The wait is finally over. Palms are getting clammy. Cell phones are fully-charged. Sports agents have been busy talking up their clients. Rumors are swirling. Car dealerships have been inserted onto speed dial. The City of Kansas City is going into hyper mode.
The 2023 NFL Player Selection Meeting is about to begin. That’s the official name since the procedure’s inception in 1936. Nowadays, it’s simply referred to as the “NFL draft.”
Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry met with members of the press on Friday inside the media room at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. It is the most anticipated presser for media members. Obviously, Berry wasn’t going to give up anything that would reveal his overall draft strategy, but he did say some very interesting things regarding the draft and roster which begins this Thursday and concludes Saturday.
Here is what stood out and the most intriguing:
Berry is going to let the draft come to him
The Browns do not own a first or second-round pick this year just like in the 2022 draft. In that draft, he was able to snag CB Martin Emerson, Jr. who not only played right out of the gate, but eventually took over the right cornerback spot opposite Denzel Ward.
Berry did not reach for the players he wanted within his draft pick means and was not forced to give up more capital that would hurt the franchise making them draft-poor.
The same Is expected this year when Cleveland does not draft until the number 74th pick in the third round. The goal hasn’t changed as they are going to be “flexible and focused” on “maximizing talent.”
“I don’t know that I think of our roster status as being so unique that we would pivot significantly from the type of risks we think are appropriate in certain rounds versus not.”
Having said all that, Berry is not looking for Day 1 starters
The perception from most NFL fans is that when a club adds young talent they are deemed as instant starters or immediate difference makers. This is not the case and it’s not what Berry has as his focus. Berry is seeking players that will bring value to the team more so in 2024 and beyond. The largest holes on the roster were mostly filled during free agency. So this year’s draft is more about quality depth who will contribute on a rotational basis, special teams, and third and fourth-string positions on the depth chart.
“Ideally, you want to be in a position as a roster where you’re not relying on rookies to have major roles. We really want to make sure that as we’re in this lifecycle of the team, we’re in a position where younger players can maybe intergrade into the NFL and develop in the NFL at maybe more of an appropriate pace.”
The theory becomes athletes selected this year will be developmental players who will find quality snaps on both offense and defense on a limited basis unless another player like Emerson emerges from this group.
A quarterback may or may not be taken
It is not a certainty that the Browns will stand pat on their quarterback situation. Currently, Deshaun Watson’s backup is either Kellen Mond or Josh Dobbs. The team is very comfortable with Dobbs and his development from last year even though they did not retain his services for the season. Mond is raw and needs more development.
Add the fact that the Browns have used some of their allotted prospect visits on several quarterbacks, Berry explained that the roster is an ever-evolving state. There needs as much information collected at every position across the board including quarterback.
This was Berry’s explanation of whether drafting a QB in any round this year is inevitable:
“For us, as we think through what easily ends up being about 125 guys on the board, we just want to make sure that we have everything on all the guys, because you just don’t know what the possibilities are going to be that the individual falls to you. Certainly, with quarterbacks, we like to spend a lot of time with them and we try to do that appropriately over the course of the spring and in different venues. It’s the most important position in sports and no different than adding depth and competition at receiver or defensive line or corner or linebacker or offensive line. We are going to do the same thing at quarterback.”
LT Jedrick Wills and the linebacker group
Berry did not confirm or deny that the Browns are indeed picking up the fifth-year option on Wills. In the past, Berry has always picked up fifth-year options for his first-round picks before the current draft begins so it’s a wait-and-see for the former 10th-overall pick. Wills has endured scrutiny among Browns fans for his mistakes and appears to be an average starter.
Berry stated this about Wills:
“I think you know that I don’t really talk about contracts or those decisions in this setting. You guys will certainly know before May 2 and we’re pleased with Jed.”
As far as the linebacker group, all of the injured players from last season have either completely healed or will be ready on the eve of training camp. The lone exception is Sione Takitaki who underwent ACL surgery on December 14, putting him on track to return in mid-October,
“With Anthony (Walker) in particular, I think everybody who has been around the team understands how important he is, in terms of not only his play but his leadership and communication skills. “With Sione (Takitaki), I think the added experience that he was able to get last season playing multiple spots and doing a really nice job until he got hurt. The silver lining to the injuries is that we enter this year with more depth, in terms of that communicator spot. We are very excited to have both of those individuals back on the team.”
On the trade for WR Elijah Moore
Berry did dive into this trade he orchestrated with the New York Jets during the free agency period.
The fact that Moore plays a premium position and is only 22 years old with boxes checked that Berry could not ignore. He views Moore worthy of a second-round pick who already has two years of NFL experience and arrives in Berea as an NFL starting-caliber player.
The Browns are loaded at the wide receiver position but Berry felt that he could not pass up the opportunity even though it cost the Browns their second-round selection in this year’s draft. Now Cleveland has the option to place three high-quality receivers on the field simultaneously going into Week 1.
Berry further explained the Moore trade:
“For us, with (receiver) Elijah (Moore), we saw a guy who was a 22-year old receiver that could separate, had speed, good hands. His skill set would fit a need that we thought we had on the roster. He’s still on his rookie deal and we thought the draft-pick compensation was appropriate, while still maintaining our volume in 2023. We thought it was a good fit for us, a good opportunity for us.”
One aspect is a certainty: Berry must make more productive draft choices. Since he has been tasked with the selection process three years ago, there has not been a single Pro Bowler drafted under his watch.
Want to watch?
The 2023 NFL Draft will take place in Kansas City from April 27-29. The specific start times (Eastern) for each day are as follows:
- Thursday, April 27: Round 1 (8 p.m.)
- Friday, April 28: Rounds 2-3 (7 p.m.)
- Saturday, April 29: Rounds 4-7 (12 p.m.)