Browns 2023 Draft Near-instant Reaction

 We all know how to preface this.   The Browns started at a disadvantage with their first pick not coming until seventy-four.   They, of course, were the architect of their disadvantage because of the Watson and Moore trades.   Rather than bore the reader with the background chatter of what we should reasonably expect from a litter of third round picks or later, I'll just jump right into it.

First Round

12. Detroit Lions (from Cleveland through Houston and Arizona): Traded away with the Watson trade.

A-   The Browns took a bold swing and gave up a shit-ton of draft capital and a shit-ton more of guaranteed money to gamble on Watson.  Considering Dorsey shit the bed on Mayfield when the Browns had the first overall pick in a draft with a few MVP candidate QBs on the board and the failures of the earlier regimes to capitalize on opportunities to draft franchise quarterbacks, it was a gamble worth taking.   I certainly do not believe that the same package of picks if exercised or packaged would have given the Browns an equal chance at securing a franchise-level quarterback in last year's draft, this one, or the upcoming 2024 draft.

Second Round

42. Green Bay Packers (from Cleveland through N.Y. Jets): Traded away for Moore and the seventy-fourth pick.

C+    Let's look at this as a two-for-one dip.   The Browns ended up getting Moore and the seventy-fourth pick for the forty-second pick.  Because it all turned out to have a wide receiver focus, fair questions are whether the Browns would have been better off just taking a wide receiver available at forty-two or taking some other player at forty-two and drafting a wide-receiver at 98 or later.

    There are a number of non-wide receiver picks I would have loved for the Browns to exercise at this point in the draft -- probably more than I like the addition of Moore alone:  Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech; Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin;  Gervon Dexter, DT, Florida.   

    As for just wide receiver picks at this spot, if you play the field, chances are one or two players among Jayden Reed; Rashee Rice; Marvin Mims Jr; Tank Dell and Jalin Hyatt (all taken between forty-two and seventy-four) will have a better career for the drafted team than Moore with the Browns.  But I would not feel comfortable picking just one of the receivers available at forty-two and thinking that my chances of improving the receiver room was better than with the addition of Moore and Tillman.

    If I could go back and do this from hindsight knowing where players fell, I'd take Benton with forty-two and take my chances later with a receiver or two --  maybe Tyler Scott at 126 or Trey Palmer, Xavier Hutchinson or Andrei Iosivas at 190.   I do like the pick that the Browns exercised at 126 on McGuire more than I like Tyler Scott -- so I'd go with Trey Palmer if I had to pick just one.


 Third Round

73. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): Traded away with the Watson trade.

A-  See above.

74. Cleveland Browns (from N.Y. Jets): Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee

Cedric Wilson, Jr. WR Tennessee CC license
A-  This pick grew on me quickly.   DPJ is going to demand a decent level of compensation next season and Amari probably does not get another contract at this point.   Tillman is succession planning. 
    If Tillman would have come out last year, chances are he's an early second rounder.   A guy that puts up 350 yards in two games against the 2021 'Bama and Georgia defenses with 12 TDs on the season is not going to stay on the board for long.   

    It was an ankle injury that cost Tillman several games this past season and some good, but not outstanding, testing that contributed to Tillman still being available here.   

    Unlike Smith-Njigba, Tillman showed some heart in coming back to play in the 2022 season after the ankle injury that required surgery.   It probably hurt his draft stock in the end.  The NFL isn't always a fair place to live, but I will not penalize Tillman for trying to be there for his teammates.   OSU probably has a national championship if Smith-Njigba does the same.

    Some fans are down on Tillman because they conditioned themselves for drafting a speedy receiver as a Browns "need."   For Tillman, it is better to look at his complete athletic testing instead of his forty time alone.   It actually compares very favorably to Tee Higgins, whom I see as a similar prototype receiver.  When healthy, their college production is comparable.  Tillman did it in the SEC.

    Higgins was the first player picked in the second round of the 2020 draft and has been plenty good for the Bengals.

Tillman RAS

Higgins RAS

    Tillman really wasn't expected to still be available at pick seventy-four.   I think that adding him along with Moore provides an excellent probability that the Browns' receiver room will be improved and potentially vastly improved.

