The week of the 2021 NFL Draft has arrived and represents another major opportunity for the Cleveland Browns to upgrade their roster, fill out their depth while saving money on their salary cap.
The Browns will likely still be active after the NFL Draft in terms of trying to add to the roster and much of the speculation will surround recently released defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and whether he will re-sign with the Browns down the road.
In the mean time, the areas the Browns want to address are pretty clear. They want to address corner, needing no fewer than two, add more help rushing the passer, likely a wide receiver and just fill out their depth on the defensive side of the ball.
The first season under head coach Kevin Stefanski, the defense was largely feeling things out with only Grant Delpit being a player they were investing in for the long haul and he immediately suffered a season-ending injury.
The Browns have transformed their defense this offseason, adding John Johnson III and Troy Hill to the secondary, Anthony Walker at linebacker and brought in Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley for the defensive line. Only Johnson is signed for an extended period of time, so the NFL Draft is still incredibly important as it pertains to the long term vision for that side of the ball.
So with that all in mind, this is the final mock draft of the year.
Age: 21 (Born November 29th, 1999)
Height: 6' 3/8"
Weight: 190 lbs
Arm Length: 33"
40-Yard Dash: 4.43
Broad Jump: 10'3"
Bench Press: DNP
Bateman possesses the top end speed the Browns view as critical to their offense while his balance and agility are enough to be real assets. His explosion is pretty average, but he's got reasonably good size, really long arms and his age is excellent.
Production: 86 receptions, 1,219 receiving yards (37 percent), 11 TDs in 2019.
The Browns would prefer to get a corner or pass rusher with this pick, but increasingly, it seems like they might be out of position to grab the ones they would deem good enough to take at 26. Balance that against the fact that Bateman is a top 20 prospect and for a team that talks in terms of making the best investment, it could be difficult to pass on Bateman if he's available.
Bateman has the ability to help the Browns immediately, giving them more speed and able to win at all levels of the field. He can win down the field, shows terrific body control to make contested catches down the field as well as set up yards after the catch.
A creative route runner, Bateman understands how to play the man and uses multiple methods to create separation between his feet and his understanding of how to use space on the field.
Just as important to what Bateman offers this year is what he offers the Browns in 2022 and beyond, which is an avenue to reduce the amount of money being spent on that position. With increases in pay to Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward coming with their fifth-year options in 2022 and potentially lucrative extensions after that, the Browns need to plan for replacing high priced talent through the draft to save money.
The Browns offense gets more dangerous and puts additional pressure on opposing defenses this year with a player like Bateman who should pair well with Odell Beckham, increasing the team's ability to add a vertical component to the offense.
The Browns trade up into the 50s.
- Browns send picks 89, 91 (third round), 132 (fourth round) for a second round pick as well as a sixth round pick.
Two teams that stands out as potential trade partners are the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts. Lighter on picks due to trading their first round picks, the Rams have been really effective at finding players with middle and late round picks, so they might embrace the opportunity to take more shots in this class.
Meanwhile, the Colts only have six picks and might want to add more.
The Browns maximize value with their first pick, but it doesn't change the issues they want to address, so they move up so they can attack those areas at the appropriate value that fits their scheme. They also make sure to come away with another late round pick.
Height: 6'5 1/2"
Weight: 268 lbs
Arm Length: 35 3/8"
40-Yard Dash: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: 23 reps
Turner did not test the 40 or broad jump due to turf toe, which is disappointing. Nevertheless, his vertical and 3-cone are outstanding for his size and he's prototypical in terms of his length and broad build.
Production: 17 solo tackles (5.9 percent), 10.5 tackles for loss (20.5 percent), 5 sacks (22.7 percent) in 2020
Turner looks like a franchise defensive end, offering both length and ballast for the position with long arms. He's also incredibly quick for someone his size, which enables him to be a disruptive pass rusher and drop into coverage off the edge.
The Browns really seem to be targeting players that are outstanding athletes that offer the ability to play both on the edge and the interior and Turner has experience doing both. At the Senior Bowl, Turner played exclusively on the inside.
Turner is such an easy mover. He looks like a basketball player with remarkably long legs. Light on his feet, quick and can change directions easily. The problem for him is often his pad level. Too often he gives up his chest or drifts high trying to run the arc, making it easier for opponents to block him. When he's right, plays low, he's almost impossible to stop.
In so many ways, he's perfect for what the Browns appear to want in a defensive lineman and he may have just found his stride as he's entering the NFL. Fast enough to run the arc on the edge. Powerful enough with quick hands to operate on the inside. The only question with Turner is if he will last to where the Browns can move up and get him.
Age: 21 (Born July 3rd, 1999)
Weight: 198 lbs
Arm Length: 31 1/2"
40-Yard Dash: 4.45
Broad Jump: 10'1"
Bench Press: 18 reps
Outstanding agility and loose hips, his explosion is relatively average but he does have good speed and his size is a major asset.
