The cornerback group last season was a huge success for the Cleveland Browns. Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome played the way first-round picks should perform.
The new guy, M.J. Emerson, was the Browns first pick in the 2022 NFL draft, taken in Round 3. When selected, he was viewed as a nickel or dime addition to the room. However, in his very first NFL game in a preseason contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Emerson intercepted a pass stolen out of the receiver’s hands and then took it to the house.
That was the story of good things to come as Emerson became less of a rookie and more as a pass defender the defense could rely on.
The letdown of this group was the same disappointment the defense had experienced for several seasons: Greedy Williams. The Browns spent a second-round pick on Greedy so there were always expectations surrounding him. Yet, his play was not up to par.
The stigma in college was that he would have to learn how to tackle better in the pros. So, that never really improved. Now Greedy is with the Philadelphia Eagles and we wish him, well, bye.
Mekhi Blackmon came up with the interception for USC in the end zone— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) September 11, 2022
(via @USC_FB) pic.twitter.com/AJAoZ5gC57
In addition to Ward, Newsome and Emerson, the current cornerback room includes A.J. Green, who was re-signed in free agency, Mike Ford and Thomas Graham, Jr. So there is room for another good cover guy with exceptional speed in the upcoming NFL draft. CB Mekhi Blackmon had 66 tackles and three interceptions in his senior campaign.
CB Mekhi Blackmon
Draft projection: mid to late Round 4
Browns pick: #131 (their second pick in Round 4)
College: USC Trojans
Weight: 170 pounds
Career Tackles: 142
Career Forced Fumbles: 1
Career Sacks: 1
Career Tackles for Loss: 4
Career Pass Defenses: 24
Career Interceptions: 5
Career starts: 35
- Excellent point of attack defender
- Hustler who runs a 4.47
- Will become a special teams ace
- Can play outside or the slot
- Quick strikes to opponent’s chest right off the line
- Very good at tracking deep throws
- Has the ability to time his jumps
- Excellent recovery skills
- Senior Bowl invitee
- Needs to play more with length
- Below average finisher on tackles
- Bigger-bodied receivers have the advantage
- Kind of grabby
- Too tight-hipped to swivel freely
- His shadow on route breaks need work
Expert Draft Site Analysis
Blackmon is a huge project who could turn into something but also could be a huge whiff. under the right conditions, Blackmon could be a late-round steal. At his best in man coverage, moving down to guard tight ends and some bigger slot receivers. Has the length and speed to emerge as a starter two or three years down the line. Blackmon also does a nice job breaking down in space as a tackler after the catch. Doesn’t have a physical edge to his game, lacking power in his initial punch. That holds true in run support as well, where Blackmon is hesitant to come downhill.