Cleveland Browns: 3 second-year players who need to succeed
2. Genard Avery, Linebacker
While Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward were receiving the Rookie of the Week awards, there was another player who looked to be the biggest steal in the draft for Cleveland. Memphis linebacker Genard Avery was taken in the fifth-round but he played like someone taken much earlier as a rookie.
Avery played in the American Conference which may have hurt his projection some, but he was all over the field for the Tigers. In four seasons, he had 230 tackles, 44.5 of which went for a loss, and 21.5 sacks. His senior campaign was easily his best as he had 80 tackles and 8.5 sacks — as well as an incredible 22 tackles for a loss.
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He then brought that same versatility to the NFL as a rookie. In 16 games, with five starts, Avery recorded 40 tackles and 4.5 sacks, proving he can still get to the ball carrier no matter how he’s employed.
Heading into his sophomore campaign, Avery will be needed even more. The Browns released Jamie Collins, who led the team in tackles last season. His contract had a lot to do with that, but so too did the presence of Avery. He can do a lot of what Collins could but is younger and more explosive — as well as more consistent.
Cleveland isn’t expected to use a three-linebacker set very often in 2019, but that doesn’t mean Avery won’t see the field a lot. He’s too talented not to get plenty of snaps and he’s going to be a big part of their success in 2019.