If the NFL Draft is the Super Bowl for Cleveland Browns fans, the Combine is the playoffs. Armed with four picks in the first three rounds, the Browns are looking to address some key positions as they attempt to rebound from what was perhaps the most disappointing season since the franchise returned in 1999. Here are five players for Cleveland fans to keep an eye on this week.
5. Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
Over the past few years, the NFL has seen smaller-school safety prospects increase their stock at the Senior Bowl and Combine to become high picks, and Chinn has a chance to be the next. He is listed at 6’3″ 219lbs, and shows off great range and closing speed on film, as well as solid coverage skills and the willingness to tackle.
He needs work in the mental aspect of the game, but his size and athleticism give him the potential to be a Swiss Army Knife at the next level. He won’t outshine Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons in drills, but Chinn should excel in the on-field drills. The Browns desperately need safety help, and Chinn could provide new defensive coordinator Joe Woods with a versatile toy to play around with.
4. Chase Claypool, WR/TE, Notre Dame
As a senior, Claypool caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is a very unique prospect who could fill a variety of roles throughout his career, almost like the offensive counterpart to Isaiah Simmons. He played wide receiver in college, but Claypool measured in at 6’4″ 238lbs, and was asked to participate in some tight end drills at the Combine. It wouldn’t be fair to limit him to playing just one spot, since he can do many different things.
Claypool won’t test as well as, say, D.K. Metcalf, but should perform quite well for his size. Cleveland needs another tight end to pair with David Njoku, and Claypool would provide a great red zone threat as well as a very good run blocker, not to mention his potential to be a special teams demon.
If Claypool is still on the board when the Browns pick in the third round, he’ll certainly be under consideration.
3. Stephen Sullivan, TE, LSU
Sullivan is the less popular of LSU’s tight ends entering the draft this year, but he could end up having a better pro career than Thaddeus Moss. Sullivan would be drafted based on pure projection, as he just doesn’t have much college production, but he has the size and traits to be much more effective in the NFL.
At 6’5″ 248lbs, he has a very good frame and should test pretty well. Functional strength as a blocker is his biggest issue at the moment, but that can be improved with an NFL training regimen. This TE class lacks top-end talent, but there will be some intriguing players available later on.
Even if Cleveland adds a veteran in free agency, bringing in a developmental rookie is a good idea. For a late Day 3 pick, Sullivan is worth taking a flyer on.
2. Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
When healthy, Olivier Vernon is one of the better defensive ends in the NFL. The problem is he’s hurt far too often, and is owed $15.5 million this season. He can be cut for zero dead money, and although outright releasing him may not be the smartest move, it is worth looking into second-round EDGE prospects like Anae.
With 29.5 career sacks, including 13.0 as a senior, Anae has been productive. He doesn’t appear to be freakishly athletic on film, but he shouldn’t test poorly. Anae is part of the second tier of EDGE players that also includes Curtis Weaver, Terrell Lewis, Julian Okwara, and others, and has the opportunity to place himself above those other guys this week.
1. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Offensive tackle is without question the Browns biggest need, but fortunately this is a fantastic OT class. As many as five could go in the top 20 picks. Since the end of the college football season, Lousiville’s Mekhi Becton, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr., and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs have been talked about as the first tackle off the board. All of those prospects have their merits, but as far as the best all-around tackle? That’s Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.
He started at RT as a freshman before moving to LT and spending the next two seasons there. He’s a very good athlete, and should test well. He measured in at 6’5″ 315lbs, with an excellent arm length or 36″ 1/8. Thomas consistently performed well against top competition in the SEC. He is reliable in pass protection and powerful in the run game.
He isn’t perfect, but he’s a bona fide top OL prospect who will be a day 1 starter wherever he is drafted. It would be poetic for the Browns next franchise LT to have the last name Thomas, and if Andrew does somehow fall to the 10th pick, Cleveland should be running to the podium.