The Cleveland Browns are in a situation they haven’t been in in a long time: a winning window. Not to insult their loyal followers, but it’s true. Last season, the Browns won 11 games for the first time since 2007 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The roster is strong. Their offensive line was one of the best in the NFL; and with it came a strong running game. Their offensive skill players, led by Odell Bekcham Jr., have a good amount of firepower with some room to grow. On defense, they have some strong stars as their foundation in Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and newly added John Johnson III. But they need a couple more additions to really take their defense to championship-caliber. All of that, plus they certainly hope their former No. 1 overall pick quarterback Baker Mayfield is going to continue to improve and ascend to one of the best in the league.
Right now, the Browns have nine draft picks with five picks in the top 110. Though their first pick isn’t until No. 26 in the draft, their defensive needs line up with where we’re projecting some of the best defensive players in the class to start coming off the board.
Here’s what a seven-round mock draft could look like for the Browns.
Round 1 (No. 26 overall): Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
As a team that is trying to make one of the best rosters in the NFL, they can afford to take some swings that could really pay off—you especially have to swing for the fences knowing your conference runs through Patrick Mahomes. Cleveland has a great CB1 in Denzel Ward, and they could potentially have one of the top cornerback duos in the NFL if they take the chance on Farley (whose back injuries might be why he slips past where his talent warrants).
Round 2 (No. 59 overall): Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
The Browns’ top need right now appears to be their edge pass rush outside of Garrett. Don’t get me wrong, Garrett is amazing, but as we’ve seen with consistent contenders in the past, you need multiple pass rushers in order to rattle the best quarterbacks in the playoffs. Garrett led the Browns in sacks with 12 in 2020, and the next four players on the Browns’ sack list, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, Adrian Clayborn, and Larry Ogunjobi, are all no longer on the team.
The Browns recently signed Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal, but they still lost enough defensive line play to warrant a high investment into the edge position. The Ossai addition could also be perfect since he is still unrefined as a pass rusher but has a very high athletic ceiling.
Round 3 (No. 89 overall): Tyler Shelvin, IDL, LSU
With no Sheldon Richardson, the Browns will need to make an investment along their defensive line at some point. That likely won’t come with their first-round pick, but if they wait until late day two, Shelvin is a very interesting player who brings good size and speed to the position.
Round 3 (No. 91 overall): Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
The Browns seem to have plenty of names in their linebacker room, but none who have really ascended to that true centerpiece player. McGrone still has yet to take that next step in recognition and anticipation, but he’s improved every year as a starter at Michigan and brings an alluring combination of size and speed to the position.
Round 4 (No. 110 overall): Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
As it stands right now, the Browns receivers have what they need to compete, but as we’ve seen with many teams over the last few years, you can never have enough weapons. Smith is an explosive receiver who can line up in a variety of spots. His college stats won’t blow anyone away, but the offenses he played in held him back much more than his ability. His best football is in front of him.
Round 4 (No. 132 overall): Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
By adding both Ossai and Jones, the Browns are adding a lot of speed to their defensive line. Jones might just be a situational pass rusher, but even if that’s the case, his first-step explosiveness will have plenty of value when he’s on the field. Getting him at the top of day three would be a nice way to double up.
Round 5 (No. 169 overall): Marco Wilson, CB, Florida
Speaking of doubling up, though I really like the thought of the Browns taking a chance on Farley, if they do, they would be wise to take another cornerback before the draft is over. Wilson’s pro day numbers of a 4.37 40-yard dash and a 43.5-inch vertical jump showed he’s certainly good enough of an athlete to make it in the league. He also brings a lot of starting experience going back to his true freshman days.
Round 6 (No. 211 overall): Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
Flyer offensive line picks are always a good investment. The Browns don’t have any starting spots up for grabs, but you can always try to strengthen the depth of your roster at the important positions.
Round 7 (No. 257 overall): Grant Stuard, LB, Houston
Late-round picks near the end of the draft have their positional upside, but most of their work will come on special teams—especially as they're trying to make the team. Stuard pops as a physical player. He has an aggressive mentality for playing the position and can be very useful as a player who gives total effort on special teams.