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Grant Delpit Poised for Breakout Season?

Safety Grant Delpit is two years removed from an Achilles tear that sidelined him for his rookie season. Delpit is fully recovered and could become a top-end safety this season.

The Browns have invested premium capital in the safety position for several years. Despite the negative stigma surrounding the position, smart teams around the league value having top-end safety play.

For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to a record-breaking contract this week. The Kansas City Chiefs paid top-dollar for safety Tyrann Mathieu the past two years and spent a second-round pick on his running mate Juan Thornhill.

Putting multiple able-bodied safeties on the field simultaneously affords defenses supreme flexibility. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods envisions a scenario where Cleveland lives in dime packages, but the defensive personnel hasn't quite allowed him to make a complete transition.

The Browns signed safety John Johnson III to a sizeable three-year contract during the 2020 offseason, hoping he would complete their ideal trio of safeties. The team already had Ronnie Harrison Sr. and Grant Delpit; Johnson's range in the backend corrected their only weakness.

However, Johnson's downfield coverage left much to be desired. He thrived playing in the box, repeatedly making plays near the line of scrimmage. Cleveland wanted him to do more, though. They asked him to play deep safety to start the season and saw many coverage busts that led to explosive plays.

Towards the end of the season, they allowed him to play up at the line, which meant they conceded their mistake. While the contract wasn't necessarily a loss, they still hadn't found a safety that could anchor their backend. 

Harrison disappointed with his 2020 performance, but the Browns knew he wasn't a deep safety even if he lived up to expectations. He is essentially an uber-athletic linebacker born to play the run.

That leaves Grant Delpit. Out of LSU, scouting experts had him penciled in as a first-round pick. To the surprise of many, he fell to the second round, and Cleveland claimed him with the No. 44 pick. 

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Delpit tore his Achilles' during his rookie year training camp, sidelining him for the entire season. He rehabbed for almost twelve months and made his return to the field against the Houston Texans in week two of the 2021 season.

He steadily improved over the year and looked to be coming on during the regular season's final month. Delpit's athleticism and physical profile suggest something more here; he could become one of the league's premier safeties this year.

Delpit is now two years removed from his Achilles' surgery, allowing him time to recover and regain complete confidence in his movements. He also had an entire offseason to train for the first time in his professional career.

Cleveland takes bets on young players with elite athletic traits and processing tools. Delpit checks every box, meaning the organization trusts him and will hand him even more responsibility this upcoming season.

His intangibles allowed him to become an impact run defender from his first snap in the NFL. The Browns occasionally brought him on simulated pressures to start and, aside from that, only let him read keys as an in-the-box run defender.

However, with each passing game, there was apparent potential for more in there. He excelled at making plays in the box, but when it was time for Johnson to come down to the line of scrimmage, Delpit was asked to move into the backend.

He took the transition in stride and improved every week. At the end of the season, he was one of the team's most consistent defenders, flying all over the field and making plays in both phases of the defense. 

Reps are everything in this league, and when a player gets exponentially better with each passing one, it forecasts potential superstardom. People around the Browns appear excited at what Delpit has in store for the season, and he reportedly looks incredibly explosive. 

If he reaches that top-end potential, the Browns immediately vault into a different category of defenses. They had the talent off the edge to compete with the league's best last year, but when going up against the Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allens of the world, you have to be able to contain explosive plays. Delpit is the key to that for this Cleveland team this year, and fans have reason to believe he can make the leap.