2024 Browns Rookie Draft Profile: Third-round pick Zak Zinter, Guard

Taking a look at Browns rookie Zak Zinter
Zak Zinter, Cleveland Browns
Zak Zinter, Cleveland Browns / Mike Mulholland/GettyImages

With the Cleveland Browns second selection in the 2024 NFL draft, they decided to stay in the trenches and picked offensive guard from Michigan Zak Zinter. At 6-foot-6 309lbs, the 23-year-old was the 8th interior offensive lineman taken off the board. 

A big mauler with many accolades including unanimous all-American in 2023, team captain (2023), three-time academic All-Big Ten nominees, and two-time First-Team All-Big Ten selections. Between his stats and build, Zinter might be the safest third-round pick in this year's draft.


Zinter is the stereotypical guard you want on your offensive line. He has the perfect build for the interior. He has the aggression and motor to finish every block which while great for the ball carrier, also sets a tone for the rest of the offense. Zinter is very technical — his feet never get too wide and his hands are always in perfect position. His run blocking is near perfect whether it's off the line or in space. 

Run blocking is the easiest of the two when it comes to blocking so it's impressive how equally good Zinters pass protection is. Scouts believed Zinter's pass blocking wasn't as impressive as his run blocking but his stats last year say otherwise. Per Pro Football Focus, Zinter was ranked near the top of the list among NCAA offensive guards with at least 290 pass-blocking snaps.

He didn't allow a single sack or QB hit in 2023 and was ranked sixth QB pressures allowed with five given up. He doesn't just finish blocks in the run game, he makes sure his opponents feel his presence in pass protection. In several instances on film, you'll see just as many pancakes in pass protection as you will in the run game. One of the best traits you can have in an offensive lineman is the ability to set the tone and play through the whistle. Zinter does exactly that when he steps on the field. 


Usually, when a player of Zinter's caliber falls too late in the draft it's due to one of two things — injury or off-the-field issues. With Zinter, he broke his Tibia and Fibia in the 13th game of the season against Ohio State.

It was truly a freak play where his now teammate, Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. was blocked into the lower leg of Zinter. The good news is Zinter himself posted a video on April 21st, almost five months after the injury doing bag drills and impressive footwork. Safe to say he will be ready to go by training camp in August. 

In terms of noninjury weaknesses, Zimmer's issue is his aggressiveness in pass protection. Ironically enough this is what makes Zinter such a great offensive guard. He is extremely physical in his pass pro which leads to several pancakes when watching his film. The only problem that sometimes makes him prone to counter-moves is when defensive linemen cross his face.

While he's quick, he isn't fast and explosive enough to recover when smaller, quicker defensive tackles have a step on him. Fixing this will be tricky for him in the NFL as his aggression and strong punch in pass pro are what makes him good at what he does. 

Value at Pick

Before looking into Zak Zinter and the future of the guard position for the Browns, it was confusing to see them pass up the WR position for the second straight time. Both Troy Franklin and Javon Baker were available but due to the crowded WR room and the lack of depth in the interior offensive line, this was the smart pick. 

Zinter was projected as a late first-round, early second-round pick before his injury, and all of the offensive weapons left on the board were graded as fourth-round selections. We would be having a different conversation if running back Trey Benson or wide receiver Jermaine Burton weren't selected before No. 85, but by the time the Browns were on the clock, Zinter was the best available. 

Browns Draft Grade

Overall this is graded out as an A-. While it wasn't the flashiest pick, you can't ignore the Browns got a borderline first round talent with the 85th pick.

The injury to Zinter's leg was a bone fracture, so this injury will not linger throughout his career like a soft tissue injury would. It's understandable to be critical of the Browns choosing a guard as their starting guards: Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller are among the top of the league but they won't be around forever and Bitonio was the most banged up he's been in years last season.

He's also 32 years old and entering his 11th season this year. The opportunity to have a unanimous AP-All-American sit behind a two-time All-Pro was simply too good for Cleveland to pass up in round three of the draft. You can never fault a team for picking the best player when it's time for their selection, and Zinter certainly fits the bill.

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