Several impressive prospects weren’t fortunate enough to hear their name called during the 2023 NFL Draft. It doesn’t necessarily mean that their football journey is over. Former Utah linebacker Mohamoud Diabate possesses a terrific opportunity to make the Cleveland Browns’ 53-man roster.
The Browns showed immediate interest in Diabate’s services at the conclusion of the draft. Browns general manager Andrew Berry signed Diabate to a deal that included a $250,000 signing bonus, according to multiple reports. The Browns opened the checkbook to ensure they landed Diabate’s services. Diabate receiving one of the largest signing bonuses of any undrafted free agent captures how highly the Browns think of his skill set.
A playmaker that’s no secret to adversity, Diabate was one of the biggest snubs from this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. Diabate wasn’t invited to the league’s most prestigious pre-draft event despite recording career-highs in tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (5.0) at Utah last season. Diabate took out his disappointment by putting forth a massive performance at Utah’s Pro Day.
Diabate ran a blazing-fast 4.52 in the 40-yard dash. Lower-body explosion was on display via an 11-foot broad jump. Diabate showcased elite change of direction ability by running a 6.96 3-cone. Diabate’s athletic performance led to a Relative Athletic Score of 9.11.
A former 4-star recruit that transferred to Utah from Florida, Diabate is a rangy and athletic linebacker that can cover sideline-to-sideline. The Browns’ linebacker corps desperately requires an injection of athleticism. Diabate can help fill a need in Cleveland.
Cleveland’s defense was downright abysmal in 2022. They allowed a 25th-ranked 130.5 rushing yards per contest. Head coach Kevin Stefanski responded to those struggles by firing defensive coordinator Joe Woods. Stefanski replaced Woods with the ever-acclaimed Jim Schwartz, who won Super Bowl LII in the same role with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Lackluster linebacker play was a year-long issue. Deion Jones was acquired in early October and ended up playing 422 defensive snaps for the Browns. Jones fared poorly against the run, earning a run-stopping grade of 39.0 from Pro Football Focus. Jones is an unrestricted free agent and isn’t expected back in Cleveland.
Fellow linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was limited to 11 regular-season appearances due to injury. That didn’t stop Owusu-Koramoah from leading all Browns linebackers in defensive snaps. It was a tough year for their linebackers. Despite the lackluster results, the Browns re-signed Anthony Walker Jr. and Sione Takitaki to low-cost one-year contracts.
Diabate can help the Browns’ new-look defense counteract the AFC North’s high-octane passing offenses. Diabate can be utilized as a coverage ‘backer that covers opposing tight ends and running backs in man coverage. There’s a role for Diabate at the next level.
All 32 franchises (the Browns included) made an error in judgment when passing on Diabate—at least Cleveland didn’t have that many picks. It’s an outcome that should benefit the Browns’ defense in the long run. Schwartz is the ideal candidate to appropriately utilize Diabate’s abilities.
The Browns have clear-cut needs at the position. Diabate’s growth and usage are worth monitoring throughout training camp and the preseason. Given Diabate’s skill set and history of production, he’s likely to defy the odds against undrafted free agents by making Cleveland’s final roster.
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