The Cleveland Browns had an impressive 2020 season, managing to turn things around to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season. After a stellar campaign, standards are certainly going to be set higher, and greater things are going to be expected from head coach Kevin Stefanski and his men moving forward.
Not wasting the opportunity to beef up their roster, the Browns immediately made noise as they drafted notable recruits who are projected to make an impact next season. Though their haul was regarded by many as a huge success, Cleveland still had a couple of errors in the recently concluded draft proceedings.
Here are the two mistakes made by the Browns in the 2021 NFL Draft.
1. Browns failed to bolster the defensive line
Though Cleveland already has a stacked roster, the team’s defensive line is still a bit shaky outside of Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett. Armed with eight total picks in the draft, the Browns could’ve added a young talent to play alongside Myles Garrett in the trenches, but they missed out on selecting a notable defensive lineman in the draft.
Looking at the current pieces, the other veterans on the defensive line are basically one-year rentals, and no other lineman has proven to be a high-value player as of the moment. A three-time Pro Bowler in Jadeveon Clowney has already been slowed down by injuries in recent seasons and was only inked to a one-year contract in the offseason.
A valuable contributor in defensive end Olivier Vernon had a significant impact on the team’s defense, but he previously tore his Achilles back in their Week 17 tilt against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He eventually landed on the injured reserve list before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
The unexpected release of veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson only made matters worse for the Browns in terms of having enough talent on the defensive end of the field. The team may have Andrew Billings and Malik Jackson back for next season, but none of those guys have proven that they can provide much-needed support behind the production of Myles Garrett.
Looking back, drafting a young pass-rushing option could’ve made the team’s haul a much greater success and allowed them to have better continuity moving forward. Hopefully, Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods will have enough talent at his disposal in order to contain opposing offenses and lead the team to yet another promising run next season.
2. Browns drafted players who came from injury-plagued seasons in college
Make no mistake about it, the Browns were able to land a handful of young talented players from the draft. However, it may or may not be a mere coincidence that those prospects recently encountered issues regarding their health, which will remain a concern when they make the jump to the NFL.
The Browns began the draft by nabbing Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II with the 26th pick in the first round. He only suited up for a total of 17 games during his three-year stint with the Wildcats after battling ankle and groin injuries throughout his amateur career.
Despite his injury history, Newsome managing to make quite an impression even with his limited appearances on the field only speak volumes about the level of talent that he possesses. Aside from him, the Browns also selected Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the 52nd pick in the second round. Initially seen as a first-round talent, he eventually plummeted down the boards due to concerns about a rumored heart problem prior to the draft.
Lastly, another defender in Georgia safety Richard LeCounte also landed with the Browns at the 169th pick in the draft. Initially serving as a regular starter for the Bulldogs’ secondary defense, the Georgia native went on to miss the latter half of the 2020 season due to a motorcycle accident.
Though he didn’t sustain any career-threatening injuries, the incident still hugely affected his draft stock along with his performance at Georgia’s Pro Day, where he recorded a dismal 4.8 40-yard dash. Due to LeCounte’s current condition, he could’ve gone undrafted if the Browns didn’t take a chance on him and made a second look at his potential to possibly serve as a contributor for the team in the future.
It remains to be seen if all three players will be effective at the next level, but they definitely need to get over their past injuries in a bid to prove their capabilities and make an impact on the field for the Browns next season.