The 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl has always been one of the most important pre-draft events of the NFL calendar, and it figures to hold even more significance this offseason.
With the annual scouting combine transitioning to virtual platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Alabama, will be one of the few in-person events for NFL scouts and analysts to use for evaluating college football's top talent. The Carolina Panthers' coaching staff will be in charge of the "American" side, while the Miami Dolphins' coaching staff will oversee the "National" side.
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on NFL Network, and we're breaking down which players could be worth watching with an eye on the Browns' biggest draft needs for 2021.
LB Chazz Surratt, North Carolina
Several early mock drafts are pegging the Browns to target the linebacker position in the early rounds, so we're leading off with Surratt, who might be the most intriguing linebacker prospect on display this weekend.
Surratt, a former high school quarterback, is one of the most athletic linebackers of the 2021 draft class who displayed an impressive balance of talents both as a blitzer and in pass coverage. He recorded 12.5 sacks and two interceptions in his last two years with the Tar Heels while making 206 tackles (115 as a junior, 91 as a senior) in that stretch.
Surratt currently projects to be a Day 2 selection, but he — as well as all linebackers — are worth watching for the Browns.
LB Baron Browning, Ohio State
Ohio State is sending five seniors to Mobile, and Browning might be the most intriguing for Browns fans.
Browning produced 29 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack in a shortened 2020 season. His appearance in the national championship game, where he recorded five tackles, a sack and a fumble against Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, helped boost his draft stock even more, and another big performance Saturday would do the same.
Browning currently projects to be a Day 2 or 3 selection but will be among the top linebackers on display in the Senior Bowl.
CB Aaron Robinson, Central Florida
The Browns could look to inject more youth in their secondary and add to their current foundation of Denzel Ward, Ronnie Harrison Jr., Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit.
Robinson, whom ESPN's Mel Kiper projected to be the Browns' first-round pick Tuesday, recorded 16 pass break-ups and an interception in his three seasons at UCF. At 5-foot-11 and 189 pounds, Robinson is a tall and aggressive defensive back who has potential in both the slot and outside positions.
Barring a pre-draft stock surge, Robinson figures to be right in line for a potential late first-round or second-round selection. His versatility is exactly what the Browns have looked for in recent draft prospects in the secondary.
WR Amari Rodgers, Clemson
The Browns are set to have nearly all of their top offensive playmakers back for 2021, but wide receiver could be a position they target in the draft.
Rodgers, who caught seven touchdowns and recorded 1,020 receiving yards last season at Clemson, appears to be a player capable of making a late run up draft boards. He became one of the top receiving options for quarterback Trevor Lawrence, widely projected to be the top pick in the draft, and showed no signs of rust after recovering from a torn ACL suffered in spring practice his junior season — he needed just six months to recover.
Rodgers is likely to be selected in the early rounds and could be off the board before the Browns consider upgrading their skill positions, but his current draft projection and upside still make him worth watching.
EDGE Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
Several draft analysts believe the Browns will look to pair Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett with another young edge rusher from the upcoming draft class. Weaver, one of several Pitt defenders projected to be drafted this year, fits the mold of who Cleveland could target.
Weaver recorded 9.5 sacks his first two years at Pitt after taking a redshirt freshman season. He tore his ACL and missed his entire junior year but dominated as a senior and set career-highs with 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Weaver contains the same thick build as Garrett, who's the same height and seven pounds heavier. His pass rush abilities grew each year with the Panthers, and his solid senior year after his knee injury could make him a decent mid-round selection with plenty of upside.
DT Marlon Tuipulotu, USC
The Browns were anchored by strong interior defensive line play from Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi last season and got solid production from rookie Jordan Elliott, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Browns add more youth to their interior.
Tuipulotu is one of several defensive tackles with mid-round projections in the Senior Bowl. At 6-foot-2 and 304 pounds, Tuipulotu has the ideal size and college resume for the position. He made 8.5 sacks and 104 tackles in his four years with the Trojans and will likely rank among the top five defensive tackles available in 2021.
The Browns' desires for picking up a defensive tackle might hinge first on what transpires in free agency — like every position across the roster — but should they turn to the draft to bolster the position, Tuipulotu likely will be available in a fitting spot.
S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
The Browns could target both secondary positions with this draft class, and Nasirildeen will be one of the top safeties on the field Saturday.
After playing in all 11 games for the Seminoles as a true freshman, Nasirildeen became one of the top safeties of the ACC and logged four interceptions over the next three seasons. He made 101 tackles and three forced fumbles during his junior season before he tore his ACL in the Seminoles' final regular season game. He didn't return to the field until last November, when he only played in two games but still totaled 13 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup.
The Browns have young players at the safety position in Harrison, Delpit and Sheldrick Redwine, but they could always explore adding another young piece in the draft. Nasirildeen could be a solid Day 2 or 3 option.
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday by the Browns photo team