After solidifying their roster in free agency, the Cleveland Browns left themselves in a nice spot heading into the 2020 draft where they address defensive needs.
In the last few weeks, the Cleveland Browns have had a good start to their offseason. With just a few weeks left before the 2020 NFL Draft, their needs they should address have not really changed all that much. The draft looks to be heavy on the defensive side of the ball for the Browns, as they need to fill holes with young talent.
In free agency, the Browns solidified their tight end position by adding former Falcons star, Austin Hooper. Between Hooper and fellow tight end David Njoku, Cleveland has a nice receiving tandem at tight end. Tight end wasn’t a huge need, but it did need to be addressed and they can check that off their list.
Perhaps the biggest signing for the Browns came when they signed right tackle Jack Conklin. He is considered one of the best right tackles in the NFL, particularly when run blocking. Right tackle was a huge need for the Browns and they certainly fixed that. Now the focus shifts to left tackle and a little to right guard.
Left tackle will surely be a focus in the draft, and likely at their first-round selection. This class has a solid group of tackles that are projected fairly high in the draft. Right guard is also an issue, although Cleveland’s front office has some belief in some current players on the roster. Still, don’t be surprised if you see an interior lineman selected by the Browns with one of their picks.
Linebacker and safety were the other two glaring needs for the team. Both of these positions added some help via free agency. Veteran linebacker B.J. Goodson joins the corps consisting of Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson. The safety room also added veterans Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo to bring leadership and starting experience to the secondary.
The Browns will definitely take a left tackle in this draft, and then should have a major focus on defense with a majority of their picks. This is an exciting draft for Cleveland and the fans because they are filling holes and adding complementary talent, rather than completely rebuilding. This mock draft provides just that.
Jedrick Wills Jr.
With the 10th pick, the Browns are able to land probably the best tackle in the entire draft, Jedrick Wills Jr. from Alabama. Previously, Wills Jr. was predicted to not fall to Cleveland, but with a potential run on quarterbacks and some defensive players, the Browns happily land Wills Jr. at 10.
Wills Jr. is the most athletic tackle in the draft. He has excellent quickness and fluidity for a tackle. He is able to recover and slide better than most. He can absolutely bully opposing ends as well. Being able to move that quickly at six foot four inches and 312 pounds is remarkable.
The only real downside to Wills Jr. is he played right tackle for the Crimson Tide. It won’t be a problem for him to make the switch to left tackle for the Browns, though. Again, he is a tremendous athlete who is fluid and can adjust to game situations. He can certainly learn and become just as dominant on the left side of the ball. Additionally, the Browns now have one of the best offensive line coaches in the entire league in Bill Callahan. He is an excellent teacher and can help mold Wills Jr. into a perennial Pro Bowler as the Browns’ left tackle.
Cleveland gets their much needed, cornerstone left tackle. With bookends on the line of scrimmage of Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin, Cleveland and quarterback Baker Mayfield should feel pretty confident. Expect the offense to be much improved behind this new and certainly improved offensive line.
Antoine Winfield Jr.
With their second-round pick, the Browns hit on their other major need and land safety Antoine Winfield Jr. from Minnesota. This is an excellent pick for Cleveland. Winfield Jr. is an absolute playmaker.
He is listed at 5-foot-9 and 203-pounds, but safeties do not need to be very tall. He is still muscular and will be fully capable of playing at that size. He has good speed which he displayed at the combine when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds.
Winfield Jr. is a ball hawk and has huge playmaking ability. He returns picks for touchdowns, returns punts for touchdowns, and makes insane one-handed interceptions. He loves to play football and it's easy to see when he flies around the field.
Winfield Jr. would bring passion and intensity to the defense and help spark turnovers. Great defenses in the NFL are made with players who make big plays and get the ball back – and that is exactly what he would bring to the browns.
There are other safeties who could be selected by the Browns depending on the flow of the draft. Others include Grant Delpit, Kyle Dugger, or Jeremy Chinn. The Browns will almost certainly take a safety in the draft, and it will likely be fairly early. Cleveland would be extremely happy if they can land Antoine Winfield Jr.
The Browns yet again continue their draft hitting big targets at positions of need. With their first pick in the third round, Cleveland gets Ohio State linebacker, Malik Harrison. Harrison was a four-year player for the Buckeyes and got better in every season. He played middle backer for them and was excellent in the run game and around the line of scrimmage.
He will come in and likely play the mike linebacker in the middle for the Browns, while Mack Wilson can play the will backer in space and Sione Takitaki will be the sam linebacker, and B.J. Goodson adding depth to the mike and sam positions. Harrison had 16 tackles for loss as a senior which shows how aggressive he was and able to make plays in the backfield.
Although the Browns have had a decent linebacker room for a few years who had a lot of tackles, what they really struggled with was stopping the play near the line of scrimmage. Yes, they had plenty of tackles which surely helped, but making the play five to six yards down the field as compared to near the line of scrimmage is a huge deal. Harrison would add a true, run-stopping linebacker who can plug running lanes and take on lead blocks as well as make the play early.
