When it is all said and done, the 2021 Cleveland Browns draft class can be very special. And it is not just because of the incredibly talented crop of players. It is because it is the first-class in a long time that they did not need to find immediate starters. General manager Andrew Berry had the freedom of hand-picking players that they can mold and develop rather than depend on immediately. So, let’s take a dive into the 2021 Cleveland Browns draft class.
- First round, 26th overall: CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
- Second round, 52nd overall: LB/S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
- Third round, 91st overall: WR Anthony Schwartz, Auburn
- Fourth round, 110th overall: OT James Hudson III, Cincinnati
- Fourth round, 132nd overall: DT Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
- Fifth round, 153rd overall: LB Tony Fields II, West Virginia
- Fifth round, 169th overall: S Richard LeCounte III, Georgia
- Sixth round, 211th overall: RB/WR Demetric Felton, UCLA
Cleveland Browns 2021 NFL Draft Grade: 9/10
Cleveland Browns 2021 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Greg Newsome II
Prior to the draft, there was plenty of buzz about the Browns possibly selecting a linebacker or defensive end. Yes, those positions would have provided a boost, but Cleveland had one major concern defensively: the health of Greedy Williams. The Browns can’t go into training camp hoping that Williams’ shoulder is 100% when there is nerve damage present. Luckily, first-round pick Greg Newsome II is a fantastic player that couldn’t be passed on at 26th overall.
Newsome has the build, technique, and instincts to step in immediately and demand significant playtime on the perimeter, regardless of William’s health. Newsome is well versed and has been successful in Cover-3 zone and press schemes. Additionally, his ability to hold his own in various off-man schemes speaks to his versatility and overall talent level. Cleveland found a great player in Newsome on day one, and who can provide stability for their pass defense.
The Head-Scratcher: Not selecting a second cornerback
Over the last few seasons, cornerback depth has been Cleveland’s main problem. After all, the Browns were forced to start Robert Jackson at cornerback heading into the playoffs because of injuries at the position.
That being said, they absolutely cannot have this sort of issue happen again. As of right now, the Browns only have five or six cornerbacks good enough to make the 53-man roster. They should add at least one more to the room in order to feel comfortable with its depth. Instead of choosing to draft one in the fourth or fifth round, who would be on a cheap contract for a few seasons, they might have to go out and sign one in free agency.
The Surprise: James Hudson III
The Browns draft class including an offensive lineman is not a surprise, rather it is where they selected one that is. Based on Cleveland’s roster structure, one may not have expected the team to take one until the later rounds. They have the best offensive line in football and they have great depth. Michael Dunn, Drew Forbes, and Chris Hubbard are all reliable depth pieces at the guard and tackle positions. However, this move could signal something more, for example, if the team cuts Hubbard in the near future. This would save money for the team, but one would think the move would have come sooner. Therefore, it would have allowed them to take another cornerback in the fourth round instead. Nevertheless, let’s see what happens going forward.
The Steal: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Over the past few seasons, Cleveland’s defense had the consistent problem of not being able to cover opposing tight ends whatsoever. The entire Browns organization couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah starting to falling lower and lower. He was the player that could finally cover tight ends effectively with his length and speed.
When “J.O.K.” was still on the board at pick 52, Cleveland felt like they absolutely had to make a move to go after him. They were able to move up from pick 59 to take a player that they were honestly considering taking in round one. Owusu-Koramoah looks as though he was created in a laboratory by a mad scientist named Joe Woods. He is the exact type of player that the Browns defense needs in order to play in its “Big Nickel” and “Dime” packages. He has the speed and quickness of a defensive back, and the fierceness and play recognition of a linebacker which is exactly the type of player that the Browns need. His skillset will perfectly translate to the pro game in Woods’ defensive scheme.
Most Likely to Turn Heads During Training Camp: Anthony Schwartz
Anthony Schwartz was selected in the third round for one reason, and one reason only. Speed. A lot of other NFL analysts initially didn’t like this pick because of the type of offense that Schwartz played in at Auburn. His route tree is extremely limited. He ran a lot of “Go” routes and gadget-type plays such as screens, reverses, end-arounds, and touch passes. This was mostly because of the below-average quarterback play that he had to work with while in school. Auburn had to try and consistently manufacture touches for him on a weekly basis in order to make sure that the ball ended up in his hands as much as possible.
He was the fastest player in the SEC, and possibly the entire league. I’m confident that he’ll turn heads immediately in camp just simply based on the fact that the Browns have never had a player with his type of speed. While at Auburn, he consistently outran defensive backs, and by the time he caught the football, there were at least five to ten yards between him and the nearest defender.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski wanted to use a lot more of these gadget-type plays like sweeps and end-arounds with Jojo Natson last season, but he got injured early in the process. Schwartz is a bigger, faster, and more talented version of Natson. He could be the missing piece to Cleveland’s offense and fans should be excited to watch him take the tops off of defenses this fall.
The Browns recently released Sheldon Richardson due to his expensive salary. This created a need on the interior defensive line. Tommy Togiai was drafted as his possible replacement. The only reason I say “possible” is because of Togiai’s skill set. He has the frame of a 3-technique defensive tackle but the power of a 1-technique, or nose tackle. Based on film and skillset, he shows the potential to be a solid rotational nose tackle behind Andrew Billings in the middle of Cleveland’s defensive line.
Linebacker Tony Fields II and safety Richard LeCounte III were drafted to compete for depth spots at their respective positions as well as to be core special teamers. Fields displays great speed and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He consistently hits like he’s much bigger than he actually is (6-0, 222lbs.). LeCounte III was actually one of the best safeties in the SEC over the past two seasons at Georgia, but he fell extremely far down in the draft because of a motorcycle accident and poor testing results at his pro day. He is the true definition of a ball-hawking center field safety and he could potentially be labeled as a late-round steal. He might be one of the first safeties to earn meaningful playing time off of the bench. Cleveland was ecstatic to grab him in round five.
Demetric Felton could end up being an underrated offensive player for the Browns. He has experience at both running back and wide receiver. If he brings his “A” game to training camp, he could save them a roster spot by not only being the no.3 running back behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but he could also act as the sixth receiver as well. He showed great potential at the senior bowl as a slot receiver, winning most of his one-on-one matchups against some of the top defensive backs in the class. He should also compete on special teams as a kick/punt returner.
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