Undrafted free agents are Cleveland Browns key to 2021 NFL draft

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT /
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Cleveland Browns
CLEVELAND, OHIO – JANUARY 03: Running back D’Ernest Johnson #30 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after the Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 24-22. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Investment guide for 2021 post-Covid NFL.

Like all NFL teams, the Browns have to adjust to the fact that the scouting reports carry greater uncertainty than usual. It means that there’s a greater chance of whiffing on a pick, but also there is a slight chance that they might catch a first-round talent sliding to a later round.

This writer has the unorthodox opinion that the ability to audition several candidates with an open roster spot makes Undrafted Free Agents a much more valuable talent pool than a late-round draft pick, which is locked in on a single player on Draft Day. Especially this year, it is worth picking through the UDFA talent pool looking for talent that may have been missed. Locking in on a sixth or seventh-round pick is not worth it, especially not this season.

If the Browns can consolidate picks to move up to Rounds 2-4 this season, they should do that; or if they would prefer to invest in future draft resources, they should be willing to trade late-round 2021 picks for 2022 picks.

If the draft were stocks, this writer would issue the following guidance:

2021 First Round, Top 10 picks:  BUY, especially from the SEC, ACC, and BIG 12. These picks are not affected much by lack of scouting

2021 mid to late first-round to second-round: SPECULATIVE BUY or NEUTRAL

Remember there are some incomplete scouting reports from the Big 10 and Pac 12 and smaller conferences that are skewing the view of the talent pool.   Look for top talent that may have slid, or listen to trade offers.  These picks are not as valuable as in a normal year.

2021 third and fourth-round BUY WITH CAUTION OR NEUTRAL

Top talent may slide here, but there is a very high chance of getting stuck with draft busts as well. March Madness proved how little you knew about NCAA basketball and NCAA football was 10 times more messed up. When teams never play outside their conference, their flaws are never really exposed and their brand of football is just not as sharp as it should be.

You may think you have an inside track on superstars from the Pac 10, but you may be bitterly disappointed this season because a lot of these kids will be exposed in training camp.  Be ready to bundle draft picks to move up to the second round or trade out of 2021 altogether for higher picks in 2022.  We are issuing a warning on low earnings on this draft.

2021 fifth-round NEUTRAL OR SELL

Start to look for special teams players here. If there is a top placekicker, this is the place to draft one.  If you can trade away a pick here and pick up an asset for 2022 there will be no regret long term.

2021 sixth-round SELL

It’s unequivocally better to keep an open roster spot, use it evaluate several UDFAs, and pick one.

2021 seventh-round PANIC SELL

Trade this pick! Heck, give it to the Ravens for all I care! Weaken their team, not ours!


These players are bargains, which is why Andrew Berry is overspending this season.


By clearing some veterans and not deferring some draft picks to 2022, the money saved by investing in five UDFAs will pay major dividends immediately because they will play better than the horsefeathers players the Browns were going to draft in the sixth and seventh round, and they will cost less.

Similarly, there will be some cap savings if they can cut two or three mid-range-salaried veterans to make way for UDFAs. Seriously, carve out three-to-five roster spots to be filled by unknown players who are true UDFAs or near-minimum-wage players from the waiver wires or cut lists from other teams. The Browns will find the players if they look for them and create the roster spots to keep them. They are out there this season.

2022 first-round thru fifth-round: BUY

Next year’s scouting will be much more reliable.  It is worth it to trade 2021 draft picks for 2022 draft picks, and usually, teams will let you move up by offering present-year picks. Try the Houston Texans or Detroit Lions.  They are dumb enough to fall for this trick. Next year there will not be so many free agents and the Browns will need additional draft picks to stay young.

2022 sixth, seventh-round: SELL

I still do not like these players. Give me UDFAs instead.

2022 FREE AGENTS: HOLD (back to normal levels next season).

It’s time to start feeding big dollars to Myles Garrett, and there may not be tons of free-agent dollars anymore.