He's a downhill type player with a chip on his shoulder. At 6-3 and almost 250-pounds, he's the perfect size for a middle backer. He can come in and bolster the defense immediately. It's a perfect fit because of the strengths that the young Browns’ linebackers have, it allows Wilson and Takitaki to play where they are comfortable. Not to mention, the NFL has had great success recently when drafting OSU players, and Harrison can come join fellow Buckeye Denzel Ward to solidify the defense.
The Browns use their other third-round pick from the Houston Texans on defensive end Alex Highsmith. Alex Highsmith is a small school player form Charlotte. He has been climbing draft boards this draft season.
At 6-3, 247-pounds, Highsmith is a bit undersized for an end and could stand to put on 20 pounds in the offseason programs. That shouldn't be hard to do once he connects with NFL trainers and strength programs. He is agile and shifty at the line of scrimmage which is his strength. May not be much of a run-stopping end yet but can certainly get there.
He started as a walk-on at Charlotte and had very little playing time. He earned his way to becoming a starter and earned a scholarship as well. This past season he recorded an incredible 15 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss.
Highsmith's last two seasons he set the school record for tackles for loss with 18.5 and the aforementioned 21.5. His progression as a player and statistically is astonishing. He has the work ethic and the skills to continue to get better at the next level.
He would be able to come to the Browns and learn behind one of the best defensive players in all of football, Myles Garrett as well as Pro Bowler Olivier Vernon. He can gain priceless tips from these two on how to grow as a player, as well as in the weight room.
Given his ability to rush the passer, he can come in on passing downs and be a rushing end and the Browns could move Vernon or Garrett to the inside as they have shown before. Having Garrett, Vernon, and Highsmith on the field for pass packages would be a deadly combination.
He's not a perfect prospect but he could be a diamond in the rough. He has shown incredible production but also continues to get better every year and that is something scouts look at. He can provide a good depth piece and even quality insurance if an injury arises.
The Browns look to add depth to the middle of the offensive line with their fourth-round selection by adding Solomon Kindley from Georgia. Kindley is an absolute load on the inside measuring 6-foot-3 and weighing 337-pounds. He will be a player who needs to develop and can hopefully do that by sitting a year and learning from line coach Bill Callahan and the rest of the starters like fellow guard Joel Bitonio.
The Browns do have a slight hole at right guard. The front office has a belief that Wyatt Teller could be that guy after limited action last year with decent performance. They also believe in 2019 rookie Drew Forbes who missed all of last year with an injury. Forbes has received some high praise and is hoping to be the starter at right guard. Hopefully one of those two can be a solid 5th starter for the offensive line.
Kindley is a huge body that played in a difficult SEC conference and can hopefully develop into an NFL starter. He can probably afford to lose 10-20 pounds and get a little more agile, but Kindley is an aggressive player who loves contact. He can be a force in run blocking with a little bit of work.
Hopefully, between Teller, Forbes, and Kindley, the right guard spot can be fixed for the near future. They are all young players who surely can develop, and actually have found themselves in a good situation with veterans and great coaches to learn from. A solid depth piece here with the potential to start in the long run.
In the later rounds of the draft, teams have to try to find players who can make the team and contribute in some way and hopefully develop into good players. This is very difficult to do as most 6th and 7th round players don't even make the team.
The Browns here in the 6th round add a cornerback from Pittsburgh, Dane Jackson. Jackson played four years for Pitt from his redshirt freshman year and on. He earned 2nd team ACC honors his senior year.
Given him being in their program for five years and playing for four, Jackson has leadership and experience. He can come to Cleveland and contribute on special teams and try to work his way into a nickel corner for the team and serve as depth for injuries.
He has decent size for a corner at 6-foot-0 and 187 pounds. He lacks true corner speed as he ran he 40 in 4.57, but he has 35-inch vertical and is very physical with receivers. He loves contact and playing scrappy football. He can tackle well for a corner and can bring some toughness to the team.
Again, he could start in special teams bringing a physical athlete to help cover punts and kicks. He can develop behind Ward and Williams and hone his skills into a solid NFL backup. A good depth piece for the Browns.
The last selection for the Cleveland Browns is Robert Landers from OSU. He is 6-1 and 285 pounds which is a little undersized for the NFL and compared to that of the Browns starting tackles – Sheldon Richardson is 6-3 294 and Larry Ogunjobi is 6-3 305. He is from Dayton, Ohio and played for the Buckeyes so he can be a good fit here in Cleveland.
Richardson and Ogubjoi are great players for the Browns, but when they come off the field for a rest or injury the production behind them falls dramatically. The Browns recently signed Andrew Billings to help with the depth, and that is a great signing, but they could surely still use some more bodies.
Landers played for the Buckeyes and played in the College Football Playoff this past year and obviously has played against tough competition in his career. The Browns try to find a late, quality player that slipped through and can possibly produce. He is not much of a pass rusher, but he disruptive in the middle. He is good at shedding blocks and making some plays at the line of scrimmage.
This draft was very good to the Browns. They landed the stud left tackle of their future, as well as loading other positions of need with talent. With the current roster the Browns have built and the solid free agency period they had, this draft allowed them to basically take the best player available, mainly focused on the defensive side.
The team will be much improved after this draft, and fans should be very excited for the first four players the Browns landed. Wills, Winfield Jr., Harrison, and Highsmith can come in and be very good players for Cleveland.