Cleveland Browns have a need for help at the linebacker position after it was a team weakness in the 2020 season. Cleveland has several young linebackers who are solid, but doesn’t seem to have one that has put it all together. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has the Browns selecting a linebacker with the 26th overall pick, Jeremiah is a former scout in the league as well.
At 26 Jeremiah has the Browns selecting Zaven Collins, a fourth year junior out of Tulsa. Collins is a 6-foot-4 260 pound linebacker who can do a little bit of everything, even getting after the quarterback in his 2020 campaign. This past season Collins forced six turnovers in eight games, which is a terrific number of production. Four of those turnovers came on interceptions, Browns could use some help in term of coverage linebackers. Cleveland has their guy in the run game, Sione Takitaki has showed he is best fit in the run game where he excels.
It would be interesting to see the Browns spend a top asset on a linebacker, considering they have not put a ton into it at this point. Cleveland picked up Malcom Smith, let Joe Schobert walk and picked up a couple of safeties over the course of the season. These kind of moves are just some of the signs Cleveland has shown in their priorities. This could be the team just does not prioritize the position and rather put the money in defensive backs and defensive ends. Overall, it could be more likely to see the Browns look for one of those two positions in the first round.
When you’re playing teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs or even the Pittsburgh Steelers this past season who had no run game, one thing is the same. You have to cover and you need defensive backs on the field. Putting a linebacker in the slot isn’t ideal if you can have a corner out there, this automatically takes a linebacker off the field. It is just the way the NFL seems to be heading in terms of defending.
If there are no quality options at defensive back or end, the Browns very well could take Collins and make him that linebacker that stays on the field. He’s a big guy that can cover a bit, so he should be a three down linebacker. But, it makes far more sense for the team to grab linebackers later because they may just be rotational pieces.
If the team likes Jacob Phillips heading into his second year, he could be that guy that is on the field the most out of the linebackers. Phillips can fly around and tackles. The biggest thing with him is staying healthy and consistency, as it is with any young player.
Zaven Collins is a solid prospect and only 21 years old. If he was there a round or two later, his chances of landing in Cleveland would greatly increase. But, for a defense that wants to do two things, which are rushing the passer and covering, taking him at 26 does not make a ton of sense. Collins has the ability to pass rush, but that would be taking a chance on him to do so at the NFL level since he has never put up alarming numbers.