98. Cleveland Browns (special compensatory selection): Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor

C+    Maybe this pick gets better with age.   The Browns need to beef up against the run and size matters.   

    Thomlinson was a good free agent pick up to help them in this respect and the hope is that Ika can at least give them some bulk as an early-down rotational player and in goal-line situations.   He's a zero technique body type who doesn't really seem to be a perfect fit for Schwartz's defense.  The Browns' front office has stated that he has occult pass rush potential and there is some film on him playing as a 3 technique in 2021.    

    If he can push the pocket as a pass rusher and give Garrett & Co. better angles at the QB, they may have more than just a situational player who can play to his draft position.   I think it is more likely he's just a situational player, which is still hitting a single with a comp pick at the end of the third round.  Belichick traded for Danny Shelton and used his girth to help his defensive schemes and Schwartz is a disciple.

    The defensive tackle market was pretty depressed by the time this pick rolled around outside of Adetomiwa Adebawore, who is on the seriously small side of what the Browns seem to be looking to draft at the position.   I'm sure there will be quite a few statistically more productive players taken after Ika in this draft, but that really isn't a fair way to judge a draft or the value of a space eater like Ika.  

Fourth Round.

111. Cleveland Browns: Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State

A    This is a great swing at a first-round talent in the middle rounds of the draft.   Conklin is an overpaid china doll and Hudson's tape against the Steelers suggests he is not an answer to any reasonable football question.   

    Jones is such a massive human being and has such a freakish reach that he can make up for a lot of technical faults with size.   If the Browns can properly engage him and Callahan can work his magic, this could be the steal of the draft.   It's a big if -- but an if well worth the gamble.  

    Let's hope Matt Damon is right on this one and fortune favors the bold and that we aren't just buying FTX-backed crypto.

 126. Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota): Isaiah McGuire, EDGE, Missouri

     This pick saved the Browns from getting shut out of the Edge class this year.   McGuire has the athletic profile to develop as an eventual three-down starter at defensive end with good size and even better athletic traits.  

    McGuire has the fifth best RAS of the defensive ends in this class (9.53 out of 10) and has SEC tape to evaluate.  He's gotten better year after year and still has room to grow both physically and in his pass rush technique.   He's a much better pass rush prospect than Alex Wright.

    The Browns really have done a lack luster job of drafting and developing edge rushers.  The only real success is Garrett, who was as ready made as they come.   Hopefully McGuire turns this trend around.  I also have hope that the other Isiah (Thomas) will benefit from the scheme change.

Fifth Round.  

140. Cleveland Browns (from L.A. Rams): Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA

C    Can I love the player and the fit and still give this pick a C?   If the Browns were intent on taking Thompson-Robinson it had to be here.  Still, this is a pick higher than I would have liked to see the Browns exercise on a quarterback.    

    DTR played a lot of games in a Chip Kelly "pro-style" offense that is not easy on quarterbacks.   He brings a lot to the table as a potential long-term back-up who can emulate Watson's game for a two to three game stretch.  He's smaller -- more so in his weight (205) than his height (almost 6'2").   But he can make it happen with his feet and throws the football effectively from almost any platform like a shortstop.

    If you watch a lot of DTR, you will see a high number of tight-window, NFL-type throws.   You'll see a guy who at times trusts his arm too much.   He will not get away with some of the throws he's accustomed to forcing at the next level.  I really do like him, however, and figured he'd be the quarterback the Browns would target in this draft if anyone.

    My problem is that now that they have exercised the pick, they will be forced to use a third QB roster spot to keep him.    I don't think he'll be ready to take on the full-time backup role this year.   Even if he was, the Browns overpaid Dobbs for what he is to be QB2 this season.   Frankly, I think they bid against themselves.  They'd need to trade out of Dobbs' contract, but the rest of the league sees Dobbs as an emergency QB at best and more realistically a guy that should be playing Spring football.  There is no chance that the Browns could sneak DTR on to the practice squad.

    Roster spots are valuable and I would have rather exercised pick 229 on Tyson Bagent -- the crazy talented small school phenom -- and slid him to the practice squad to see what I have.    I would have used this pick on Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh or Noah Sewell, ILB, Oregon.  But I'm not mad and will look forward to watching DTR in preseason.    I assume he will see a lot of snaps.

