After making their first postseason appearance since 2002 and first postseason victory since 1994, the Cleveland Browns have seemingly made their return to relevance in the NFL. Carried by an offense on the shoulders of quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, head coach Kevin Stefanski has unlocked the potential of the unit even in the absence of lead wideout Odell Beckham Jr.
The overarching, glaring weakness of the Browns’ roster though appeared on the defensive side of the ball, manifesting itself in a lack of secondary depth and little to no assistance in pass-rush alongside defensive end Myles Garrett. If Cleveland is to improve on their recent performance, addressing their defensive woes is the primary concern entering the 2021 offseason.
Cleveland Browns mock 2021 NFL Draft: Round 1
Immediately jumping to quell the concerns of pass-rush in conjunction with Garrett, the Cleveland Browns dive into a bevy of high-ceiling edge prospects within the 2021 NFL draft. In their 4-3 defensive front, there is a demand for a player who can create their own one-on-one opportunities as well as the ability to consistently set the edge against the run.
With a twitchy first-step and ability to bend around the edge, Texas edge-rusher Joseph Ossai has ascended through the draft boards with his athleticism, only being reigned in by his lack of polished pass-rush moves. At six-foot-four, 254-pounds, Ossai eats up space off of the snap vigorously and is able to translate this short-space quickness into force at the point of contact, punching well above his weight.
With his athletic prowess in the pass-rush, Ossai’s ceiling is seemingly limitless when his potential with a developed repertoire of moves is brought into the picture. Having also spent time off of the line of scrimmage at linebacker, Ossai is a potential athletic chess-piece to be relocated throughout the defensive front.
2021 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns mock draft: Round 2
Second on the Cleveland Browns’ defensive grocery list for the 2021 NFL draft is the linebacker position. Having spent little to no capital in recent seasons on the position group because of the front office’s analytical approach, Cleveland needs to consider the potential improvement to a wavering defensive unit this offseason.
One of the most unique draft prospects within the 2021 NFL draft, former North Carolina quarterback Chazz Surratt has impressed in his recent switch to the linebacker position and could manage himself a second-round selection with impressive combine numbers.
Still clearly learning the nuances of the position, Surratt is a ‘see ball, get ball’ linebacker with the pace and instincts to track down the play from his position at the center of the defense.
Having been a premier dual-threat quarterback in a past life, Surratt translates some of his offensive intuition to the position, complementing his inherent athleticism.
When folded into the Cleveland Browns defense as a committed anti-run linebacker, Surratt has a chance for NFL success as long as his athleticism can be further translated into his ability in coverage.