Cleveland Browns 2022 defensive rookie review: Martin Emerson shines

Browns, Martin Emerson Jr. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Martin Emerson Jr. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY Sports /
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Browns, Perrion Winfrey. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Alex Wright: Round 3 (78th overall pick)

The Browns made their second selection of the 2022 NFL draft just 10 picks after their first pick. The team selected edge rusher Alex Wright out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Unlike their first pick, the selection of Wright was met with an immense amount of enthusiasm by the fanbase.

Wright checked all the boxes from a physical standpoint. At 6-foot-6 and 270lbs, Wright has the perfect frame for the modern-day NFL edge rusher. Wright was viewed as a raw prospect that could be developed into a starting-caliber defensive end that the team could eventually pair with Myles Garrett.

Wright’s rookie campaign was that of a typical mid-round defensive end. He started five games in place of an injured Jadeveon Clowney and logged 50 percent of the defensive snaps on the season. Over those 542 defensive snaps, Wright notched 13 solo tackles and 28 total tackles with two tackles for loss.

While Wright displayed some versatility by kicking down and playing defensive tackle and flashed occasionally, overall, his rookie season was marred by inconsistent play. Cleveland needs Wright to make a significant leap heading into year number two and will likely have to add another spot starter before handing the job to the second-year defensive end.

Perrion Winfrey: Round 4 (108th overall pick)

If Perrion Winfrey didn’t have the introductory press conference that he did, we would probably view his rookie season in a more positive light. But the boisterous defensive tackle had the fanbase head over heels after cutting a pro wrestling-esque promo after the Browns selected him in the fourth round.

There were other reasons to be optimistic about Winfrey being added to a thin, at best, defensive tackle room. The rookie out of the University of Oklahoma had shown some serious pass-rushing ability from the interior, which was something the Browns were severely lacking in. Winfrey had a good deal of momentum heading into the draft from his MVP-winning performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

Cleveland made Winfrey their first selection of day three, and then the infamous press conference via cell phone came. Winfrey had a large contingent of the fanbase ready to run through a brick wall. But he was unable to keep his momentum once training camp started.

Winfrey came out of the gates slow, putting some inconsistent play on tape in the process. The story of his rookie campaign became about the maturity issues that resulted in him being a healthy scratch for four games in the middle of the season.

However, Winfrey did finish the season on an upswing that saw him seeing some action with more regularity. Seven of Winfrey’s eight solo tackles came after Week 13. Winfrey played 52 percent of the defensive snaps over that same timeframe. With a defensive tackle room that is due for a major overhaul, Winfrey looks to be one of the pieces that will get a fresh start under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Isaiah Thomas: Round 7 (223rd overall selection)

The Browns went back to the University of Oklahoma for their final defensive selection of the 2022 NFL draft when they took edge rusher Isaiah Thomas. From a value perspective, the selection of Thomas was a homerun. The 6-foot-5 265lb defensive end, was a perfect candidate for a potential rotational edge depth piece with decent upside.

When called upon in limited action, Thomas showed good motor and solid technique. While only playing 25 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, and not seeing a lot of action down the stretch, Thomas figures to be in line for a rotational role in 2023.