CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns enter this year's NFL Draft without a first-round pick for the first time since 2019 (before that year it was 2008) after sending this year's first-rounder and their first-round picks for the next three years to the Houston Texans in exchange for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Just because the Browns are not expected to draft in the first round (we'll get into that expectation soon) doesn't mean this draft isn't important for the success of the team this season and beyond. And after hearing from general manager Andrew Berry ahead of the three-day event, here's how the Browns are looking at the 2022 NFL Draft, which is being held in Las Vegas.
Don't expect the Browns to move into the first round
As promised, let's talk about the potential for the Browns to trade up and back into the first-round. Berry called the potential to trade up "unlikely," but being thorough didn't rule it out entirely because he didn't necessarily expect to trade up last year—and that move gave the Browns both cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
“I would never rule out anything. I would say just candidly I think it's unlikely, but I don't want to say anything in absolutes because you just never know how situations arise," Berry said. "Quite honestly, I wouldn't have expected us to move up last year. We have to be flexible with the situation.”
Do the Browns have the assets to trade back into the first round? Probably not. With their first pick not until No. 44 overall and not owning a first-rounder until at least 2025, barring a trade, the draft capital owned by the Browns is not very high from another team's perspective.
That said, things are always fluid, and Berry has a strong track record with making deals that don't seem feasible (Watson had ruled out the Browns as an option just before agreeing to the trade). That may happen in this year's draft. We'll see.
So where do the Browns draft?
As mentioned before, Cleveland doesn't select until the second round, holding the No. 44 overall pick, barring any trades.
What do the rest of their draft picks look like this year?
- 2nd Round (No. 44)
- 3rd Round (No. 78)
- 3rd Round (No. 99) – Compensatory selection via Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hiring in Minnesota
- 4th Round (No. 118)
- 6th Round (No. 202) – Via Dallas Cowboys
- 7th Round (No. 223) – Via Detroit Lions
- 7th Round (No. 246) – Via Buffalo Bills
Some picks could be added, some could be sent away, others could be swapped. That all remains to be seen. But as of one day before the draft, this is where the Browns will select in 2022.
Will the Browns draft another receiver?
After losing wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last season, and with Jarvis Landry released and still undecided on where he'll land, wide receiver is a clear area of need for the Browns, considering it was an area of need with them both still on the roster.
The Browns brought in Amari Cooper to help address those needs, but more talent could certainly be used at the position. Right now, the wide receivers room consists of Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones (who has been a solid receiver and seems to have a very high ceiling), Anthony Schwartz (a burner who still has work to do in his route-running), Ja'Marcus Bradley (who has spent the majority of his time on the practice squad), Jakeem Grant Sr. (who is a return specialist) and Javon Wims (who was just added last week after spending 2021 on the Raiders practice squad).
Size and speed won't be a particular selling point for any receiver in the draft when it comes to the Browns' selection. Instead, Berry and his staff are looking at the overall impact a player can provide.
“Honestly, it's best player possible. Some guys, they will produce because they are great route runners, they can separate and have great hands. Some guys can create because they can produce after the catch with RAC. Some guys are vertical threats," Berry said. "I feel fortunate that we have a really good coaching staff that will deploy individuals according to their strengths. A long-winded way of saying no particular preference as long as they can create an impact.”
The 2022 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at wide receiver, so there should be plenty of options left on the table no matter when the Browns decide to address the position. Among the receivers who the Browns could select with their second-round pick are Treylon Burks of Arkansas, and Christian Watson of North Dakota State. Perhaps a smaller school option like Jalen Tolbert or a player like Penn State's Jahan Dotson, who may be around later when the Browns select, could be the move. No matter what, it seems certain the Browns walk away from the draft with at least one new target for Watson to throw to.
What about the defensive line?
The Browns have an offer out to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but he has not yet made a decision. With Myles Garrett locked down on one end, the other end, and the rotation, are thin at the moment. Curtis Weaver remains on the roster, and the Browns recently added Chase Winovich, Isaac Rochell and Stephen Weatherly. More names will have to be added, and the Browns are still hopeful Clowney is one of them.
As for the interior of the defensive line, that is another thin position group on the roster. Right now, the Browns have Jordan Elliott, Tommy Togiai and Sheldon Day back on the roster, and they recently added Taven Bryan.
The Browns will likely add some names in free agency to both areas of the line but will also likely address the line in this year's draft.
Kentucky's Josh Paschal, USC's Drake Jackson, Minnesota's Boye Mafe or South Carolina's Kingsley Enagbare could all be options for the Browns to address their pass-rushing needs. If they're looking for impact beyond this season, Michigan's David Ojabo, who tore his Achilles tendon on his pro day, could be available for them to select.
As for interior defenders, UConn's Travis Jones, Houston's Logan Hall, or Oklahoma's Perrion Winfrey are all solid options who could help flesh out the roster with some real talent.
No matter what, Berry is going to continue focusing on the guys who are currently on the roster too, hoping to grow them and present them opportunities to shine this season.
"We like the guys we have in the room. I think it will be an opportunity for a couple of young guys who have been here for a year or two to step up into increased roles," Berry said.
Will there be surprise positions addressed?
Perhaps. As Berry said before the draft, they are “never satisfied across the roster" so if there's a good player available when the Browns are on the clock, expect them to take them, no matter the position.
The Browns kicking situation is far from figured out, with Chase McLaughlin and Chris Blewitt on the roster still, but improvement much needed from a production standpoint. LSU's Cade York, Wake Forest's Nick Sciba, Texas's Cameron Dicker and Oklahoma's Gabe Brkic could all be options for the Browns should they take a kicker in draft.
When asked at the NFL Combine if drafting a kicker was something the Browns would explore, Berry said they were “definitely open to it.” With strong options in this year's draft class, adding a talented leg to the roster could very much occur.
What is the Browns philosophy headed into the draft?
The simple answer to that question is growth and development in positions of need.
“It's almost like going to a restaurant hungry. You get familiar with a number of these players, and whether you have two picks or 20 picks, you probably feel like you never have enough. Our approach is more about really just adding as many young, talented guys to the roster that we can, Berry said.
"We certainly do have, call it certain positional leanings – I will not necessarily disclose those specifics in this setting – but we are a little bit more long-term focused as opposed to short-term focused when we make selections when we're on the clock," Berry added.
The young general manager has shown poise and patience in every avenue of roster building, but especially in the draft since taking the reigns in Cleveland. It's likely that continues this season as well, the difference is not owning the same draft capital as in years prior.
How creative and flexible Berry can get will be on full display during this year's draft. How things shake out is anyone's guess, because that's the nature of the draft. Players expected to be taken high sometimes fall, players expected to be around sometimes get scooped up early—and Berry knows that.
"As much as you think that you can project where players are going to go, and you may have a high degree of inaccuracy, there are just a lot of variance around it," Berry said. "There are surprises every year."
We'll find out if there are any surprises that surround the Browns soon. You can watch it all unfold on News 5 Thursday through Saturday. Find the schedule below:
- Thursday (Round 1): 8 p.m.
- Friday (Rounds 2-3): 7 p.m.
- Saturday (Rounds 4-7): 12 p.m.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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