Luke Wypler is another piece in the Browns long-term plans
By Josh Aul
The Cleveland Browns selected Luke Wypler, the center out of Ohio State, with the 190th pick in the NFL Draft this past weekend. While the sixth-round pick was, on some analysts' boards, one of the top-graded centers in the draft (PFF had a second-round grade on Wypler), it's doubtful he was selected as merely a depth piece for the offensive line. Has Andrew Berry been under-the-radar building an offensive line for the future?
In the 2022 college football season for the Buckeyes, Wypler started and played in all 13 games while allowing zero sacks and just seven quarterback pressures. And those stats include the College Football Playoff game against Georgia, who had one of the nation's top defensive units filled with future NFL players itself. Wypler only allowed two pressures in a single game one time, against rival Michigan, and he ended the season with a 99.2% pass-blocking efficiency grade (per PFF).
So what does the future hold for Wypler with the Browns?
Looking at the current contract situations for Cleveland's starting line tells an interesting, but not unbelievable, story. Right tackle Jack Conklin just signed an extension, but Cleveland has an out after the 2025 season. Right guard Wyatt Teller is signed through 2025, but the team has an out after the 2023 season.
The Browns just re-signed center Ethan Pocic, though the team has an out after either the 2023 or 2024 season. Left guard Joel Bitonio is signed through 2025 with an out after 2023. And the Browns just exercised the fifth-year option on left tackle Jedrick Wills, locking him in through 2024.
So while the offensive line looks solidified in the short-term, it could look very different just one season from now. With the possibility that one or all three of Teller, Pocic and Bitonio won't be with the Browns in 2024, it's interesting to look at what Andrew Berry and the Browns front office has done.
The team clearly believes in Nick Harris, opting to release five-year starter J.C. Tretter to roll with Harris going into 2022. Harris also had some experience playing guard in college and has also filled in at the guard position for the Browns before. With limited playing time and a lost season to injury in 2022, Harris will be cheap to retain if the Browns wish to keep him after his rookie contract.
The Browns selected tackle James Hudson in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. While he hasn't blown away expectations, Hudson has still performed admirably in limited and sometimes unexpected appearances.
And Cleveland just brought in Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones in the fourth round of the recent 2023 NFL Draft. Jones allowed just five quarterback pressures and zero sacks on 419 pass snaps this past season with the Buckeyes.
With some hefty contracts at pivotal positions on the team, the Browns have put themselves in a position to move into 2024 and beyond with a rather inexpensive offensive line if these younger players develop the way they hope.
After all, look what offensive line coach Bill Callahan was able to do with guys like Wyatt Teller and Ethan Pocic — two guys who weren't originally signed to be starters for the team but turned into must-have players whose absences on the field have resulted in a noticeable drop-off in the offense's overall performance.
If the Browns can get even decent development from Harris, Hudson, Jones and Wypler, they could establish a reliable offensive line that wouldn't cost much at all for the remainder of quarterback Deshaun Watson's contract. If things go according to plan, Browns fans will look back on the 2023 Draft as the year the team snagged two future foundational pieces of the offensive line with Luke Wypler leading the way.