The Cleveland Browns might be better off focusing on veteran players this year and next, and hoarding draft resources for 2025 and 2026 when they will be needed.
If the Cleveland Browns are in win-now mode, they have to be honest enough with themselves to admit that they don’t draft well enough on Day 3 to justify a full slate of picks in 2023.
Accordingly, they might consider bundling a few Day 3 picks to move up into Day 2. If they can’t do that on favorable terms, they should reinvest those picks in the 2024 and later drafts, because they can’t afford to waste the roster spots on players who aren’t ready to perform on a playoff team.
Cleveland Browns should plan to trade out of Day 3 in 2023 NFL Draft
Under general manager Andrew Berry, since the 2020 offseason, Cleveland has drafted 14 players on Day 3 of the NFL Draft (i.e., Round 4 – Round 7). Of those 14 selections, only three were moderately successful in their rookie year.
We’re not talking Rookie of the Year performances here, but fourth wide receiver, third tight end, and first-string special teams. The other 11 players weren’t the best options for year one, but the promise of future potential kept them on the team.
The conventional strategy is that your team should draft a full slate of rookies (eight in 2023, including five Day 3 picks). The Fab Five from Day 3 will occupy roster spots and prevent low-tier free agents from signing with the team while these rookies learn how to shave and get dressed while preparing to play football in about 2026.
Instead, in 2023 the Browns could trade away these Day 3 draft picks. If they can trade up to Day 2, they have a better chance of landing a contributor. If they can’t swing that type of deal, they should try to trade back all the way to 2024, which can usually bring better picks.
Try to trade a 2023 Round 4 for a 2024 Round 3. Or try to trade a 2023 Round 5 for a 2024 Round 4, or even later assets. The empty roster spots can be used to sign free agents at or near the NFL minimum. These “one-year wonders” already know how to play, and the record shows that they outperform late-round rookies. This is unorthodox thinking, but that’s why you read Dawg Pound Daily, right?
If you question whether teams will really trade future picks for present picks, in 2022, the Browns traded their 2022 Round 4 pick for Minnesota’s 2022 Round 5 pick (Jerome Ford) and their 2023 Round 4 pick. This corresponds to over 50 percent annual interest, which is better than the interest organized crime gets.
There are other examples of teams paying extra to use next year’s draft capital to draft now (remember the trade to move up and draft Brady Quinn?). NFL teams really do pay 50 percent interest to move up. Investing in future picks can be quite a racket. Hello Paul DePodesta, the Browns should take advantage of this rather than clog the roster with players who aren’t ready to play.
Look at who the Browns signed for about the league minimum in 2022. They signed two offensive linemen in Ethan Pocic and Hjalte Froholdt. Pocic was graded third overall among centers in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Froholdt played both guard and center. He was an average NFL guard, and struggled at center, which was an unfamiliar position for him.
He could start for some NFL teams at guard for certain, and maybe at center if he cleans up a few things. The Browns also signed blocking tight end Pharaoh Brown and quarterback Joshua Dobbs and claimed Kellen Mond. On defense, the Browns got mileage from defenders Jordan Kunaszyk, Jermaine Carter, and Isaac Rochell. As a group, these players were significantly better than the Day 3 picks.
Roster spots were a problem, of course. They eventually had to let Dobbs go when Deshaun Watson returned from suspension, and he went on to play well for the Tennessee Titans. Rochell likewise wound up getting cut.
Let’s look back at Andrew Berry’s record with Day 3 picks, starting in 2022 and working backward.