The Curious Case of the Browns' "Gotta have 'em" players in the 2022 and 2023 Drafts

    Andrew Berry will not admit it.   If you ask him you will get some double speak about "maximizing value" and "remaining flexible" in the draft.   But the truth is that in the last two drafts the Browns have come in with two pretty odd priorities that shaped the overall draft strategy.

    The plan in the 2022 NFL draft was to trade back to amass enough 3-5 round draft picks to justify taking Cade York in the 4th round.   They traded down, picked up a fourth round pick and exercised it on the kicker that they targeted.  The Browns PR talking heads spoke about the drafting of Cade York as the team drafting a "starter."  

    In short, the 2022 "draft plan" was to come away with Cade York and some other guys that they believed were good values at positions that the Browns value.

    Similarly, the plan in the 2023 draft was to draft Dorian Thompson-Robinson and some other guys that they believed were good values at positions that they value.  

    Make no mistake -- the fact that they had picks 140 and 142 and exercised 140 on DTR shows you they prioritized getting him over some good players at positions where they need help this season.   Guys like inside linebacker Noah Sewell, running back Israel Abanikanda and even the potential slot corner who they drafted at 142 -- Cam Mitchell.   The Browns were more concerned that someone would trade into pick #141 and take DTR than they were that someone would trade into the same slot to get Mitchell.    

Dorian Thompson-Robinson

    I have a difficult time believing that anyone already on the roster has a better chance of playing the important role of slot corner than Cam Mitchell -- yet the Browns risked him being taken at 141 in favor of drafting DTR.   

    Emerson can play in the box, but does not really have the change-of-direction quickness to cover a shifty slot receiver with a free release.   A.J. Green is similar in this respect.   Both are outside corners who need to use the sideline and are best suited using their hands at the line of scrimmage to neutralize the receiver's speed advantage.   

    Greg Newsome has told us what he thinks of playing the slot.  He hates it! I don't think that the plan going in can be to tell him to go back there in 2023.  My guess is that Schwartz has told him he will play on the outside and that drafting his college buddy Cam Mitchell is an olive branch to help Greg to "buy in" even more.

    Right now we are looking at Mitchell, last year's UFA D'Anthony Bell and this year's UFA Tanner McCalister as our  most viable candidates to fill the slot corner role if that guy is even on the roster.

    Are the Browns really comfortable with John Kelly as the third head of the three-headed monster at running back?   Chubb is great and I hate to see him come off the field, but nothing suggests they are going to start running him into the ground this season.   He misses a few games every year to injury.  Sure, the Browns are eager to see what last year's fifth round pick Jerome Ford can do this season.   But an injury to Chubb or Ford has the Browns watching John Kelly or Demetric Felton logging significant carries.

    Maybe the Browns think that they can find a back up running back just as good as Abanikanda as an undrafted rookie free agent or on the veteran free agency scrap heap.   The Browns signed undrafted free agent running back Hassan Hall -- a former five-star recruit with some athletic gifts.  But he was not productive at Georgia Tech.   Not productive at all. Abanikanda was terrific on the field at Pitt in addition to being a tremendous athlete. 

    The Browns have Anthony Walker on board for another season and continue to wait on Berry draft pick Jacob Phillips to stay healthy and grow into the inside linebacker position. Is anyone confident that it will finally happen?  The guy spends so much time in the tub that he is developing gills.  

    In taking DTR at pick 140, the Browns showed that they were more concerned with landing "their guy" in developmental QB DTR than they are in using the resources available to them to take the best swings at acquiring guys at positions that could make both immediate and long-term impacts on the team.

    Berry's first draft class appears to have been lackluster in retrospect.   His second remains suspect as well.  The last two drafts have had strange focuses on acquiring a kicker and developmental quarterback.  Cade York and DTR were the players in these drafts that the Browns felt they had to have.

    When Berry talks about "being pleased with how the board fell" when discussing his real time thoughts on trading up or down, he's telling you there was more than one player left at the Browns' slot that they were fine with taking at the pick.  In other words, the Browns didn't have a specific player targeted, but were playing the field of multiple players that they do not heavily prioritize one over another.  They didn't feel the need to trade up into the second round (and trade away say pick #140) because Tillman and presumably a few other players that they liked remained on the board up until their third-round selection.  In fact, Berry told us they were considering trading down, but the player that the other team wanted had come off the board a few picks earlier.

    Translation: the Browns would have traded down in the third round and risked Tillman coming off the board too.  If that happened, the Browns would just pick the next player on their list. 

    The Browns' front office has itself suggested that they targeted Alex Wright in last year's draft.  That could explain why he was overdrafted.   But it is clear to anyone playing attention that the real 2022 draft plan revolved around adding Cade York.

    Was drafting Martin Emerson a good thing?  Yes!  For certain. But I would have rather the Browns exercised the pick at #44 on George Pickens instead of taking David Bell later.  I would have gladly risked that Emerson and Wright would still be available at picks 78 and 99, respectively.  Would anyone really be that mad if another team scooped up Wright or Emerson before 78 and 99 if the Browns had come away with Pickens in the third round?   

    This is not just drafting with the benefit of hindsight, I was in a large group of Browns fans who were upset when the trade came down specifically because Pickens was available to the Browns and they chose to trade out.

    If you gave Berry truth serum he'd tell you that the trade down last year was to add a fourth round pick so that they could justify using an "extra" pick on a kicker they believed to be the best in the draft.   

    That is not how a serious NFL team conducts its draft in my opinion.

    Likewise, from reading the tea leaves, I am convinced that a disproportionate focus in this years' draft was making sure that DTR did not slip away from the Browns.  

    While I like the player, I think there remains a good probability that, like with Pickens, the Browns will be kicking themselves that they didn't exercise pick 140 on a guy like Abanikanda or Sewell, while taking a developmental swing on a UFA QB or another team's QB cast off who fits the offensive style Cleveland wants to run. 

    I like the Browns front office.   I want them to stay in place for a long time.   They have done some positive things that I am behind, for sure.   But I think there is a serious case of misplaced priorities that makes this organization appear less than serious.    

The Curious Case of the Browns' "Gotta have 'em" players in the 2022 and 2023 Drafts The Curious Case of the Browns' "Gotta have 'em" players in the 2022 and 2023 Drafts Reviewed by AT Dawgger on 11:27 AM Rating: 5
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