The NFL draft is both the most important part of an NFL team and a huge crapshoot of an event. Around 31%, or less depending on the draft, of first-round picks sign a second contract with the team that drafts them. Success rates drop precipitously after that with around 50% of third-round picks getting second contracts.
The results of the data suggest the following:
From a team standpoint, if just one of your draft picks is extended in a second contract, that is an average draft. Extending two is a good draft, and 3 or more extraordinarily good.
Now that we have normalized the NFL draft at an NFL level, it puts into perspective Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry’s selections. We will start to find out soon what players from the 2020 draft class might get extended with WR Donovan Peoples-Jones at the top of the list despite being the team’s final selection that year.
While we will note extension expectations for Berry’s draft classes, it is more important for this article to discuss each player’s role for the upcoming 2023 NFL season:
Browns 2020 NFL draft class
- Jedrick Wills - Wills will be the team’s starting left tackle and had his fifth-year option picked up which could lead to extension talks.
- Grant Delpit - Expected to play as a starting split safety (one side of the field versus free or strong) with Juan Thornhill, Delpit has improved since missing his rookie season due to injury. Extension talks could start during the season if the LSU safety continues to play well
- Jordan Elliott - The first of Berry’s draft picks that could be on the chopping block, Elliott hasn’t excelled as a nose or 3-technique under Joe Woods but has a chance to prove to Jim Schwartz he belongs on the team.
- Jacob Phillips - Injuries dropped Phillips in the draft and have had a huge impact on his career on the field. He is also fighting for a roster spot.
- Harrison Bryant - Bryant’s fate would be more tenuous but he is the team’s third tight end with very little competition right now.
- Nick Harris - With Ethan Pocic extended and Luke Wypler drafted, Harris’ future is in doubt coming off a lost season due to a knee injury. With a different offense expected, the smaller Harris may not be as good of a fit.
- Donovan Peoples-Jones - The team’s second receiver, DPJ has improved throughout his career and could be the first player from this list extended. A DeAndre Hopkins signing could also lead Berry to trade Peoples-Jones to recoup value and save future cap space.
Class Success? There are two players (DPJ and Delpit) that have earned second contracts and another (Wills) that is highly likely to get one with the Browns or another team. Based on the above research, Berry has had an extraordinary draft with three players likely getting second contracts, possibly from the team that drafted them.
Browns 2021 NFL draft class
- Greg Newsome II - After a tough season with Woods keeping players aligned in very specific spots instead of matching up with receivers and where they would play best, Newsome is looking forward to playing under Schwartz. He will be the team’s starting corner along with Denzel Ward and Martin Emerson. Newsome has been a quality player and will receive a second contract with his fifth-year option likely picked up next summer.
- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - The undersized, speedy linebacker will benefit greatly from the added beef and talent on Cleveland’s defensive line. JOK is the lone linebacker expected to play significant snaps with future years on his contract. His third season could be a breakout one and lead to contract talks.
- Anthony Schwartz - Unlikely to make the team in 2023 barring a huge leap in play and/or catastrophic injuries to the receiving group.
- James Hudson - Set for a backup role again but the drafting of Dawand Jones could put Hudson on the trade block if a team is desperate for OL help.
- Tommy Togiai - Much of what was said about Elliott above goes for Togiai here. The Browns brought in a variety of defensive tackles that will make it tough for Togiai to make the roster unless he shows a better fit under Schwartz.
- Tony Fields - Injuries have limited Fields’ playing time and Cleveland brought in multiple special teams players for Bubba Ventrone this offseason. He will fight for a roster spot.
- Richard LeCounte III - Last season, LeCounte became the first of Berry’s draft picks to be cut.
- Demetric Felton - At RB or WR, Felton hasn’t made much of an impact and now finds himself, seemingly, back with the backs where he could compete for a spot but is on the roster bubble as well.
Class Success? The potential for this class lies almost entirely with Newsome and JOK as five of the six either aren’t on the roster or will have a tough time making the team. Hudson is the only other draft pick close to certain to be on the roster in 2023. Despite that, if Newsome and JOK sign second contracts, Berry would have had a good draft.
Browns 2022 NFL draft class
- Martin Emerson - As noted, Emerson is expected to start alongside Ward and Newsome in his second season. As will be true for the rest of this class, too early to discuss second contracts for those going into their second season.
- Alex Wright - With multiple additions to defensive end, Wright will likely see less snaps in 2023 but has important size to help round out the position. He could also slide inside under Schwartz.
- David Bell - The somewhat forgotten man, Bell’s ability to find openings and catch almost everything thrown his way will be a valuable asset for QB Deshaun Watson in a more spread out offense despite the additions at the receiver room.
- Perrion Winfrey - Immaturity issues that presented during Winfrey’s rookie season, an offseason criminal charge and the additions at the defensive tackle spot could put the Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman on the trading/chopping block much sooner than anyone would have expected.
- Cade York - There is no competition on the roster so York will be the team’s kicker. Thankfully, after a rough start, York seemed to settle in a bit last season. Hopefully, Ventrone will help him take the next step.
- Jerome Ford - From barely used in the offense to the team’s primary backup, Ford is a mystery to fans but the team seems bought into his ability to play an important role.
- Michael Woods II - Out for the season after tearing his Achilles.
- Isaiah Thomas - The other Sooner from this draft class, Thomas showed flashes as a rookie but could be caught up in the numbers game on the edge.
- Dawson Deaton - After missing all of last year, Deaton, like Harris, finds more competition in front of him to make the team at center or guard.
Class Success? This is the first class Berry had where winning now became more important than developing players. Wright, Bell, Winfrey, Woods, Thomas and Deaton could also see reduced roles or their roster spot taken due to veterans brought in for immediate needs.
Browns 2023 NFL draft class
- Cedric Tillman - A lot of talent at the receiver position, Tillman could become a redzone threat in 2023 while waiting for a bigger role in 2024.
- Siaki Ika - Despite a number of additions at defensive tackle, Ika has a shot at starting in 2023 if he can prove to be the big player needed next to Dalvin Tomlinson. Ika will likely have a role even if he isn’t starting.
- Dawand Jones - Backup, developmental tackle with high upside.
- Isaiah McGuire - With the additions of Za’Darius Smith and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to go with Myles Garrett, McGuire may not see much time on the field in 2023.
- Dorian Thompson-Robinson - DTR is likely the team’s third quarterback this season while preparing to be the team’s long-term back starting in 2024.
- Cameron Mitchell - While Mitchell has been talked about for a role at slot corner, he didn’t play a ton there in college. With the top three corners locked in, Mitchell will have to fight for playing time on defense while proving himself on special teams.
- Luke Wypler - The drafting of Wypler could impact Harris and Deaton. A player that many thought would go higher, Wypler slots in as the team’s primary backup center for the next year or two.
Class Success? Interestingly, Ika is the only player that seems certain to have playing time in 2023 while a few of the others are prepped for roles in 2024.
While some fans bemoan Berry’s draft classes, based on expectations of second contracts he’s been highly successful. Obviously, those are expectations and based solely on a simple way to determine success. On the other hand, which players get second contracts is a pretty solid way to at least say whether a drafted player proved themselves during their rookie contracts.
For 2023, three players from the 2020 class (Wills, Delpit, DPJ), two from the 2021 class (Newsome, JOK), one (maybe two) from the 2022 class (Emerson, maybe Bell) and one from the 2023 class (Ika) are expected to play vital roles for the team. All of that is barring major injuries that shake up the roster and could provide opportunities for other draft picks to make an impact.