The NFL draft is getting closer by the day, and the Cleveland Browns have an incredible opportunity to prosper. The Browns young core has a chance to keep improving, filling specific needs of the team. My colleague here on the ProFootballTalkLine, Connor Livesay, saw Cleveland representatives at the Senior Bowl this past week, in search of players to fit their improving team. The Browns key areas of focus should be in improving their defensive line, someone to collapse the middle of the pocket. The second focus should be on the offensive tackle position, giving Baker extra protection to make plays. Third added depth in the wide receiver position, a strong position for the Browns but more versatility is always beneficial. Finally added depth to the linebacker position, with an already strong core injury hurt this position this season.
The major focus for the Browns this upcoming draft season, defensive linemen. Cleveland has one of the leagues premier pass rushers in Myles Garrett, however, teams learned how to minimize his threat. With only one star rusher the focus of an offensive line shifted towards Garrett, however, this issue can be fixed. With a solid first round pick, the Browns could pick up a defensive tackle, with many young talents available. Collapsing the pocket from the inside, paired with the edge, effects the quarterback tremendously.
The first player the Browns should be looking at is Quinnen Williams, a dominant force from Alabama. A projected high first-round pick who would pair with Garrett, and be an instant impact player for Cleveland.
The second tackle to look at would be Ed Oliver out of Houston, Oliver sat out much of last season however he displayed why he would be a great addition. Ed made his presence known to the nation and does not have as much wear on his body as others.
Finally, the third option could be Christian Wilkins, two-time national championship winner out of Clemson. Wilkins has a great burst off the line, paired with the ability to split gaps and pressure the quarterback unlike many in the draft.
The second area of focus in the Browns roster, the offensive line and specifically the tackle positions. With their seemingly new franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield, a key focus is protecting that commodity. Mayfield in the second half of the season got great protection, which led to his overall success. With Kitchens leading the Browns, he will want to protect Baker and so this position is a must for Cleveland.
The first player for this position to look at would be, Jonah Williams out of Alabama. Williams played a huge role in Alabamas success this year and has done since his enrollment. Williams is listed around 6ft 5 inches and around 300 pounds, a strong pillar in the offensive line. Jonah is a Nick Saban project and has high-pressure game experience, which is vital for the next level.
The second best prospect in this position is Greg Little, Little is a three year player out of Ole Miss. Another large tackle, towering at a listed 6ft 6 inches and well over 300 pounds. Little picked up valuable experience in the SEC, a tough conference but one preparing him well for the league.
The third option for offensive tackle could be Cody Ford, Junior out of Oklahoma. Ford played when Mayfield was a starter in Oklahoma, there lie chemistry and familiarity for Mayfield’s style. Cody started all 14 games this season and was a part of the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line. Ford being a 6ft 4 inch 300 plus tackle makes him another difficult player to beat in the middle, a key for quarterback success.
The third main focus for the Browns is in the wide receiver position, adding depth to an important position. This position, not being the main focus for Cleveland will lead to them spending later round picks on these players. This draft, however, has a lot of solid, mid-round wide receivers who can add depth for Cleveland.
The first receiver who the Browns could use is Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, out of Oklahoma Another former teammate of Mayfield. Marquise is the cousin of Antonio Brown and has a lot of similar traits to his cousin. Brown is a deep threat, who has the ability to burn past defenders creating separation. This year Brown had 75 receptions, 1318 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Marquise, unfortunately, picked up an injury late in the year, that injury has slightly damaged his draft stock.
The second receiver to look at for Cleveland is Kelvin Harmon, a physical prospect from NC State. Harmon is a receiver all teams could utilize, he has size, strength, and a good knowledge of the route tree. The knock on Harmon is he is not as fast as may be desired, however, he makes up for it in other areas. Harmon the season had 81 receptions, 1186 yards, and 7 touchdowns on the season. He has shown development and consistency from his previous season at NC State, which is positive for scouts.
The final receiver to look at for Cleveland is an under the radar player from South Alabama, Jamarius Way. Way has a solid build and an estimated 4.50 40 yard speed. The knock on Way is can he perform against higher quality opponents, as he is in the Sun Belt Conference. Jamarius totaled 61 catches, 855 yards, and eight touchdowns this season, he also displayed dramatic improvement from his previous season.
Now moving to the linebacker position for the Browns, a position where they have solid starters, but lack depth. This season Cleveland lost starter and captain Christian Kirksey, which hurt them early. The Linebacker spot was still a productive one for the team, however, adding young talent would help their depth. The Browns will most likely pick up a linebacker in later rounds, adding someone as a supplementary piece.
The first linebacker to look at is Te’Von Coney, the inside and outside linebacker from Notre Dame. Coney has the size and shape to be a solid option for the linebacker position, protecting the run and pass. In his last season with the Irish, he had 123 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and 4 pass breakups.
A second option for the linebacker spot is Tyrel Dodson, a junior from Texas A&M. Dodson was a key starter for the Aggies this season, being a rock in the highly ranked defense. Tyrel had 70 tackles, 7 for loss, three pass breakups, and an interception on the season. Dodson was a key part of the Aggies ranked 6 rushing yards per game allowed defense, and it targets a need for the Browns.
The third option in the linebacker position is Bobby Okereke, a Stanford product who is going under the radar. Okereke stats this season were, 96 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 5 passes batted, and 2 forced fumbles. Bobby also showed improvement in his Senior year and is a solid prospect.
Cleveland needs to continue the progress they have made to their roster, and this draft is where it can happen. Addressing the issues mentioned above will help Cleveland progress, and hopefully, propel them into the playoffs. If Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey hit with their picks this year it can take the Browns to a contending level in the AFC.