Post 518 – NFL Draft Needs: Cleveland Browns

The Browns have the tenth pick after finishing 6-10, a big disappointment to their faithful after big pre-season hype. Odell Beckham Jr. was brought in and proclaimed to be the missing piece, and while he had his moments, the season wasn’t what they hoped for. The team had areas that were subpar and Baker Mayfield did not have a great year. 

Cleveland has seven picks in the draft, with two third round picks and no fifth. The third round pick comes from Houston, while the sixth comes from Arizona and the seventh is from Green Bay. 

I list the needs below, including major, for depth, and areas they are unlikely to look at. I may add categories for a particular situation. 

Major Needs (No Particular Order): 

Wide Receiver: On the surface, the Browns have Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., but there is little depth behind him. Wide receivers had 331 passes thrown their way and 271 were thrown to Landry and Beckham: 81%. KhaDarel Hodge, Damion Ratley, Taywon Taylor, J’Mon Moore, and DJ Montgomery are listed on the roster behind them. Jojo Natson was signed as a free agent from the Rams, mostly for his return skills. Rashard Higgins is still young and talented, but there was a disconnect of sorts last year after a good season in 2018 and he’s currently unsigned. With a new system that may feature two tight ends, some of the distribution can change plus Kareem Hunt could move out of the backfield at times and line up as a receiver. The Browns need at least two wide receivers for depth purposes and for whenever Beckham wears out his welcome. 

Offensive Line: The free agent signing of Jack Conklin from the Titans lessens the need, but help is still wanted. Conklin is a road grader at right tackle, which makes up for average pass blocking. Greg Robinson was the left tackle and he was average. Left guard and center are in good hands with Joel Bitonio and JC Tretter, respectively. Right guard was a major step down after trading Kevin Zeitler to the Giants, as Wyatt Teller was nowhere near as effective and Eric Kush, who split for Vegas in free agency, was benched for him. Chris Hubbard was last year’s right tackle, was ineffective, and that is why they signed Conklin. Kendall Lamm is a solid reserve tackle and Justin McCray can play tackle or guard, a good run blocker and poor pass protector. Left tackle and guard should be addressed in the draft, with a tackle possibly going in round one. 

Defensive Line: There is talent, led by Myles Garrett, one of the premier ends in the game. Opposite him is Olivier Vernon, who has his moments, but has been bothered by injuries in recent years. The tackles are Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi, with Ogunjobi possibly being pushed by Andrew Billings, who came over from the Bengals in free agency. Things could change by next year with Vernon and Ogunjobi possibly becoming free agents, especially Vernon with his salary. Also signed in free agency as a rotational player at end is Adrian Clayborn from the Falcons. Filling out the roster at end are Chad Thomas and Porter Gustin, while Eli Ankou is at tackle. Don’t be surprised if a tackle or end is chosen. 

Linebacker: The Browns are rebuilding this unit; Joe Schobert left for Jacksonville in free agency and Christian Kirksey was a cap casualty. The other outside backer remains in Mack Wilson, a fifth round pick last year. Vying for time is last year’s third round pick, Sione Takitaki. Signed in free agency from Green Bay is BJ Goodson and he may start in the middle or outside. Tae Davis is also competing for time, while Adarius Taylor is unsigned. At least one player will be picked in the draft. 

Safety: Four of the top five safeties from last year are gone: Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall, Juston Burris, and Eric Murray. As replacements, the Browns brought in Karl Joseph from the Raiders and Andrew Sendejo from the Vikings. Sheldrick Redwine, a fourth-round pick last year played well in limited opportunities and his role could grow. Others on the roster are JT Hassell and Montrel Meander. Joseph and Sendejo signed one-year contracts and could be elsewhere next year, making it a wise move to seek at least one safety somewhere in the draft.


Quarterback: The Browns are in good shape for the future with Baker Mayfield, although he did not have a great sophomore year. Case Keenum was signed from Washington to provide some assistance. Garrett Gilbert is on the roster and Drew Stanton is unsigned. I only see a late round pick as a possibility. 

Running Back: Nick Chubb was arguably the biggest weapon on the team, rushing for nearly 1,500 yards and had 278 more receiving. Kareem Hunt is very talented and missed part of last year with a suspension, coming over from Kansas City. Andy Janovich was acquired from the Broncos to play fullback, a role the Browns will use more of this year. Others on the roster are Dontrell Hilliard, D’Ernest Johnson, and Johnny Stanton. Hunt’s contract expires after the season and there could be a selection in the middle or late rounds.  

Tight End: This position became stronger with the free agent signing of Austin Hooper from Atlanta. With Cedar Grove alum David Njoku, the Browns have one of the better tight end pairs and that is good because new coach, Kevin Stefanski, likes deploying two tight ends, which he did as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. The other tight ends on the roster are Pharaoh Brown and Stephen Carlson – both long shots as contributors. A blocking tight end is needed, as the Browns do not have one. In addition, Njoku can become a free agent next year.

Cornerback: Denzel Ward is an up-and-coming player on one side and last year’s second pick, Greedy Williams, plays opposite him. This leaves a young and talented pair, with Williams having rookie struggles. Signed in free agency from Buffalo is Kevin Johnson, who will make a third corner and provide insurance. The others on the roster are Terrance Mitchell, Donnie Lewis, Robert Jackson, Tavierre Thomas, and Donovan Olumba. Leaving in free agency is TJ Carrie. There is always a market for a talented corner and one could be chosen, but I see it coming in the late rounds, if at all. 

*Information from various sources, including Pro-Football Reference, Sportac, and ESPN.  

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