With the 211th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns took Demetric Felton, a running back, wide receiver and kick returner from UCLA.
After teammate Joshua Kelly went suffered an injury in 2019, Felton transitioned from a receiver to a running back to help the team. He was a running back in high school before going to UCLA. In the 2020 season, Felton played both running back and wide receiver and became a full service offensive threat that lined up all over formations to get the ball in his hands.
Age: 22 (Born July 16th, 1998)
Height: 5'8 5/8"
Weight: 189 lbs
Arm Length: 31 3/8"
40-yard dash: 4.59
Broad Jump: 114"
Vertical Jump: 31.5"
Bench Press: 10 reps
A remarkably poor athletic profile and with as yet no real explanation for it. Between GPS timing at events like the Senior Bowl and the season, he's believed to be far more athletic than he showed here.
2020 (Last Season)
Rushing Attempts: 132
Rushing Yards: 668
Receiving Yards: 159
Total Offensive Yardage: 827 (25.9%)
Kick Returns: 8
Kickoff Return Average: 21
Total Touchdowns: 8
UCLA ran a good amount of zone as well as counters with Felton at running back. Occasionally, he would have a lead blocker that showed him where to go on zone, but for the most part, Felton wants to press inside and work his way outside, using his speed to the sideline to gain yardage. At times, he will stay inside and even cut back into the play, but his bread and butter is working his way out, taking advantage of his speed.
He is small, but elusive and when he's right, he's got jagged edges. Felton will utilize jump cuts, lateral steps and the occasional spin to make opponents miss, but he will use a stiff arm and get behind his pads going forward when he wants to be difficult. His power moves aren't necessarily designed to defeat an opponent, but they are good for maximizing yardage and just being a pain for would be tacklers.
Felton produced a ton of explosive plays, but he would also get whacked in the backfield. There are some times when he gets trapped and tries to run his way with less than stellar results, so he does have his share of negative yardage runs.
His vision is pretty good working through the line of scrimmage, but that's largely anticipating defenders hitting him as opposed to hitting the right hole as presented to him in zone running. Felton certainly has the capacity to cut back and exploit lanes, but most of them with the Bruins seemed to be designed.
When he gets running room, his speed is explosive and he can chew up real estate quickly. Felton is also pretty good at making moves while also working his way down the field.
As a receiver, Felton is utilized both in the backfield as well as the slot and out wide. He was not asked to do much in terms of winning routes against defenders in college. Largely flares, swings, hitches and the occasional wheel. He demonstrates extremely natural hands and transitions from pass catcher to runner quickly, so he's able to make his next movement, whether it's trying to make an opponent miss or just getting a head of steam.
While he didn't get to show much in terms of winning routes against defenders for UCLA, when he was invited to the Senior Bowl, he put on a showcase and opponents had a difficult time keeping up with him.
Felton was rarely asked to block, but he pass protects with max effort. He understands that he needs to get ground away from the quarterback so he can absorb a hit. Felton stays low and just frustrates the opponent as long as he can while staying in good position.
Felton also returned kicks for UCLA and can use his quickness to make opponents miss on occasion with enough speed to be interesting.
Fit, Usage and Projection
For the Browns, Felton is certainly going to get every opportunity to prove himself as a kick returner. And although he didn't do it in games in college, it stands to reason they'll see how he does with punts too.
He's primarily going to be a receiving threat, but should not be discounted as a running back. Yes, he can line up in the slot or out wide, but he has value as a receiving threat in the backfield as well because it's easy to get him the ball with space as well create spacing for teammates. Even just having him catch check downs and flares outside can create space in the middle of the field. And if the Browns are winning down the field, he could end up with space to run with the ball.
It remains to be seen just how viable he is as a running back with the Browns, but that may have more to do with who else the team has at running back as opposed to his inability to do it. Felton can function in zone and the Browns love to run cutbacks. If he can prove he can see those holes, that only improves how effective he can be.
Especially with the Browns offensive line, it's not difficult to see situations where he gets the space to take advantage of his explosive ability and speed to eat up chunks of yards, whether that's getting behind the second level of the defense or because the defense is backed up anticipating a pass.
Not something they did at UCLA, but given his natural hands and his size to basically hide behind his blockers, Felton could be a terrific receiver in the screen game, which is something the Browns are increasingly embracing.
Long term, Felton's awful athletic profile suggests he's likely to be a backup if he's anything. And it's possible that's all he ever is, but that could be a really nice role player and a pleasant surprise for this Browns offense. And if he can flourish as a slot receiver, he could potentially compete for that role in the near future.