With the Browns using multiple resources to help improve the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland fans can now begin to look ahead to the NFL Draft, which coincidentally takes place in downtown Cleveland, beginning on April 29. Unlike in year’s past, the Browns will not be looking to the draft for a franchise saving selection. Cleveland will come into this year’s college draft with the 26th overall pick in the first round.
Based on Cleveland’s free agent activity and current roster construction, many pundits are projecting the Browns to add another piece to their defense-a unit that struggled in multiple spots at times last season. With the free agent signings of John Johnson and Troy Hill, and the impending return of Greedy Williams, it can be assumed that the Browns will look to a starting caliber piece at either linebacker or defensive line. While Cleveland did indeed address those spots in free agency, supplementing rotational veterans with young impact players is how franchises sustain success in the NFL.
If Cleveland decides to pass on remaining free agents, one of their biggest needs headed into the draft will be a pass rusher opposite Myles Garrett. The signing of Takk McKinley was good value for the Browns, and despite his recent injury history, McKinley could provide the Browns with some untapped potential. Despite that, finding another explosive pass rusher would help Cleveland’s defense take the next step as a unit.
The Browns would have to trade up for top rated pass rusher out of Michigan, Kwity Paye, and Cleveland would be better served to wait until their 26th spot to make their pick. Thankfully for the Browns, there are four pass rushers that all finish within a grade of .1 of each other accord to Expand The Box Score’s metrics. Gregory Rousseau out of Miami, Azeez Ojulari from Georgia, Joseph Ossai from Texas and Jayson Oweh out of Penn State are all players that could be drafted towards the end of the first round, around where Cleveland is slated to pick. If the Browns do elect to use their first round pick on a pass rusher, they should have their pick of some talented players. All Cleveland would need to do is make a determination as to which player would best fit in their defensive scheme.
Even with an active first week of free agency, look for the Browns to continue to build their defense. With the returns of Williams and Grant Delpit to the Cleveland secondary, and the acquisitions of Johnson and Hill, the back end of the defense should look a lot faster and more athletic come the beginning of the 2021 season. If the Browns can add another impactful pass rusher that can help take pressure off of Myles Garrett, the Cleveland defense will have the potential of a top 10 unit.