Cleveland Browns: 2019 NFL Draft recap and analysis

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images /

Recapping the Cleveland Browns haul in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The Cleveland Browns went into the 2019 NFL Draft with only a few spots on the roster not already filled by capable starters, backups and players drafted last year. Whether it was planned that way or the Browns just drafted for need, those other open roster spots are the exact positions the Browns selected in this year’s draft.

General manager John Dorsey upgraded the weakest and most important spots on the roster with Pro Bowl level talent in free agency in free agency and trades, with Olivier Vernon replacing Emmanuel Ogbah at defensive end, Sheldon Richardson taking over for Trevon Coley at defensive tackle and of course, the exciting addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The most important position of need going into the draft was starting outside cornerback.

The Cleveland went into the draft with three starting cornerback options on the roster in Denzel Ward, Terrence Mitchell and T.J. Carrie, and re-signed a decent backup in Phillip Gaines. While Mitchell played surprisingly well last year, an upgrade over him on the outside would benefit the Browns the most in winning games going forward with the passing game in the NFL being of prime importance.

Without a first-round pick, expecting the Browns to get one of the top cornerbacks in the draft seemed like wishful thinking. Incredibly, the Browns were able to snag the top man coverage cornerback in the draft, stealing Greedy Williams from LSU in the second round while only surrendering a fifth-round pick to move up a few spots.

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They also picked up a feisty cornerback in Donnie Lewis out of Tulane in the final round of the draft. This should put Williams and Ward as lockdown man coverage corners on the outside going forward, with Carrie continuing to play well in the slot. Mitchell is a tremendous backup to have on the roster, signed for the next two years at a good value.

The linebacker position also had three quality starters in Joe Shobert, Christian Kirksey and second-year pass rushing beast Genard Avery. The Cleveland Browns also signed a backup/special teams ace in Adarius Taylor in the offseason but didn’t have much else in quality linebackers on the roster going into the draft.

Once again, with two roster spots that needed an upgrade, they selected two linebackers in the draft, snagging Sione Takitaki in the third round and Mack Wilson from Alabama in the fifth round. Like Avery and Shobert, Takitaki was primarily an edge pass rusher in college. With new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks often rushing five players at the quarterback, the Browns now have another player capable of rushing the passer as a linebacker.

Wilson is young and never fulfilled his five-star rating coming out of high school, with Alabama coach Nick Saban recommending that he stay in college for another year. He may take some time to develop in the NFL, but has a ton of potential and athleticism to help on special teams in the meantime.

The safety position had two quality starters entering the 2019 NFL Draft, with Damarious Randall and newly signed Morgan Burnett on the roster. The Browns also have a qualified backup in Eric Murray coming to the Browns in the Ogbah trade. There was an obvious need for a fourth safety on the Cleveland Browns roster and they filled that need by taking Sheldrick Redwine in the fourth round.

Redwine tested well athletically at the combine with a 4.44 40-yard dash. Redwine also had the fourth-best SPARQ score in the draft at the safety position and landed in the 89th percentile athletically for NFL safeties, according to three sigma athlete. So essentially, the five biggest weaknesses for the Cleveland Browns were all addressed in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Offensively, the Cleveland Browns were pretty much set entering the draft. The only obvious offensive need on the roster was a need for interior offensive line depth, which was also addressed with the sixth-round selection of Drew Forbes from Southeast Missouri State.

The only other position where I thought the Browns could use an upgrade in the draft was at third-string quarterback, a position which they did not address. Garrett Gilbert, the MVP of the folded AAF, was signed to join the team earlier this off season. The Browns also brought Drew Stanton back to be the primary backup to Baker Mayfield.

The running back position is absurdly good with two of the best in the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt leading the way. The Cleveland Browns also have one of the best receiving backs in the NFL in Duke Johnson still on the roster. We will see if the Browns keep Johnson throughout the season, with Hunt scheduled to return at the midpoint of the year.

Johnson’s contract makes it likely that the Browns will keep him, with $4 million in dead money to cut him. Behind the top three backs on the roster, the Browns have Dontrell Hilliard, who is a solid depth piece who has the ability to return kicks.

At receiver, the Browns have Beckham paired on the outside with Antonio Callaway, who impressed as a rookie and should only get better moving forward. Add Jarvis Landry in the slot and this might be the best group of receivers in the entire league. Behind them is quality depth in Rashard Higgins, who played well last year in a starting role. Damion Ratley showed some promise with size and speed, with some decent production as a sixth-round rookie last year. The Browns also acquired former first-round pick Jaelen Strong, a reclamation project similar to Breshad Perriman last season.

At tight end, it only seems to be a matter of time until former first-round pick David Njoku breaks out. Njoku is an extremely gifted player who has shown some promise but is only going to get better with more talent around him. The Browns signed Demetrius Harris in the offseason, who has shown some production and still has room to grow. Seth DeValve showed little production so far in his career but is still young. Orson Charles is more of an H-back, blocking tight end.

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On the defensive line, two pro bowlers line up on the edge in Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon, who should only look better back at his natural position of 4-3 defensive end. Behind the starting edge defenders on the depth chart, Chris Smith provides decent depth, with the unproven third-round pick from last year Chad Thomas and Anthony Zettel filling out the roster. This is one area where I thought the Browns could improve upon depth, with Zettel possibly still being replaced if a more promising player becomes available after being waived or through trade. The pass rushing abilities of Genard Avery and the linebacking group could offset the need to have a strong third rotational option behind the starters.

On the interior defensive line, Larry Ogunjobi has shown a ton of promise and should keep growing. Sheldon Richardson is a really good addition as well, pushing Trevon Coley down the depth chart where he is more suited and can provide quality depth. Carl Davis has shown promise when healthy and Devaroe Lawrence impressed rushing the passer in the preseason last year for the Cowboys.

The Cleveland Browns drafted a kicker in the late fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Browns do need a quality player at the position to beat out last year’s kickers, which arguably cost the Browns at least two wins last season. They hope Austin Seibert can be that guy.

On paper, the Cleveland Browns have one of the best rosters in the NFL, especially after factoring in the likely growth of this extremely young roster already full of potential. We can factor in an increase in productivity for most of the roster, by the fact of players being surrounded with a better supporting cast.

The players on the defensive line should be more dominant by playing with better defensive line talent around them. The coverage should improve all around by virtue of having a defensive line that can create even more pressure on the quarterback. The improved defensive line play in the run game should also improve the play of the linebackers and safety play against the run. It is certain though that the whole defense will benefit from having added an immense amount of talent.

On offense, it is all about OBJ. The new star receiver should boost the productivity of pretty much the entire offense, with Callaway, Landry, Njoku, Hunt, Chubb and Mayfield being the obvious beneficiaries. Mayfield’s sophomore growth should help the entire offense, including the offensive line. We could go on and on and on.

Next. Teams who won the 2019 NFL Draft. dark

There are really no weak spots for this roster going into the season. Other teams should be afraid, while an early difficult schedule will test the team’s mettle and reveal where it stands going forward through the rest of the season.