The Cleveland Browns have completed their 2021 NFL Draft where a team with Super Bowl aspirations was able to bring in additional help. The defense’s identity took further shape and the overall speed of the team was upgraded.
Normally, I’m not a big fan of grading a draft immediately after the fact, but in this case, it seems to be the best way to summarize my thoughts on the draft class.
Greg Newsome II fills the prescription this secondary needed not only in terms of talent, but allowing the Browns to upgrade their length and speed at the corner position and allow them to play far more man coverage.
He could be the perfect counterpart to Denzel Ward and his presence should enable defensive coordinator Joe Woods to be able to maximize both Ward and Greedy Williams as Newsome’s presence gives him the freedom to play to their strengths.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has the opportunity to be a game changer for the Browns. How they ultimately decide to utilize him will be key, but he at least appears to be a positionless player that will float between linebacker and safety roles.
He has tremendous range, the ability to cover and blitz, excels in space playing from the slot or in the middle of the field. Owusu does not take on contact well, so they need to try to protect him as much as possible, reducing the amount of blocks he has to take on to really let him shine.
Anthony Schwartz is the definition of a boom or bust player. It’s not difficult to imagine three years from now that Schwartz is a major weapon for the Browns, even if he’s never a full time starter, making explosive plays and occasionally producing quick scores. It’s just as easy to look three years down the road and see him off the roster.
Schwartz is incredibly raw at the position and while at times he’s downright brilliant, from running routes to catching the ball, he can look lost. He does not do well with contact, which is something every defense will want to do, attempting to jam and jostle him down the field.
None of that changes the fact he has a trump card with his speed. He’s also got good size. And if the Browns are going to gamble on a player, this is type of player to gamble on. A remarkable skill that may or may not work out as opposed to hoping a player can be a functional, reliable human being.
General manager Andrew Berry was looking for good investments and it’s unclear if James Hudson was a good one. His athletic testing was pretty poor, though he looks better when he’s on the field.
Moreover, it raises more questions than answers about the rest of the offensive line room. Tackle would seemingly be his best path to making the roster, where he’s competing with Alex Taylor, an undrafted free agent signed last year and Greg Senat, whose odds were long to make the team anyway.
At guard, he’s trying to beat out Drew Forbes, Michael Dunn, Blake Hance and Colby Gossett. One of them might be released before they get to camp, but it’s still a talented group.
None of this accounts for Chris Hubbard, who is recovering from a dislocated kneecap. Is that something the Browns are concerned about?
The Browns are seemingly relying on Bill Callahan’s input on this pick, which is fine, but it at least seems there were better options to be had both on the offensive line as well as the positions passed over in favor of Hudson.
Hudson could end up being a really nice player, but the choice is still a little confusing.
Tommy Togiai is one of the more interesting picks for the Browns because he’s still being formed into a player. The pandemic shortened college season impacted him perhaps as much as any player in this draft class as he never played over 300 snaps in a season.
Togiai has tremendous tools from his agility to his raw strength. And this season, he was putting it together for the Buckeyes, so it’s disappointing he didn’t get to have the full year to continue figuring it out for himself.
Togiai is a 3-tech, but he could be an option as a nose in some choice spots as well. It’s going to be fun to watch how the Browns utilize him and develop him from here.
Tony Fields II fits the defense in the exact same way Owusu does, but he’s not the same type of athlete. What’s interesting about Fields is that while Owusu played in the slot more than he played in the box while in college, Fields played exclusively in the box, so he’s accustomed to the action in there.
Fields should also be a fixture on special teams. It will be interesting to see if Fields is able to impress the Browns, despite not being a supremely gifted athlete at a much smaller size. Being undersized is one thing, but being an ordinary athlete while being smaller is another. The good news for Fields is he processes and reacts quickly, so he can often be a step ahead of every else helping to mitigate the issue.
Richard LeCounte will be fighting for a spot on the roster as deep safety depth, having played a combo safety for Georgia. His pro day is pretty meaningless as he was still recovering from a traffic accident from Halloween. According to LeCounte, he has only just recently gotten back to 100 percent health with a broken bone in his foot.
In his last 20 games, his junior and the senior season he had before the accident, LeCounte produced an outstanding seven interceptions.
The issue for LeCounte is that his production in every other facet is pretty underwhelming. He’s good in coverage, but he’s pretty bad in run defense and is a terrible tackler, which makes him similar to Sheldrick Redwine, but Redwine had elite speed coming out of college.
Demetric Felton is a situation where the hope is his athletic testing is not remotely representative, because it’s terrible. His tape is impressive and it looks like a completely different person than his testing would suggest, able to make opponents miss and always at full speed with remarkable body control.
His ability to contribute in multiple roles certainly offers value. Felton can legitimately play from the slot and backfield as well as return kicks. Regardless of where he lines up on the field, he can torture linebackers in coverage and his work at the Senior Bowl certainly helped his case to be viable in the NFL.
The Browns get a few players that can immediately help them as they attempt to compete for the Super Bowl and it’s clear the team has a vision of where it’s going. However, there is an element of volatility where this draft could hit big on certain players and completely whiff on others.