The Cleveland Browns had one of their most successful NFL seasons of this century and nearly reached the AFC Championship Game for the first time since “The Fumble” game in 1989. Regardless, there are still plenty of holes on this roster that need to be fixed, particularly on the defensive side of the ball that saw the Browns struggle, specifically against the pass, during the 2020 campaign (11th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, 247.6). Despite the tough end of the season, this team appears to be on an upward trajectory with head coach Kevin Stefanski. The Browns hold the 26th pick in the draft, and they will have to do their due diligence to find the players that fit well into the new brand of Cleveland Browns football.
Here is some quick history. The following is a list of the first-round picks the Browns have made over the past five offseasons:
- 2020: Jedrick Wills Jr. (OT)
- 2019: first-round pick traded to Giants as part of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade
- 2018: Baker Mayfield (QB) & Denzel Ward (CB)
- 2017: Myles Garrett (DE), Jabrill Peppers (S), & David Njoku (TE)
- 2016: Corey Coleman (WR)
The 26th pick will be the lowest starting first round position for the Browns to draft with since they held the 21st pick in the 2003 draft.
Cleveland currently ranks 10th in the league in projected cap space available for the 2021 season according to Spotrac; however, there are still some moves that the Browns can make to free up even more cap space. Here is a list of some of the players that may get cut or traded this offseason for the Browns with their age in parentheses:
- Odell Beckham Jr. (28)
- David Njoku (24)
- Adrian Clayborn (32)
- Jarvis Landry (28)
- Sheldon Richardson (30)
If the Browns want to maintain this level of success and become a Super Bowl contender for years to come, they must shore up parts of their team to do a better job of keeping up with some of the better teams in the AFC. Here are some potential players the Browns could look at in this year’s draft:
Possibility #1: Tulsa LB Zaven Collins
2020 stat line: 8 games, 54 total tackles, 4 sacks, 2 FFs, 4 INTs, 2 PDs, 2 TDs
Why: Zaven Collins is a very interesting prospect at the end of the first round. He showed flashes of being a great pass rusher at Tulsa, particularly when he had 3 sacks in a near upset against the Oklahoma State Cowboys; however, Collins shined the most this past season in his pass coverage abilities for the Golden Hurricane as he recorded 4 interceptions, which was the leading number for Tulsa in 2020. Despite being 260 pounds, Collins plays a lot faster than that number indicates, which makes him a very intriguing option for a Cleveland defense that needs a lot of help in stopping the pass.
Cleveland’s linebackers were solid last season and showed some flashes of being great in pass coverage, but it was clear that this group is lacking speed. Collins has a great blend of speed and size for the position that makes the Browns a little more dynamic in the passing game. With how well the Chiefs did through the air before Patrick Mahomes got injured in the divisional round, especially with Travis Kelce, this position definitely needs to be shored up in order for the Browns to contend for a Super Bowl next season.
Possibility #2: TCU S Trevon Moehrig-Woodard
2020 stat line: 10 games, 47 total tackles, 30 solo tackles, 2 INTs, 9 PDs
Why: One thing that is going to be evident this upcoming season is how the Browns remedy their woes against the pass. Cleveland did a good job against Kansas City even when Mahomes was playing, but Kelce was too much for Cleveland’s linebackers and safeties to handle as he torched them to the tune of 8 receptions for 109 yards and a score. With Andrew Sendejo not looking like a long-term fix at free safety, it is certainly possible that Trevon Moehrig-Woodard could find a spot in that rotation.
Moehrig-Woodard was one of the better defensive backs in the country, as evidenced by the fact that he took home the Jim Thorpe Award for his efforts this past season. He has great size for the safety position (6-2) and is willing to lay the hammer down on anybody. Furthermore, he is also very good in man coverage, which was something the Browns really did not have in 2020. Moehrig-Woodard was a former basketball player in high school, which speaks to the type of athleticism he brings to the table. If the Browns want to be a little more explosive at the position, Moehrig-Woodard is their guy.
Possibility #3: Wake Forest DL Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr.
2020 stat line: 6 games, 28 total tackles, 20 solo tackles, 5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 PD
Why: The Browns’ defensive line was very good last year, especially with how well Myles Garrett played; however, it is not out of the realm of possibilities for them to still get better in that aspect of the defense. Carlos Basham did not have a glamorous final season per se, but he did prove during the Senior Bowl practices that he is still a force to be reckoned with. What should make the Browns interested in the former Demon Deacon is his versatility, as he can play defensive tackle and also come off the edge. His strength and power definitely make him an immediate upgrade on this defensive line.
With Adrian Clayborn and Sheldon Richardson both getting up there in age, it is certainly possible the Browns try to get younger, particularly at defensive end. This is not the biggest need for the Browns, but it was clear that this defensive line was limited against Kansas City, as Mahomes was able to break off several big runs, despite having turf toe, with little to no pursuit from the Browns’ defensive linemen. As with the back of the defense, getting quicker is going to be a key for Cleveland to do better on defense. If the Senior Bowl practices were any indication of what Basham is fully capable of, then he is certainly capable of wreaking havoc on opposing NFL quarterbacks.
Possibility #4: Purdue WR Rondale Moore
2020 stat line: 3 games, 35 receptions, 270 yards, 7.7 YPC, 6 rushes, 32 yards, 1 total TD
Why: Wide receiver on the outside does not appear to be what the Browns need in order to make them true Super Bowl contenders; however, if the Browns do end up moving on from Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry, they will most likely need to inject more talent into that position. Moore was very explosive when he was on the field at Purdue, and it seems likely he will be taken somewhere in the first to second round because of that and his ability to be electric on special teams. Moore only played in three games this past season, but he still proved he was a go-to receiver.
Moore would step in as one of the fastest receivers for Cleveland right away, and it would allow them to become even more unique on the offensive side of the ball. Even if Beckham returns to Cleveland next season, it is unclear if he will be fully healthy or back to full speed after tearing his ACL in 2020. This would make Cleveland a potential landing spot if they need more speed in the passing game. Lastly, if Moore is able to return to his freshman year form, Cleveland would be getting somebody who can help the Browns be a matchup nightmare and not be so dependent on their running backs.