Draft

2019 Draft Analysis: Browns beef up defense with focus on areas in need of additional depth

The Browns’ plan wasn’t to draft defensive players with their first four picks or even to finish with five as the grand total.

It just happened to work out that way as the Browns followed their board and, outside of a small trade up to nab LSU cornerback Greedy Williams in the second round, let the draft come to them with the assigned picks they carried into it. As a result, Cleveland came away feeling good about its haul of seven players -- its smallest since 2014 -- all of whom will have to fight and claw to see the field on a roster that’s been overhauled, retooled and loaded up with talent at all positions since John Dorsey took over as general manager in December 2017.

The newest group could go a long way toward addressing some key areas of need on a defense that appeared to be largely set at the starting positions but is always looking for more reliable depth.

“That is just the way it happened,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. “(General Manager) John (Dorsey) may have had his own plan, but from our philosophy, we try to take the best player that we think is on the board at the time and I think we have stayed pretty true to that.

“I am about the Cleveland Browns. John Dorsey is about the Cleveland Browns. All of these coaches that we have on our staff are about the Cleveland Browns. We do not get caught up into that. That is for other people to critique and all of that kind of stuff. We are just going to line up and coach who is out there. John is going to take the best players that he feels and his staff and coaches collectively feel are the best players. We do not care where they are or what side of the ball they are on. It does not matter.”

It mattered in this sense: The Browns used their first two picks at defensive back and linebacker, selecting Williams in the second round and BYU thumper Sione Takitaki in the third, and followed with three more on Day 3 with the additions of Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine, Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson and Tulane cornerback Donnie Lewis. After another busy March -- highlighted by the mega deal that brought All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Pro Bowl pass rusher Olivier Vernon to Cleveland -- those were the two of the few positions on the roster that saw more players leave than arrive.

It’s a different story now. 

“I really like the fact that I think we have drafted football players from the standpoint of guys that love the game,” Kitchens said. “I like the fact that we have drafted some guys that think they have something to prove because if you ever step on the football field and don’t feel like you have something to prove, you are behind someone else. That is probably the thing I have gotten out of this more than anything.”

More importantly to Kitchens, the story will continue to evolve. What looks great on paper at the moment can change in a heartbeat.

“All of this is good, but this is not going to win us any games. This is not even going to win us a quarter,” Kitchens said. “It is not going to do anything for us but set us up for failure if we don’t have our head on straight and we are ready to play football because the games are going to be won and lost in September. All of this other stuff is fluff. It is just things for people to talk about in April and May.

“You are going to have a different narrative come September, and that is when we want to control the narrative, not in April or May.”

For now, it’s time to reflect on a Browns draft class that will hit the field next weekend in Berea at the team’s annual rookie minicamp. Here’s how the group breaks down.

Take a look at photos of new Browns S Sheldrick Redwine, the 119th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft

Take a look at photos of new Browns K Austin Seibert, the 170th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

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