The 2019 NFL Draft has concluded after an exciting three days, and the Cleveland Browns finished the weekend having added seven new rookies to their team. The Browns clearly feel that they are (finally) ready to win now, and their Draft class reflects that.
Let’s dive in and take a look at the four main takeaways for the Browns from the 2019 NFL Draft.
4. Value, value, value
Without a first-round pick as a result of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade and a few holes to fill, the Browns needed to get value with their selections. They started out doing just that by trading a fifth-rounder to the Indianapolis Colts to move up three spots and land LSU cornerback Greedy Williams at pick 46.
Williams possesses elite size and speed, and was hailed by many as the best pure cover corner in the entire Draft. Getting him in the middle of the second was a major steal, and Cleveland wasn’t done yet. Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson, a projected second-round pick, fell to the fifth round, where the Browns scooped him up.
Both Williams and Wilson could very well start for Cleveland this year, and adding two starters with non-premium picks is the definition of value. Now, of course Williams and Wilson fell in the Draft for a reason, but that’s the case for every pick after the first. General manager John Dorsey’s drafting record has earned him trust with his “risky” selections.
3. Linebacker depth has been improved
Joe Schobert is one of the best coverage linebackers and most underrated players in the NFL. Other than him, the Browns didn’t have much at linebacker. Starter Jamie Collins was cut in the offseason, and remains a free agent. Second-year player Genard Avery was an LB in college and did play there some in 2018, but he is much, much better as a situational pass rusher. Christian Kirksey missed nine games last season and hasn’t been good since 2016.
Cleveland realized that linebacker as a whole was one of their weakest position groups and fixed that issue by adding Wilson and Sione Takitaki. It may take some time for the unit to gel, but defensive coordinator Steve Wilks relies heavily on linebacker play in his system, so adding talent there was a must.
Wilson’s linebackers coach at Alabama, Tosh Lupoi, is now Cleveland’s defensive line coach, so the Browns certainly were able to gather plenty of information on the rookie. Takitaki and Wilson are both very different players who will play very different roles, but they fill the same overarching need.
2. The offense is pretty much set
The Browns started the Draft with eight selections, and trading up for Williams gave them seven. Five were defenders, one was a kicker, and the other an offensive lineman. It’s clear to see why Cleveland decided not to add to their offense, as they have arguably the best wide receiver and running back groups of any team.
Any rookie at a skill position would likely have played sparingly, or perhaps not even have made the team. The defense lacked talent and depth in key areas and the Browns decided to focus their efforts on improving most of those positions.
There was a possibility that a running back would be drafted to replace Duke Johnson, who has asked for a trade, but Johnson hasn’t been dealt yet, so perhaps the Browns will attempt to convince him to stay, or will just replace him when they actually need to.
1. The Browns didn’t take advantage of this DT class
Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson are two really good starters at defensive tackle. Trevon Coley provides zero pass rush. Carl Davis and Brian Price combined for 224 snaps and 12 tackles on the season.
There is no playable depth after the starters, and that’s a big problem. Ogunjobi’s performance plummeted at the end of games and towards the end of the season because he was simply overworked; he played 930 snaps, fourth-most on the defense, and suffered a torn bicep that he played through. Having three or four tackles who can rush the passer allows a defense to constantly rotate them in and out, keeping them fresh and reducing the risk of injury; exactly what Cleveland was unable to do with Ogunjobi last season.
The 2019 class was arguably the deepest of all time at defensive tackle, and yet the Browns ended up with zero rookies there. The top two undrafted free agents, Daniel Wise and Gerald Willis, signed with other teams, and as of this writing, Cleveland has not signed a defensive tackle. The Browns are strong at most positions, but they lack depth in many, and missed a golden opportunity to add impact players inside.