The Cleveland Browns find themselves 6-6 in their bye week, which is disappointing but still leaves them an opportunity to fight for the post season. Regardless of what they do, the issues the team has to address this coming offseason are painfully clear and the NFL Draft gives this team interesting options to attack them.
While the world of football is still dealing with the pandemic along with everyone else, the 2021 college season has largely been able to operate without major disruptions. Players played and games were able to take place even if there were situations where COVID-19 forced players to miss a contest or few.
With everything but the Army-Navy game and the bowls to be played at least at the FBS level, the production profiles for the overwhelming amount of athletes are formed and ready to evaluate. Some players are starting to announce their intention to enter the NFL Draft.
Where the Browns will be picking is still to be determined. Right this second, they are in the middle of the draft order. That could change significantly, but the only thing that really matters for our purposes right now is they will be picking after the most obvious blue chip players will be off the board.
1. Treylon Burks, WR Arkansas
Listed Measurables: 6'3" 225 lbs
Age: 22 at the time of the NFL Draft (Born March 23, 2000)
Production: 66 receptions, 1,104 yards (41.1 percent), 11 TDs in 2021
Burks is a thoroughbred of a wide receiver. He's got a broad build, shows impressive strength and has excellent speed before as well as after the catch. demonstrating the ability to work at every level of the field.
Not overly polished, Burks shows a ton of raw ability in terms of using his body to shield opponents from the ball, demonstrating a wide catch radius and then just finding ways to make plays. He has also excelled against man coverage, which has been a major issue the Browns as a team.
Part of the attraction to a player like Burks is everyone knew he was going to get the ball, but had all kinds of trouble stopping him. Burks had basically the same amount of receiving yards in 2021 as the next five receivers on Arkansas combined. Often, he was simply too big, too strong and too skilled to be stopped.
He can win over the top, is a threat to break a big play either underneath or simply handing him the ball.
In fact, that's the biggest concern for a player like Burks. This year, the increased appreciation for a player like Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers may elevate how teams view Burks. Samuel has been utilized as a back as well as a receiver and his combination of size, strength and athleticism has been difficult to stop.
The Browns would be drafting Burks to be their X receiver, but his ability to move around formations and do some of the things like Samuel has done is nevertheless an attractive bonus. If other teams see that and want it for themselves, Burks could end up going before the Browns have the chance to select him.
Like many of the prospects the Browns have selected the last two seasons, he's a hard working, intelligent player with further potential to grow at the next level.
2. Kingsley Enagbare, DE South Carolina
Listed Measurables: 6'4" 265 lbs
Age: 22 at the time of the NFL Draft (January 18th, 2000)
Production: 28 solo tackles (5.7 percent), 7 tackles for loss (12.5 percent), 4.5 sacks (20.4 percent) in 2021
Enagbare was a player that stood as an interesting prospect last year, but opted to return to Columbia for his senior year, where he kept improving as a pass rusher.
Should the Browns re-sign fellow Gamecock Jadeveon Clowney for another year or two, Enagbare would provide a talented, big bodied understudy that appears to fit what the Browns want to do within the scheme defensive coordinator Joe Woods runs while also giving them another talented option to utilize when the Browns want to rush the passer.
Broad shoulders with the ability to play stout or get skinny, he can get off blocks at a reasonably high level. He demonstrates a pretty good amount of power to collapse the pocket and limit where the quarterback can move.
Enagbare isn't likely to test like an otherworldly athlete, but he's explosive off the snap and closes quickly. He does a nice job of shedding blocks, uses his hands well and takes full advantage of his length, which is something the Browns value.
An underwhelming run defender, he needs to improve not only how he holds up when opponents run at him as well as how he looks to chase it. He doesn't offer much in terms of hip flexibility, which is similar to Clowney, but shows good ankles and change of direction with his feet.
Enagbare is just a player that generates a ton of pressure and still appears to have room to grow and improve. With the flexibility to line up Myles Garrett or Clowney inside, Enagbare is an option to put outside to attack the quarterback while staying in his rush lane to limit where opposing passers can escape.
3. Cameron Thomas, DL San Diego State
Listed Measurables: 6'5" 270 lbs
Age: 22 at the time of the NFL Draft (Born January 7th, 2000)
Production: 30 solo tackles (7 percent), 20 tackles for loss (23.2 percent), 10.5 sacks (29.1 percent) in 2021
Thomas looks like a beautiful fit for the Browns defensive line. He's long enough to win and contain the edge while having the capability to slide inside, possessing experience in both roles.
A red shirt junior, he's on track to graduate and would be eligible to participate in an All-Star game, so it would be a surprise if he didn't declare. He may be a player that ends up going much higher. The sheer depth of the edge class may be the only thing that hurts him.
Thomas started his career playing entirely inside and each year has played further and further out on the edge while still mixing in reps from the inside.
Explosive off the ball, he can shoot gaps and put blockers at an immediate disadvantage. He has active, destructive hands and has demonstrated the ability to defeat blocks, especially when attacking the quarterback.
Another player that has been outstanding in generating consistent pressure on the quarterback, Thomas would provide another versatile player that can operate from multiple spots and allow the Browns to be creative in how they attack the opponent.
4. (Via DET) Khalil Shakir, WR Boise State
Listed Measurables: 6' 190 lbs
Age: 22 at the time of the NFL Draft (Born February 7th, 2000)
Production: 77 receptions, 1,119 yards (35.7 percent), 7 TDs in 2021
Shakir has another year of eligibility if he wants it, but he has said he's 99 percent sure he will declare for this year's NFL Draft.
Offering tons of experience having played 43 games, Shakir has a pretty sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate and create space as a route runner.
Shakir can find holes in the zone and manufacture separation against man coverage. Terrific feet and body control, Shakir is slippery as a route runner and can set up his body to maximize plays after the catch.
Never afraid to pluck the ball out of the air with his hands, Shakir's is more than familiar with playing in the cold and wind, which could be useful for a team like the Browns.
Clearly the biggest threat in the Boise State offense, defenses could not stop him. He was lined up all over the formation, including in the backfield as well as often being their motion man, there's little he doesn't have experience doing within an offense.
4. Quindarious Monday, S Auburn
Listed Measurables: 6'3" 199 lbs
Age: 22? at the time of the NFL Draft (Born February 19th, ????)
Birth year unavailable, but everything points him turning 22 in February.
Production: 40 solo tackles (7.8 percent), 1 interception (14.2 percent), 5 pass deflections (12.1 percent) in 2021
The man called 'Smoke', Monday is a smart football player with an interesting body type possessing coverage ability who is looking to knock the taste out of the opponent's mouth.
A free safety for Auburn, Monday has some versatility in where can play in an NFL defense as well as offering special teams viability. His length and athleticism stand out for special teams as someone who could block a kick or run down on coverage.
Never lacking for confidence, when he locks in on his target, he can make highlight tackles. He's got an extremely lean build, but isn't lacking for functional power. His length makes for an intriguing option both playing over the deep as well as working underneath in coverage.
Whether or not the Browns decide to retain pending free agent Ronnie Harrison, the Browns need more depth at that position. In 2021, when one of their safeties went out for a meaningful amount of time, they simply could not put three on the field any further, which is a problem.
Should the NFL view Monday as a tweener, the Browns may swoop in and grab him at a value considering how he could fit in their defense.
5. Cole Turner, TE Nevada
Listed Measurables: 6'6" 240 lbs
Age: 22 at the time of the NFL Draft (Born March 16th, 2000)
Production: 62 receptions, 677 yards (15.4 percent), 10 TDs in 2021
Turner went to Nevada as a wide receiver and kept filling out his frame until they called him a tight end starting as a junior. Given how often he's split out in a two-point stance, little has really changed in terms of his role, though he the Wolfpack has utilized him as an H-back.
Turner looks to be every bit of 6'6" and he plays it when the ball is in the air. That's great when he catches passes over opponents demonstrating an excellent catch radius, but he can end up tall and quite narrow when it comes to blocking.
Should the Browns sign David Njoku to an extension, Toner represents someone they can take their time with and develop, expanding his game. He could potentially find a role as is, but there's little reason to believe he won't continue to get stronger, filling out his frame.
The risk with someone like Turner is that he never ends up being able to operate as an inline player. Even if he does, it may take a couple years, but the end result could be worth the wait.
6. Erik Ezukanma, WR Texas Tech
Listed Measurables: 6'3" 220 lbs
Age: 22 at the time of the NFL Draft (Born January 25th, 2000)
Production: 48 receptions, 705 yards (22.7 percent), 4 TDs in 2021
EShould he declare for the NFL Draft, he is a height-weight-speed prospect that could be a piece of moldable clay in the right hands. A massive frame that has reasonably impressive speed and strength, Ezukanma has led the Red Raiders in receiving yards for the past three seasons, but has yet to put together a terrific year.
If he's able to participate in an All-Star game, he might be able to help himself quite a bit. Coaches might get a sense that he can improve quickly with coaching and ensure their team gets him.
Not afraid to extend his hands to catch passes, he's pretty fearless going into traffic. He takes advantage of his size and frame to box out opponents.
The route tree he was asked to run is pretty basic and he could largely rely on his size and raw speed to create separation. Rarely challenged near the line of scrimmage, he was given a free release quite a bit.
There seem to be a number of little things that Ezukanma could refine to make himself a better player, master some nuances and details that allow to create space as opposed to simply getting it.
The dearth of talent and the overall opinion of the Big XII conference may hurt a player like Ezukanma as well. Perhaps unfairly, he could ended up painted with a broad brush, which might see him slip further than his skills would suggest.
Whether it's Ezukanma or another player like him, the Browns have used a draft pick each of the past two seasons on a raw prospect they loved in terms of their character and work ethic that possessed impressive physical ability that can be molded.
Donovan Peoples-Jones in 2020 followed by Anthony Schwartz in 2021, the Browns seem confident they can find the right football character combined with physical skills that can enable them to develop players and have them outperform their draft status.
Ezukanma would not be expected to contribute early, especially as one of three rookies in this group, but might be someone who could find a role with this team in a couple years.
7. Matt Turk, P Oklahoma
The Browns have gotten next to nothing out of Jamie Gillan this year and it has proven significant in multiple games. To this point, the Browns have brought in punters to try out during the season, but have not pulled the trigger.
Unless things change drastically, the Browns will need to try to improve the situation. Maybe they don't want to use the NFL Draft to do it, but it's an option.
Matt Turk has been good at Oklahoma this year as a grad transfer. Previously, he attended Arizona State. His uncle, also named Matt Turk, was a long-time NFL punter.
The Browns have two key weaknesses on their roster in wide receiver and defensive tackle. This draft class deals directly with one of them and indirectly with the other.
The Browns not only add receivers with more speed, but the first two specifically excelled against man coverage, an area the Browns have struggled the past two seasons.
Likely at least partially influenced by where collegiate talent has gone, the Browns have leaned heavily into defensive linemen that can move up and down the line depending on the situation. Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney are the ideal cornerstones to build on this idea.
Rather than chase a prototypical three-tech that is increasingly scarce, the Browns benefit by simply loading up on talented 265 to 285 pound edge players with versatility. They still need bigger players the interior in spots and they have Malik McDowell, Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai all slated to come back in 2022 to do compete there.
However, in a game that is increasingly about specific roles and really focusing on attacking the pass, the Browns can build up a dynamic set of athletes that can attack the passer without completely conceding against the run.
Regardless of whether Clowney is with the Browns for one year or four more years, the Browns can look for a loaded group that fits their cost model and insulates them against injury.
The rest of the class is focused on attacking areas that are critical to the Browns identity on both sides of the ball while trying to maximize value. Tight end and safety are two positions that the Browns will almost certainly continue to invest as that provides a path to creating and exploiting matchups.
There's also a punter because the Browns stink at punting.