The NFL draft starts April 27th but for fans of the Cleveland Browns it doesn’t start until later in the day Friday. With both their first and second-round picks gone after trades to acquire QB Deshaun Watson and WR Elijah Moore, the Browns will either have to trade up or wait for the 74th overall selection to make their first pick.
With so many picks before they are up, Cleveland NFL draft rumors are few and far between at this point. Instead, we are left to piece together what could happen ahead of the Browns selection, what is being said about the overall class and reading between the lines of visits and meetings.
While most fans hate the idea, a vast majority of the draft is about the future. While some players will make waves as rookies, the percentage is quite low. It rises as time goes on but not as much as we would like. Linebackers, for example, haven’t had a lot of success after being drafted in the first round the last few years. The list is far from impressive:
For all the "don't draft a running back in the first round" talk…not drafting a linebacker might be the better conversation. pic.twitter.com/DI3jUWnJ3E— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 5, 2023
As we try to read tea leaves, we take a look at a big piece put out by ESPN where they hit on 2023 NFL draft buzz and rumors (Insiders, $) for some clues:
- WR Jalin Hyatt, a player Cleveland has visited with, is noted as a possible top 25 selection
- WR Jonathan Mingo is noted as stepping out as a round two target. Mingo is one of the few size/speed receivers in the draft which could be helping his value tremendously
- A couple of Day 3 notes on players that should/could interest the Browns:
Reid: Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas. Even though he was No. 2 running back at Texas behind Bijan Robinson, Johnson caught the eye of scouts. He carried the ball only 93 times last season but averaged six yards per tote.
Miller: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA. The quarterback class has a sizable drop-off in talent after Hendon Hooker, but scouts are starting to buzz about Thompson-Robinson, likely the QB6 in this class. DTR is a former top prep recruit who started 48 times in college and was highly productive as both a passer and runner, finishing 11th last season in QBR (82.1) and also rushing for 12 touchdowns.
We profiled DTR this weekend as a potential selection for Cleveland to secure Watson’s long-term backup. Johnson is among a large group of running backs that could help secure the depth chart behind Nick Chubb.
A couple of other interesting notes, first that wide receiver success rate in the NFL is correlated directly to where they were drafted:
Draft position matters more for NFL success than any other wide receiver metric. According to @GrindingMocks, the top five WR most commonly mocked near the top are:— Kevin Cole (@KevinCole___) April 4, 2023
Jalin Hyatt pic.twitter.com/8rIx4K1uzp
Correlation isn’t causation but either NFL teams are very good at drafting receivers or those drafted early are the only ones given a chance to succeed long-term or both.
Finally, as we talk regularly about positional value, it is important to put it into context. There are a lot of ways to think about it including how long a player is good for, their impact on the team and many others. One of those other ways is noted here, how much each position earns on average near the top:
29. How do you calculate position value?— Cash Over Cap (@cashovercap) April 1, 2023
The chart below shows the averages of the top ten salaries at each position by APY (average per year from Over The Cap) and is based on the work of @PFF_Mike pic.twitter.com/blnBpazqc3
Simply stated, if a position is valuable, it will be paid as such. Obviously, this can change over time but, besides special teams and fullbacks, it shows that interior linemen, running backs and tight ends are the four lowest-paid positions on offense while safety and linebacker are for the defense.
With a little over two weeks left until the NFL draft and Easter on the way Sunday, expect that the rumors, reports and buzz will grow. We may also see a few more veteran signings around the league as teams start to finalize their draft boards.