The Browns entered Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday with seven picks and exited Saturday with nine new players, the largest draft class Andrew Berry has collected since he became the Executive VP of Football Ops and GM in 2020.
Those picks mostly attacked some of the top positional needs the Browns had on their roster, but they largely were still able to select prospects they believed were the best available when they were on the clock. They also added two picks to their arsenal for 2023 via trades and are well-stocked again next year with eight picks.
All in all, the draft felt successful for Berry, his third since he became the leader of the front office in 2020. The Browns still have some work to do to patch holes before training camp begins in three months, but they have a roster they believe is capable of taking them to the playoffs in 2022.
"We are really pleased with how we are coming out of the weekend, but the reality is no roster is perfect," Berry said. "Our roster is not perfect, and we are going to continue to look for opportunities to improve it."
Check out photos of Browns front office staff and coaches working during the 2022 NFL Draft at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus
Several of the players the Browns picked in 2022 will have a real chance of carving big roles as rookies.
WR David Bell is certainly one of them. The Browns added the Purdue product with the 99th overall pick on Day 2 and envision him as a player capable of handling both slot and outside duties. Bell was one of the most sure-handed receivers in the nation for three years with the Boilermakers and had just a 4.7 percent drop rate. A below-average 4.65-second time at the 40-yard dash at the Combine might've bumped him down draft boards, but Berry said the Browns didn't alter their evaluation of Bell as a result of the time.
The tape and production were strong enough, and if Bell performs well in training camp, it's possible he's given a big role in the offense early in his first season.
"We thought he had some of the best hands in this draft class," Berry said. "He is also very savvy as a route runner, just very nuanced and polished and has the ability to separate. We think he is a guy who can really play both outside and inside, but we think that he can really make a living with his size, his savvy and his hands in the slot. We are excited to get to work with him."
The biggest position the Browns addressed in the draft was defensive line, where they added three total players with DE Alex Wright (78th overall), DT Perrion Winfrey (108th overall) and DE Isaiah Thomas (EDGE). Winfrey, the Browns first pick of Day 3, was considered a top interior prospect of the whole draft class and might be one of the top picks the Browns made in terms of value. Wright, a 6-foot-7, 270-pound talent from UAB, also carries big upside and could become more than a quality rotational piece for the Browns as he continues to expand his pass rush arsenal.
Time will tell if the Browns plan to add more players to both the interior and edge between now and training camp, but Cleveland now has three new players at or under the age of 23 — Wright and Winfrey are both 21, and Thomas is 23 — to develop over the next few seasons and hopefully solidify a D-line that has featured several new starters next to All-Pro DE Myles Garrett the last two years.
"I think Andrew and the crew did a great job of just making sure that we made picks at each spot that made sense based on the board and where the value lied," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "It happened that it was three defensive linemen, but those are three guys that we like and three guys that we think fit our scheme and fit what we are about. It just happened to shake out that way."
Check out photos of Browns three third round pics as they arrive at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus
The Browns added another big piece to continue an offseason overhaul of the special teams unit by drafting kicker Cade York with pick No. 124 in the fourth round. York was the first specialist to come off the board and gives the Browns a powerful, accurate leg they believe will be able to force kicks through the often-strong winds that swirl by Lake Erie in the fall.
York converted 15 of 19 kicks of 50 or more yards in college and was considered by many draft analysts as the top kicker of the draft class. Berry said the Browns considered it a possibility that York wouldn't be on the board with their next pick at No. 156, so they made him the highest drafted kicker since Roberto Aguayo was drafted 59th overall by the Buccaneers in 2016.
Browns Vice President of Player Personnel Dan Saganey said scouts and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer did their homework on learning about York and his "mental makeup" They feel confident that York will be able to solidify a position that has had several new players since legendary kicker Phil Dawson made his final kick with Cleveland in 2012.
"This is a guy who kicked in a lot of big games for LSU at a high-powered program where every game is a huge game down there every week, and he made a lot of kicks," Saganey said. "When you combine that with the talent, that is something that we were really excited to get here."
Not every player drafted was at a position that was necessarily considered a "need."
The Browns opened the draft with Martin Emerson (68th overall), a tall cornerback from Mississippi State who will likely serve as depth as a rookie due to the deep amount of cornerbacks the Browns already had with Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II, Greedy Williams and AJ Green. The Browns subtracted a player from that group Saturday by trading Troy Hill to the Los Angeles Rams for a 2023 fifth-round pick, and Emerson will step in as a developmental piece who has starting potential down the line.
RB Jerome Ford (156th overall) was also added to a room that already has two Pro Bowl RBs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They valued the depth he could bring to pair with D'Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton, who was drafted as a running back but was used more as a receiver in his rookie season.
WR Michael Woods II (202nd overall) was the second player drafted at wide receiver in the class and one of three players the Browns drafted from Oklahoma, joining Winfrey and Thomas. The final pick was used at center with Dawson Deaton, one of the tallest centers of the draft class at 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds. He joins Nick Harris and Ethan Pocic at the position.
All of the rookies will be in Cleveland from May 13-15 when the Browns open up rookie minicamp. It's the most rookie picks the Browns will have at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus in Berry's GM tenure, but the Browns feel good about how each of the players could fit into their 2022 plans and develop over time.
The work, however, isn't complete. Undrafted free agents will be signed in coming days and free-agent additions could continue to trickle in over the next several weeks. The rookie class is finalized, but the final look of the roster won't be known until the end of the summer.
"The reality of it is we still do not play until September," Berry said. "There is still work to do on the roster. After we go through the undrafted free agent process, we will take a quick breather and then really get right back on the saddle because there are still areas that we can fortify and add competition before camp. That will be our mindset moving forward."