Production: 44 solo tackles (9.1 percent), 19 pass deflections (29.2 percent), 4 interceptions in 2018
Adebo is a plyer that could suffer as much as anyone due to opting out this season. He had a dominant sophomore season in 2018 and a far more inconsistent 2019 season. 2020 was viewed as an opportunity to reestablish himself as one of the top corners in the draft class, but between the pandemic and wildfires that were huge hurdles for so much of the conference, he did not play the season.
The inconsistency and gambling nature Adebo has might scare some teams off, but it might be something the Browns and defensive coordinator Joe Woods really like about him.
Adebo is a playmaker more than he is a cover corner, producing eight interceptions and 29 PBUs in 22 games. Those raw skills that enable him to be spectacular at times, offsetting plays he might give up by being out of position.
He's a tremendous athlete who is also really intelligent, so he may be able to improve his batting average in terms of risk versus reward, taking more calculated risks. Adebo has often just bet on his athleticism to enable him to get back into plays he misreads and often times it works for him.
A team like the Browns may view Adebo as a major opportunity to cash in on value if they can improve his consistency. He is a former wide receiver so he knows how to play the ball and it might explain why his technique can look wild at times.
Adebo's been playing a significant amount of Cover-3 as well as press man coverage, which could be a good fit for the Browns. He is accustomed to playing over the top and then coming down hill to make plays on the ball.
Not having played this year makes it difficult to improve in certain areas, but if he did nothing else but clean up his footwork over the past year, he could be have a much better chance of hitting the ground running in training camp.
Round 4: Bobby Brown III, DT Texas A&M
Weight: 321 lbs
Arm Length: 34 3/4"
40-Yard Dash: 5.04
Broad Jump: 9'5"
Bench Press: DNP
Freakish athlete when it comes to speed and explosion for his size and at that age. His agility is excellent as well. He's straight out of central casting.
Production: 10 solo tackles (1.1 percent), 7.5 tackles for loss (11.7 percent), 5.5 sacks (19.6 percent) in 2020 season.
This is the most risk this organization is likely to take on a player. Brown is an incredible athlete with prototypical size and length and his highlights are genuinely outstanding, but he is wildly inconsistent and his stamina can be problematic. That is why he's potentially available in the fourth round. Brown is a rollercoaster of a player that can be incredibly frustrating to watch.
Some of that might be a product of his age as it's genuinely surprising for a player to be this athletic and this young. Going into the NFL, unless the Browns sustain injuries, he's not going to play a ton of snaps, so he'll hopefully be fresher and motivated to make an impact in limited opportunities.
Brown has a tendency to go really hard when he thinks he can make big plays and throttle down when he doesn't, which helps explain why he had barely a tackle per game and most of those tackles were splash plays.
The fact that he will need to earn reps combined with the fact he will surrounded by a professional defensive line could be the best thing for Brown, forcing him to try to keep up with players he presumably wants to emulate in terms of NFL and financial success.
Brown could be a really nice long term option if he can become a more consistent player, but for 2021 at least, he could be a really nice role player in limited action.
Round 5: Darren Hall, CB San Diego State
Age: 20 (Born May 2, 2000)
Height: 5'11 1/4"
Weight: 188 lbs
Arm Length: 30 5/8"
40-Yard Dash: 4.47
Broad Jump: 11'
Bench Press: 16 reps
Hall has a solid athletic profile overall. He doesn't have elite speed or agility, but his explosion is excellent. The fact he's so young is also a huge benefit.
Production: 31 solo tackles (10.1 percent), 6 pass deflections (22.2 percent), 3 interceptions, 2 tackles for loss in 2020 season
Hall is a hyper competitive corner that has been super productive over the past two seasons.
He's an aggressive tackler who gets low and wraps up but will put his head down too much and give up his legs in the process.
In coverage, Hall is at his best when he's playing top down and can see the ball coming. He will fight for the football and can end up undercutting receivers with a threat to score.
In a trail position, Hall can get into the receiver's hip and run with them. He is far less confident knowing where the ball is and needs to do a better job playing the receiver's hands and eyes as he can end up losing the play in the last moment.
Hall isn't short but he doesn't offer much length which can be an issue at times as he gives up a lot of completions. His agility isn't ideal, but Hall may be someone that can offer some versatility and potentially play in the slot as well as the boundary.
Because he's so young, it seems as though Hall has plenty he can still learn and hopefully take coaching at the next level. Coaches will love his attitude and just how competitive he is and combined with the base skills he offers, he has the capacity to be a nice player down the road.
Round 6: Darrick Forrest, S Cincinnati
Age: 21 (Born May 22nd, 1999)
Height: 5'11 1/2"
Weight: 206 lbs
Arm Length: 32"
40-Yard Dash: 4.43
Broad Jump: 11'
Bench Press: 21 reps
It would be difficult to draw up a prospect physically mods impressive than Forrest. Everything is extraordinary except for his shuttle time and it's fine. He's a specimen.
Production: 63 solo tackles (11.2 percent), 3 interceptions (18.7 percent), 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 pass deflections in 2019 season
Apropos of nothing, Forrest is another example of NFL talent playing at Cincinnati, which has a good amount, so the notion they weren't good enough to make the College Football Playoff continues to be a miscarriage of justice.
