Successful organizations in the NFL not only find premium talent in the first two rounds of the draft, but in the middle to late rounds as well. Being able to find rotational players who can make an impact without utilizing a top pick is paramount in order to enjoy a lengthy stay at the top of the league’s standings. In 2020, the Browns selected multiple players in the middle to late rounds of the draft who answered the call when they were needed.
2020 Impact Mid Round Rookies
Cleveland’s 2020 fourth round selection was former Mackey award winner for the nation’s best collegiate tight end, Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic. Bryant came into a much improved Cleveland tight ends room and contributed early on in the season, scoring his first professional touchdown week three versus Washington. Despite fumbling twice this year on pass receptions, Bryant’s targets went up as the year went on, before ending the regular season on the COVID-19 list.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was Cleveland’s final draft selection in 2020, and proved to be a big play threat when called upon in his rookie season. People’s Jones’ season was highlighted by a game winning touchdown catch in Cincinnati on a perfect 24 yard pass from Baker Mayfield. It was pivotal contributions from rookies like Bryant and Peoples-Jones that helped bolster an already vaunted Browns offense.
2021 Potential Impact Mid Round Rookies
Looking ahead to 2021, and there are several rookies from this past draft class that are envisioned to have an immediate role given their skill set and the current construction of the roster.
Firstly, third round pick Anthony Schwartz should have a very well defined role in the offense, and it very well could grow as the season goes on, similarly to Donovan Peoples-Jones last year. Something that was a glaring weakness for the Browns in the second round of the playoffs in Kansas City was a lack of gamebreaking speed at the receiver position. While Cleveland will benefit from the return of Odell Beckham, the selection of Schwartz, the draft’s fastest player, is a commitment to speed as Schwartz has experience scoring touchdowns as both a receiver and runner in college. Look for the Browns to try and get Schwartz involved in gadget plays that do not involve complex route running early on in his career.
A second rookie from the middle rounds that should see some immediate time is defensive tackle Tommy Togiai. With the departures of Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi, Cleveland will have multiple fresh faces on the defensive line, the former Ohio State Buckeye being one of them. Andrew Billings who opted out last season due to the pandemic should be one of the starters inside next season, but Cleveland does not have many long term solutions to that position as of now. While early indications from camp signal that the coaching staff expects a jump in production from second year pro Jordan Elliot, Togiai is an impressive run stopper who very well could play a role in the new look Browns defensive front in 2021.
A third rookie that could very well make an impact in 2021 was Cleveland’s final pick, running back/wide receiver Demetric Felton from UCLA. Felton, like Anthony Schwartz, is a versatile playmaker who has impressed those at minicamp. While Felton’s role could be limited as the Browns are deep at both running back and wide receiver, he could see increased carries/receptions if Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt were to miss time. Despite playing only six games in his final season at UCLA due to the shortened pandemic season, Felton amassed 827 total rushing/receiving yards in those games.