142. Cleveland Browns: Cam Mitchell, CB, Northwestern

B-    I really wanted the Browns to take Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh or Noah Sewell, ILB, Oregon here and thought that both provided more positional value for the Browns than Mitchell even though the Browns do not value either position highly.  That said, Michell appears to have been a value at this pick according to many draft boards.   

    Mitchell's college career seems kind of meh to me.   The QB ratings when throwing his way do not appear to indicate that he is "special."    Although reportedly a willing tackler, he's not a guy that is experienced in the slot so as to give me any more confidence that he can fill that role if called upon than say Tanner McCallister the OSU cornerback/safety tweener that the Browns signed as an undrafted free agent.

    I kind of agree with the philosophy that you can never have enough good corners and Mitchell is supposed to have very good press-man skills that will serve him well as an outside corner.   The Browns might also be planning for life after Ward, who has his issues staying on the field to earn his overvalued contract.    

    I'll stand on my belief that Abanikanda or Sewell at this pick would add more overall juice to this team now and in the future.

Sixth Round

190. Cleveland Browns: Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State

C+    This is a reasonable pick.  In a vacuum I likely give it a B- or higher. Wypler has a chance to develop into a starting center and the Browns will likely move along from Harris -- either at the conclusion of camp or after this season.   But three picks on centers in three consecutive years?   That seems more like a Butch Davis era draft strategy.   

    Wypler and Harris can't even give you reasonable G/C versatility on game day so if they both make the roster one or both of them will not be dressed when Pocic is healthy.   We haven't seen anything from Dawson Deaton yet due to his injury last year, but at least he potentially adds C/G versatility.   

    The Buckeyes really had uncharacteristic trouble running the football between the tackles last year.  Was it just the guards?

    I'm okay with the pick.    It doesn't excite me, however.  If he unseats Harris and beats out Deaton it means we likely wasted draft picks in the two prior drafts, despite having the league's best offensive line coach.  But the bigger truth is you can't pay linemen the way the Browns have allocated payroll indefinitely and perhaps you need to keep taking lower round swings rather than employ a plug-and-play solution.

    I'd rather they had used the 140 and 142 on Abanikanda and Sewell and then drafted Carrington Valentine, CB Kentucky at this spot.  Or taken either running back DeWayne McBride or Zach Evans if they did not draft Abanikanda earlier.  I hope Berry is right and Wypler is not just another guy to throw on to the failed-center heap.

Seventh Round.

229. Baltimore Ravens (from Cleveland): Andrew Vorhees, OG, USC (for 2024 6th round)

D      Okay.  I've heard plenty of local sports talkers chatter about how hard it will be for eight draft picks to make this roster.  I'm sure that some analytics speak to exercising seventh round picks and signing them against throwing signing bonuses at priority UFAs.   But the Browns finished 4th in their division and all three teams above them exercised seventh-round picks.  The first-place Bengals utilized eight draft picks.   The Ravens traded with the Browns here and picked up a guy who would likely have been drafted in the 3rd round or higher if not for an injury at the combine.   They'll likely have the chance to IR him after initially designating a roster spot.   I would rather do this than use roster spots on both Harris and Wypler all season.   

    Similarly, the Steelers gambled on a terrific corner prospect in Cory Trice Jr., who has injury red flags that if cleared will likely make him more valuable in 2024 than any sixth round draft pick after they draft and stash.  The Packers took Carrington Valentine, whom I'd like to compare to Cam Mitchell two years from now.

    If the goal is to drive competition in training camp, why are we worrying if there are enough roster spots for all of the Browns' picks to make the team?  Besides, with the late cut downs, it really has become less likely that another team will poach the Browns' seventh round pick.  Chances are that a seventh round pick is with the team for training camp and if he does not force his way on to the roster makes it safely on to the practice squad.

    Overall, I'd give the Browns draft a B.   Although all seven selections are unlikely to pan out, I can at least see the logic in each of the picks and believe the Browns got reasonable value.

    Hopefully, the Watson trade starts to pay off this season, which will make everything this front office has done look better.

Browns 2023 Draft Near-instant Reaction Browns 2023 Draft Near-instant Reaction Reviewed by AT Dawgger on 6:43 PM Rating: 5
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