Forrest's overall profile is better than the player has shown to be on tape and while he's overshadowed by teammate James Wiggins, he's nevertheless an intriguing talent with ridiculous upside given what he's done the past two seasons for the Bearcats.
He looks bigger than his size would suggest on the field. Forrest can be an imposing player and a devastating hitter, though it can be at the expense of his technique. Overall, his tackles may not always be pretty but he doesn't give up much ground and he gets the ball carrier on the ground.
When he's committed to blitz or knows exactly where he's going, he can fly. Plenty of experience dividing the field in half, Forrest has plenty of experience as the last line of defense. At times, he can get caught peeking in the backfield and will occasionally allow receivers to get behind him.
An intriguing option for the Browns, Forrest projects to strong safety that could also potentially contribute as a rover and should be able to help on special teams.
The Browns need depth at safety. They are poised to play three safeties on the field on a regular basis, so they need more depth in case of injury. The Browns are likely to carry at least five safeties this year, so getting a player like Forrest in the pipeline is important.
Round 6: Devodrick Johnson, LB Texas A&M
Height: 6' 1/2"
Weight: 229 lbs
Arm Length: 31 1/2"
40-Yard Dash: 4.58
Broad Jump: 9'6"
Bench Press: DNP
Really impressive athletic profile, he has excellent speed, explosion and an intriguing amount of agility. A pleasant surprise in Pro Day testing.
Production: 45 solo tackles (14.3 percent), 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception in 2020 season
Perhaps a contradiction, "Buddy" Johnson has impressive athleticism that would suggest he could be a rangy run and chase option, he's built like a fire hydrant and does his best work in the box going down hill. He plays with good pad level and a low center of gravity and opponents can have a difficult time blocking him.
In fact, watching him on tape, knowing he possesses this kind of athleticism, he doesn't provide a ton of examples where he really cuts loose and shows the speed he's capable. Some of what a team would like to be able to do in taking Johnson is trying to get him in position to utilize it more consistently.
When he's blitzing or confident in his run read, he can knife into the backfield and make a mess. His compact build and speed could allow him to be an interesting weapon blitzing up the middle, potentially being on top of the quarterback before they know what's coming.
In coverage, he's often playing short zones, shuffling with his eyes on the quarterback. That's an area where his lack of length can be limiting as he doesn't take up much space. He also might be someone the quarterback loses scanning the field.
So in selecting him, he's an effective run stopper, who might be undersized for some and the athleticism and potential is still there to be maximized. And that's why he might be a contradiction for some teams, because typically a player like Johnson, who thrives in the box is bigger to take on blockers.
However, his technique and his low pad level may enable him to succeed anyway. He's impressive in showcasing his strength and holding up against offensive linemen. Johnson takes full advantage of his leverage.
He's not tiny, but if he's able to play quick to the ball, he might be able to cause problems in the running game before opponents can get a body on him.
The hope is that in addition to depth, he can use the athleticism he has to contribute on special teams.
Round 7: Nate Hobbs, CB Illinois
Age: 21 (Born June 24th, 1999)
Height: 5'11 3/8"
Weight: 196 lbs
Arm Length: 31 1/2"
40-Yard Dash: 4.48
Broad Jump: 11'3"
Bench Press: 21 reps
Excellent athletic profile with elite explosion, offers good size at just under 200 pounds. Length is not ideal, but he's still young.
Production: 44 solo tackles (8 percent), 10 pass deflections (32.2 percent), 1 interception in 2019 season
Hobbs arguably had his worst season this year, missing three of the eight games due to injury. He has everything athletically to be successful in the NFL and was productive in college.
It just hasn't happened for him yet in terms of putting it all together. Hobbs does have a significant amount of experience playing off coverage, both zone and man and some reps playing tight man as well. Playing under Lovie Smith, it shouldn't be difficult for NFL teams to project him to the next level.
Hobbs does a nice job of tackling receivers quickly after they make catches to stop the bleeding.
Athletically, Hobbs is capable of playing both the boundary as well as the slot, which could prove valuable. He's a low risk investment that could pay off handsomely if he can realize his potential in the NFL.
With the goal of maximizing value, the Browns get a big time player to add to an already effective offense that could add more viability attacking down the field.
The rest of the draft is focused on the defensive side of the ball, providing another dynamic pass rusher that can play on the edge or the interior in Payton Turner. Bobby Brown III appears to fit the style of nose they want, filling out that position.
The Browns get plenty of corners to fill out that position group, giving them badly needed depth. Darrick Forrest and Buddy Johnson add depth, but should be able to contribute on special teams, which took a major hit in free agency.
Between Turner, Brown and all of the defensive backs, they all offer significant upside, but require plenty of coaching. With so many veterans being brought in with specific roles in mind, there may be far more time to focus on technique and details with these rookies. They could also benefit from some of the experience on the roster.
Joe Woods, the team's defensive coordinator's background is in coaching defensive backs, so that could be leaning into his strengths as it pertains to coaching. If the Browns can get production out of this draft class, it could strengthen the Browns of winning the Super Bowl now, but also extend the viability to compete for a longer period of time.