Retooling the Cleveland Browns 4.0: Post free agency mock draft
By Mitch Zoloty
I have been on the Alex Highsmith hype train since day one. The edge rusher out of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte has been one of my favorite non-power five prospects. Highsmith had a whopping 15 sacks last season, having by far the best season of his career for the 49ers. Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman called him “the fastest off the ball I’ve ever gone against. Ever.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney gave high praise to Highsmith, saying:
"“He’s on all the ‘great player’ lists. I kept watching him and going, ‘Holy cow.’ He looks like Xavier Thomas. He’s physical, fast, disruptive. He’s causing sacks and tips. Really, really good football player. That No. 5 could play for anybody in the country.”"
If you want to know how good someone is, ask their opponents. If Clemson, arguably the best team in college football almost every year, has this to say about you, you’re doing something right. Highsmith has a great arsenal of pass rush moves and has amazing feet. He measured in at the NFL combine at 6-foot-3 and 248-pounds, and would likely be Olivier Vernon’s backup for the Browns. I think the two are pretty similar players, and Highsmith could benefit a lot from learning from Vernon.
Highsmith is not ready to start his rookie year like the previously mentioned players on this list, but give him a year to develop and learn in the NFL, he’d probably be able to replace Olivier Vernon if the Browns don’t bring him back in 2021. Let’s face it, the Browns have a serious depth problem on the defensive line. Bringing in Alex Highsmith adds a quality pass rusher to add to the mix, and he can even sub in on pass-rushing situations if needed.
Highsmith would even give the Browns the flexibility to drop to a 3-4 front on passing downs to get creative with their blitzes, as you could put him or Olivier Vernon at linebacker and get into some creative twists to really get after opposing quarterbacks.