With the conclusion of Super Bowl LVI, it is time to look ahead to the offseason. The new league year doesn’t officially begin until March 16th, but we are already fully into offseason talks. The biggest event of the offseason has to be the NFL draft. This year it will be taking place in Las Vegas from April 28th through the 30th. However, we do have a number of important dates before then. We have the NFL Scouting Combine taking place from March 1st through the 7th in Indianapolis. In addition to that we have the deadline for franchise tags on March 8th and free agency can officially begin on March 14th. We have a very busy next couple of months ahead of us. The NFL is truly a year-round affair.
This will be the third draft conducted by Andrew Berry and his Cleveland Browns’ front office. Through the years we have seen a couple of founding draft principles established for this regime. There are very distinct age “guardrails” that Berry likes to stick to. Through his last two drafts, he has only drafted one player 23 years of age or older. We have also seen a strong attempt to stick to the philosophy of leaving the draft with more picks than you entered it with.
This year may be the first time we see a deviation from these founding principles. Due to the worldwide pandemic, this draft class is trending to be one of the oldest and deepest we have seen in NFL draft history. In 2020, players were given the option of opting out and retaining another year of eligibility. Some conferences didn’t even play football at all. A large number of those players returned to school for the 2021 season despite being draft eligible. Could we see the oldest draft class in Andrew Berry’s history? Or will the “guardrails” be maintained? Read on to find out!
1.13 – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
It is very clear that the Browns have a desperate need at the wide receiver position. Regardless if Jarvis Landry is on the team in 2022, an influx of youth and talent is needed. At 13, the Cleveland Browns are able to grab Garrett Wilson from Ohio State University. Wilson was a three year starter in college and has an amazing production profile. In his last season he was able to amass over 1100 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is an elite separator and route runner. Wilson will make a great addition to this offense.
2.44 – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Andrew Berry and elite linebackers falling to the second round, name a better duo. Last year it was first round talent Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second. This year it is Georgia standout linebacker Nakobe Dean. If available in the second round, Dean is a player worth trading up for. Nakobe also fits the “age guardrails” that the Cleveland Browns front office strives to maintain. In an older draft class, finding young elite talent will be a tough task. Nakobe Dean was the recipient of the Butkus Award for the best linebacker in the nation and would slot in to form a young core with last year’s second round pick.
3.78 – Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
As we enter the third round of this year’s draft, we are once again able to find a younger player with elite upside. This time it is Drake Jackson, edge defender out of the University of Southern California. Jackson was a three year starter at USC who has 13 sacks to his name throughout his college career. Measuring in at 6’4” and 250, Jackson is a shade lighter than Myles Garrett. He has long limbs and is able to use this to find leverage when taking on opposing tackles. He would be the ideal candidate to learn under Myles and will make a great rotation piece year one. That is assuming Jadeveon Clowney resigns with the team. If not, we could see Drake Jackson as a week one starter on this defensive line.
3.98 – Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Receiver will be a position that will require double dipping in the draft this year. With cap money potentially used to retain key vets, two wide-outs with day two or earlier draft capital will be needed to join this squad. The second of the two will be Jalen Tolbert, the senior wide receiver from the University of South Alabama. As we get to the tail end of day two, we begin to see the age restrictions this front office has previously stuck to begin to relax. Tolbert has a 6’3” frame, but only weighs in at 190. Hopefully he can put on some weight now that his only job is football. He possesses elite top end speed and the Combine will be very interesting for this prospect.
4.105 – Neil Farrell Jr, IDL, LSU
The interior of this defensive line may be the spot with the most actual holes on the roster currently. This is another position that will have to be double dipped and we will begin that process to start day three. Neil Farrell is a 6’4” and 325 pound red-shirt senior from LSU. He is a large force in the middle, but unfortunately didn’t break out until year five of his college career. In most drafts he would be a no go, but in this COVID effected draft class he is par for the course. He is a large body that fills a hole, both literally and figuratively, in this Browns’ roster.
4.116 – John Ridgeway, IDL, Arkansas
The second of the double dip comes just 11 picks later in the form of John Ridgeway from the University of Arkansas. Ridgeway measures in at 6’6” and 320 pounds. He is a big man. Another red shirt senior who can potentially plug the hole in the middle of this defensive line. This is a roster group that will need to see some veterans either retained or signed, but Farrell and Ridgeway can provide some nice depth and rotational pieces on cheaper rookie deals. Both prospects are older unfortunately, but like has been said multiple times that is something that will happen in a draft class like this.
5.154 – Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky
The Cleveland Browns will be drafting a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft. Let me repeat that so it can start to sink in. The Cleveland Browns will be drafting a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft. This is not an indictment on Baker Mayfield, this is just simply something good teams do every few years. Cap room will be tight this spring if the Browns hope to retain or sign some veterans. Unfortunately, $7 million for a 34 year old back-up quarterback doesn’t fit into those plans. Fortunately, Keenum can be released or traded for $7 million in cap savings. That leaves a hole in the backup quarterback position.
Bailey Zappe quietly set almost every passing record in college football this past 2021 season. The signal caller for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers now holds the record for passing yards in a season, 5,940, and passing touchdowns in a season, 62. The Browns can go into camp with Zappe and another veteran on the roster competing for the backup role. If Zappe were to show some promise, he can serve as a cheap back-up for Baker Mayfield for the 2022 season. Could he be more than that? Well I’m sure that is a story we will hear enough about this summer if this pick was to occur.
6.191 – Luke Tenuta, OT, Virginia Tech
Good teams always draft offensive lineman. That is just a matter of business in the modern NFL. You can never have enough depth at the tackle position. Luke Tenuta is a red-shirt sophomore who has shown promise in his young career for the Virginia Tech Hokies. Measuring in at 6’9” and 320 pounds, he also has a rather large frame for an offensive tackle. Gaining leverage with his size might be a problem and he may project better as a guard at the next level. The Cleveland Browns have the best offensive line coach in the league in Bill Callahan. If anyone can get the most out of a sixth rounder, this man can.
7.220 – Jermaine Waller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Browns wind up selecting Virginia Tech teammates to end the 2022 NFL draft. Jermaine Waller is a Junior corner who meets the “age guardrail” requirements and provides some more depth for this corner room. He started the season strong with some elite production, but had a rough end to the season. The hope is he can recapture some of that early season magic and serve as a nice rotational piece alongside the elite combo of Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome.