With the 108th pick in the fourth round, the Cleveland Browns selected the first of three players from the University of Oklahoma. The pick that netted the Browns Winfrey was one of the three picks acquired in the trade with the Houston Texans to move down from 44.
Winfrey began his collegiate career at Iowa Western Community College where he dominated for two seasons, earning him recognition as the top overall JUCO prospect in 2020. Winfrey skipped Oklahoma's Bowl Game, but participated in the 2022 Senior Bowl where he was named game MVP.
Age: 21 (Born August 15th, 2000)
Height: 6'3 5/8"
Weight: 290 lbs
Arm Length: 35 1/4"
40-yard dash: 4.89
Winfrey only did the 40-yard dash, so his athletic profile is woefully incomplete. Nevertheless, his speed is impressive even if it's not top of the line due to his relatively light weight. Winfrey's age is great and his long arms are a nice feature.
2021 (Beast Season)
Solo Tackles: 11 (2.1%)
Tackles for Loss: 11 (11.3%)
Sacks: 5.5 (16.6%)
When it comes to tackles for loss and sacks, Winfrey scores pretty well even if it's not spectacular. Unfortunately, his overwhelming lack of solo tackles is a red flag, which makes sense given how he played for the Sooners.
Winfrey easily clears the threshold to be a starter, but doesn't hit the averages, which might be indicative of his overall potential.
Winfrey's tape at Oklahoma shows a defensive tackle that needs a significant amount of coaching and discipline. He's active, but it's not always impacting the game positively, ending up out of position spinning his wheels.
For the Sooners, Winfrey played anywhere from a 0-tech to the five. And while he's better suited to play the three, four or five, the issues he has are often immaterial to where he starts the play.
Winfrey can be quick off the snap, but he's too often slow with his hands against the run, negating his long arms. He's better with a runway to build up his speed and momentum to then combat blockers because it plays to his strengths. A center blocking back on him has been the most effective way to take him out of the play before it starts.
Winfrey too often turns down opportunities to fight pressure with pressure, allowing blockers to wash him out of plays under the misguided notion that his athleticism will allow him to get back in the play, which almost never happens. This also becomes problematic when he thinks he's faster than he is, trying to attack the ball carrier at a poor angle, falling short rather than just continuing to work down the line where he might make the play or at least allowing teammates to help him secure the play. He has a bad habit of taking the bait and going exactly where opposing linemen want, making their job that much easier.
Part of the reason he struggles to take advantage of his arms is because he's trying to slip into the backfield, turning his shoulders in the process. It occasionally works and he will even get skinny slipping pass protecting double teams, but he often exposes his chest without delivering a blow.
In effect, Winfrey plays every play like a pass rusher but without using all the tools at his disposal. He's uncomfortable staying blocked, which can be a good attitude to have, but he doesn't want to simply anchor at the point of attack. Occasionally, he will even back out of a block, ceding ground to be able to run. This is even worse when taking on a run blocking double. Winfrey doesn't get down to make a pile, almost always getting driven off the ball.
That said, when he still has his moments. He likes to stutter his movements and will try to fake out an offensive lineman without even touching him when rushing the passer. Winfrey demonstrates strength at the point of attack when he effectively uses his arms, both in terms of driving the opponent into the backfield as well as being then defeat the block. Any one of those attributes can enable him to win a play, but when he effectively puts all three together, he can be downright devastating. It's a rare treat.
Then something interesting happened. Winfrey opted to skip Oklahoma's bowl game and presumably went to work on his game in preparation for the Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft. It may have been just a week and certain drills were catered for him to succeed, but particularly as a run defender, he's far more technically sound and the results are notable.
Winfrey plays with his shoulders square to the line. He's using his arms to dictate to blockers, which allows him to be a far more effective run defender in addition to rushing the quarterback. Winfrey does a better job fighting pressure with pressure, enabling him to fight to get to the ball carrier, something that virtually never happened for Oklahoma.
The player on tape at Oklahoma warrants going exactly where the Browns selected him. Again, only a week, but the player in Mobile looked like the second-round pick with upside as a run defender.
Fit, Usage and Projection
The most logical place for Winfrey to start with the Browns is a rotational defensive tackle that comes in to attack the quarterback in obvious passing situations. It puts fewer restrictions on Winfrey allowing to use his speed and length to generate interior pressure quickly. Those long arms could also be helpful knocking down passes.
The other place that makes sense for Winfrey to get an immediate opportunity is on kick block units. His ability to fire off the ball and then get his arms up could enable him to help improve a special teams unit that has been bottom five the past two seasons.
The best case scenario is the Winfrey that made such an improvement in the time between playing in his final collegiate game in Bedlam and the Senior Bowl shows up to camp and continues growing from there. If that happens, he could start to expand his game and potentially see some reps at the 3-tech on running downs if the Browns want him to penetrate into the backfield quickly.
However, since the Browns ideally want a pair of two-gapping defensive tackles to clog up blockers and protect the middle of the field on run downs, Winfrey may never be a good fit in that role.
Even though the Browns largely see Winfrey as a three, he might be able to slide out to the four over the tackle or even the five in certain situations. Winfrey doesn't have the hips to live out there, but the Browns could line him up out there to give him a runway to attack downhill or slanting inside to attack the passer. They could line someone up in a nine or blitz someone outside of him or simply overload the other side.
Winfrey's career upside based on his lack of production and an incomplete athletic profile is that of a backup. His production is impacted by the fact he was a non-factor against the run, which helps explain why he had so few tackle. Winfrey could be a terrific interior pass rusher, which is exactly what the Browns envisioned when they selected him. However, his chances of becoming a long term starter are almost directly linked to his ability to become a better run defender.