring passion to the defense.”
Diaby’s athleticism would presumably be appealing to the Browns, as would the fact that they would not need him to come in as a starter from Day 1, which would provide him with the time he needs to mature his game.
Whether or not the Browns agree is not known, but Diaby could be a player to watch once the NFL Draft kicks off next month.