A glimpse into Cleveland’s last three drafts offers a mixed bag as attempts to finagle our way through drafts conducted both by former general manager John Dorsey and current boss Andrew Berry.
While Cleveland has rid of the surrounding cloud of mediocrity that has swallowed the franchise whole since the turn of the century, the team has failed to climb to the top branch of the division, finishing in the bottom two spots of the ever-competitive AFC North in 17 of the last 18 seasons; it’s not good.
With Berry and the NFL’s 2020 Head Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski in place, Cleveland has laid the foundation for years of prosperity on the shoulders of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Whether or not Mayfield continues to progress, and the surrounding pieces produce at the level they are expected to remains to be seen, but Cleveland has all the pieces to become a force in a loaded AFC.
Let’s dive into the organization’s last three draft classes to further uncover if Cleveland has or hasn’t taken the correct approach in ultimately reaching its lofty goals.
2020 Draft Class
- Round 1: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT
- Round 2: Grant Delpit, S
- Round 3: Jordan Elliott, DT
- Round 3: Jacob Phillips, LB
- Round 4: Harrison Bryant, TE
- Round 5: Nick Harris, IOL
- Round 6: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR
Outside of Wills, who looks to become one of the league’s premier tackles in the coming seasons, we aren’t off to a great start in what was Berry’s first draft haul.
While we don’t have much of a read on what exactly Delpit’s role will be moving forward, I’m excited to see him suit up in a talented secondary following an injury-ridden first year. While Day 3 selections in Bryant and Peoples-Jones proved to be a welcoming presence in a high-flying offense totaling five touchdowns and nearly 40 receptions combined; as a whole, the class slots as a below-average group when considering the limited impact of Elliott, Phillips, and Delpit, despite an injury.
Draft grade: C
2019 Draft Class
- Round 2: Greedy Williams, CB
- Round 3: Sione Takitaki, LB
- Round 4: Sheldrick Redwine, S
- Round 5: Mack Wilson, LB
- Round 5: Austin Seibert, K
- Round 6: Drew Forbes, OT
- Round 7: Donnie Lewis, CB
In the final year of Dorsey’s tenure, things don’t improve much here from a birds-eye-view. Takitaki has become the standout of the group, working into a starting role within an athletic linebackers room that also includes Wilson, a 22-game starter in two seasons; although his role will surely take a hit with the arrival of Anthony Walker and selection of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah this fall. Williams missed all of 2020 and is expected to return to the outside rotationally behind Denzel Ward, a welcomed sign for what looks to be an uber-talented secondary. Behind that, the well quickly runs dry, as the trio of Seibert, Forbes, and Lewis all find themselves off Cleveland’s roster.
Draft grade: C
2018 Draft Class
- Round 1: Baker Mayfield, QB
- Round 1: Denzel Ward, CB
- Round 2: Austin Corbett, IOL
- Round 2: Nick Chubb, RB
- Round 3: Chad Thomas, DE
- Round 4: Antonio Callaway, WR
- Round 5: Genard Avery, LB
- Round 6: Damion Ratley, WR
- Round 6: Simeon Thomas, CB
It’s safe to say this cycle was a hit, yes? I could play Devil’s advocate and discredit the lack of talent taken on Day 3, but I’ll stay away and focus at the top where the attention rightly belongs.
While Mayfield has enjoyed his share of struggles through his first three seasons under center, he’s continued to progress in all aspects of his game as the talent around him has continued to grow. While his numbers in all major passing categories went down last fall, he threw just eight picks in 486 passing attempts, recording his lowest interception rate (1.8%) of his career, a model for success behind one of the top lines in football with talent in abundance within this offense. That brings me to Chubb, the battering ram with a unique combo of elusiveness and contact balance. He’s progressed into one of the league’s top ball carriers and will be looked upon, again, to carry the load in the backfield.
Cleveland’s eye for secondary talent can’t go unnoticed as Ward became the next in line of apex defenders to be added within the secondary, following the selection of Jabrill Peppers (now with the New York Giants) a year prior. We’ve discussed the additions of Williams and Delpit in year’s following, and it’s safe to say defensive coordinator Joe Woods will throw an array of looks at opposing offenses this fall with the amount of fundamental talent he has within his secondary, and that’s without highlighting 2021 first-rounder Greg Newsome II. Cleveland is flat-out loaded with secondary talent, and Ward will represent the de facto leader of the group.
Draft grade: B+
While the last two classes haven’t been much to hang your hat on if you’re a Cleveland fan, the star-studded talent that has developed from the inherent draft hauls can’t be ignored. While titles are won via a franchise’s success on the second and third days of the draft, Cleveland has built nicely upon a sturdy foundation as it eyes its first division crown in over 30 years.