Like how is the case with all team’s rookie classes, the Cleveland Browns class of first year players was mixed bag in terms of overall production. Unfortunately for the Browns, second round draft pick and projected starting safety Grant Delpit ruptured his achilles tendon in training game, forcing him to miss the entirety of the season. While Delpit will be missing from this list, he should have the opportunity to make an impact on defense in his second year. With that being said, here were the top five rookies on the Browns from this past season.
5. Nick Harris
Cleveland had to utilize the entirety of its offensive line unit, and Harris was not exception. While the Browns drafted the former Washington Husky in the fifth round as a center, Harris was forced to come into the game in New York against the Giants and play right guard after Chris Hubbard left the game with an injury. Harris excelled in his first game at right guard against a Giants defensive front that was considered to be one of the best in the league. While Harris got put on injured reserve the following week, he still proved to be versatile interior lineman worth developing.
The orange and brown selected the former LSU linebacker with one of their third round picks. While Phillips only played in nine games this past season due to a knee injury, he played a pivotal role in Cleveland’s playoff clinching victory in week 17 versus the Steelers as he recorded a team high 10 tackles. The rookie showed flashes of sideline to sideline speed, and should be another young piece worth developing on Cleveland’s defense if he can stay healthy.
The Browns invested a fourth round pick in Bryant, the 2019 Mackey award winner, given to college football’s best tight end. Bryant impressed the Browns from day one, earning Kevin Stefanski’s trust as both a pass catcher, and an improving run blocker. Bryant also caught three touchdown passes this season, as the rookie has shown the ability to make dynamic plays in the red zone.
Cleveland was able to select Peoples-Jones in the sixth round the draft, after an underwhelming career at Michigan due to years of quarterback issues with that program. The wideout was used primarily for special teams early on in the season, but made several critical plays on offense starting at the mid way point of the season, including a touchdown catch in the final seconds to take the lead in Cincinnati. Without that victory, the Browns would not have been able to secure a playoff spot. Peoples Jones has the prototypical physical frame to be a stud wide receiver in the NFL, and should see an increased role in 2021.
The Browns invested a first round pick in the former Alabama right tackle with plans to move him to the left side of the line. In a year without a preseason in which Wills was playing a new position, the rookie was extremely stellar in pass protection, allowing only four sacks on the year. While Wills’ run blocking grade was not as good as his pass blocking, there is no reason to believe the 21 year old will not improve under the tutelage of veteran offensive line coach Bill Callahan.