With the books closed on last season, the Browns will now turn their attention to the standard items on the offseason checklist, including:
- A refresh of the coaching staff
- Some general accounting to remain compliant with the league’s salary cap
- A discussion about the 26 pending free agents
That all leads up to the 2024 NFL Draft, which will take place April 25-27 in Las Vegas.
This will be the third and final year that the Browns do not have a first-round selection as part of the 2022 trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson. But general manager Andrew Berry is currently in possession of eight selections, beginning in Round 2 and continuing through Round 3, Round 5 (two picks), Round 6 (two picks), and Round 7 (two picks).
While lacking the sizzle of selecting in the first round, Berry has still been able to stock the roster with some talent and depth pieces, most notably cornerback Martin Emerson Jr., defensive end Alex Wright, and wide receiver David Bell (all third-round selections in 2022); and offensive tackle Dawand Jones (fourth round in 2023), wide receiver Cedric Tillman (third round in 2023) and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (fifth round in 2023).
The draft may be three months away, but mock draft season is upon us, let’s take a look at this five-round mock draft from Trevor Sikkema at Pro Football Focus.
Round 2: Wide receiver Xavier Worthy, Texas
The Browns are trying, but the wide receiver group still feels a bit thin behind Amari Cooper. Xavier Worthy spent three seasons at the University of Texas, where he had 197 receptions for 2,755 yards and 26 touchdowns. A large part of those numbers came in 2023 as Worthy caught 75 passes for 1,014 yards and five touchdowns in helping the Longhorns reach the College Football Playoff.
The Browns need another impact wide receiver, hopefully one with speed. Worthy isn’t a perfect prospect, but he certainly isn’t short on speed. He was a breakout freshman for the Longhorns and holds about as many Texas freshman-receiving records as you can name.
Worthy brings difference-making NFL speed, but he’s not just a straight-line sprinter; his footwork, acceleration, one-cut speed, and vertical speed must be accounted for on every play. His overall play strength is a concern, something that holds him back from a WR1 projection in the NFL. But as a complementary WR2 in this Browns offense? He is an ideal prospect for that role.
Round 3: Defensive tackle Braden Fiske, Florida State
Berry did a nice job filling out the interior of the defensive line last season with the free-agent signings of Dalvin Tomlinson, Shelby Harris, and Maurice Hurst II. Tomlinson is under contract for next season, but Harris and Hurst, who both finished this year on injured reserve, are part of the pending free agents, so adding to the position seems like a sound idea.
Braden Fiske spent one season with the Seminoles after transferring from Western Michigan and finished with 43 tackles, six sacks and 19 quarterback hurries in helping Florida State go undefeated in the regular season.
The Browns do have Dalvin Tomlinson in the middle, but he is almost 30 years old. Plus, Shelby Harris was on just a one-year deal. That lends itself to a potential interior defensive line pick on Day 2 for Cleveland.
Fiske is undersized for an interior defensive lineman at sub-300 pounds (295), but that lower weight yields an explosive first step as a one-gap penetrating pass rusher. In five of his last seven games, he recorded a pass-rush win rate above 10%. The Browns roster some solid rotational defensive linemen already, but they don’t have pure pass rushers like Fiske.
Round 5: Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State
Cleveland’s linebackers were much improved in 2023, especially Jeremiah Owuso-Koramoah. But Anthony Walker Jr. finished the season on injured reserve for the second consecutive season, and Sione Takitaki is also eligible for free agency, so depth at the position could be a priority come the final day of the draft.
A good player against the run, Eichenberg is limited in the other areas needed to be successful at the NFL level, although his selection would satisfy the segment of Browns fans who believe that Berry should only draft players from Ohio State.
The Browns have a stable of off-ball linebackers right now, headlined by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — who is more of a defensive chess piece in the best way. Eichenberg would be a good depth player for that group, especially given the fact that Sione Takitaki is a pending free agent.
Eichenberg is a smart, experienced linebacker who was a starter for Ohio State for the past three seasons. He is limited athletically, but he could be used in more of a downhill role next to Owusu-Koramoah.
Round 5: Offensive tackle Nathan Thomas, Louisiana-Lafayette
Injuries hit the Browns hard all season and offensive tackle was no exception. Cleveland lost starting right tackle Jack Conklin in Week 1, then saw Dawand Jones, Conklin’s replacement, and left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. join Conklin on injured reserve in December.
The backups did what they could, but James Hudson III, Leroy Watson, and Geron Christian are all limited, a point driven home against the Texans as quarterback Joe Flacco was under pressure for much of the game.
In the 6-foot-5 and 335-pound Thomas, the Browns would be adding another massive tackle. Thomas only played two seasons in college, however, so he would be another project for offensive line coach Bill Callahan to work with if he comes to town.
The Browns boast one of the NFL’s strongest interior offensive lines, but their tackle play hasn’t been as reliable, starting with Jedrick Wills. Willis is still under contract for another season, but drafting a young offensive tackle, at some point, would be advantageous for Cleveland. Who knows, maybe they’ll hit it big and feel comfortable moving on from Wills if his play does not improve.
At 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, Thomas presents the frame and the power profile to get a shot as an NFL tackle. This year was his best with the Ragin’ Cajuns, yielding only 13 pressures on 408 pass-blocking snaps.
What do you think, Browns fans? Would you be happy with this draft class or is there someone else you would like to see Berry target in the 2024 NFL Draft?