The Browns harbored their largest draft class yet in three seasons under General Manager and EVP of Football Operations Andrew Berry in 2022 — with nine players picked last April, all of them faced a steep challenge to not only crack the roster, but find a way to contribute to an already-packed roster.
Nine months later, the Browns have a much better idea of what each player can provide. Some of them stepped up and contributed in large ways, and all of them will likely have a shot at becoming an even bigger piece of the puzzle next season.
Here's how each rookie fared in their first taste of the NFL:
CB Martin Emerson - Round 3 (68 overall)
Stats: 17 games, 15 pass breakups, 60 tackles, 1 sack
Emerson should be in the conversation as one of the biggest steals from Day 2 of the draft. He played in over 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 14 games this season and didn't miss a game. He was also targeted a whopping 89 times, which was 13th-most among all cornerbacks this season per Pro Football Focus, but he didn't flinch and turned in good games against some of the top opposing WRs. He was the 21st-ranked corner with a 75.1 pass coverage grade from PFF and was tied with CB Denzel Ward for most pass breakups on the Browns this season. His future in the secondary is bright.
DE Alex Wright - Round 3 (78 overall)
Stats: 17 games, 28 tackles, 2 TFLs, 5 pass breakups
Wright slotted in a rotational role for most of the season, which included five starts, and showed glimpses of his potential. His five pass breakups led all Browns' defensive linemen, but he didn't record a sack. The Browns will need increased depth and likely a new starter on the edge next season, and they also believe Wright has the talents to crack a larger role in Year 2.
WR David Bell - Round 3 (99 overall)
Stats: 16 games, 35 targets, 24 catches, 214 yards
Bell was the Browns' primary slot receiver for most of the season and played behind Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, who each lived up to the expectations the Browns had for them as the top two receivers this year. Bell's role in the pass game was limited in Year 1, but he could be a bigger piece of the plans next season as the Browns look to expand their pass game in their second season with QB Deshaun Watson.
DT Perrion Winfrey - Round 4 (108 overall)
Stats: 13 games, 22 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 pass breakups, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits
Winfrey played a rotational role in the interior D-line but didn't leave a huge impact in any stat category. That's OK for a 22-year-old defensive tackle in their first NFL season, but the Browns will look for Winfrey to show improvement and do more next season under the likely new defensive line schemes coming from new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, whose defenses have heavily relied on strong play from the D-line.
"He's getting better," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said in December. "It's hard when you're however old he is, coming into this league without playing technique and then come into a system where you have to play technique and train your hands, your arms, your eyes, feet, hips — everything — to be consistent. He has the talent. There's no question. I think he's really taking the next step in his technique. The guy just plays hard."
K Cade York - Round 4 (128 overall)
Stats: 24-for-32 on FGs, 35-for-37 on XPs
The Browns showed how much faith they had in York to become their kicker of the future when they selected him as the first kicker off the draft board in the 2022 draft. After an impressive training camp, York didn't have to wait long to showcase his talents and confidence in big moments and nailed a 58-yard game-winning kick in Week 1. The rest of the season, however, was rather inconsistent and contained a few shanked balls and some struggles adjusting to the difficult kicking conditions that often grip FirstEnergy Stadium.
The leg power is still certainly there for York, who said during locker room clean-out day that his top offseason focus will be geared toward staying mentally sharp on kicks.
"It's not a lack of confidence. It's not anything like that," York said on locker room clean-out day. "It's really just go out there, and the mental focus is not what it needs to be. That's going to be my main focus point going forward. It's just trying to recreate that locked in-ness that I have in big moments for every kick."
Check out the best photos from the 2022 season by the Browns photo team
RB Jerome Ford - Round 5 (156 overall)
Stats: 13 games, 8 carries, 12 yards, 30 kick returns, 24.1 yards per kick return
The Browns drafted Ford because they liked his elusiveness and ability to make plays when the ball was in his hands, but he didn't have too many chances to do that as a running back with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt firmly entrenched ahead of him on the depth chart. Instead, the Browns used him as a kick returner, where he showed strong improvements throughout the year and broke free for a few big returns later in the season. Ford ranked sixth in average return yards among the 15 players with 22 or more kick returns this season.
"You saw a young player in Jerome that we were all excited about, and he has speed and he has vision," head coach Kevin Stefanski said in December. "Those are so important when you are talking about kick returns. He also has good hands."
Ford will have a chance to play a bigger role in the run game next season, but he might have to compete with WR Jakeem Grant Sr. for kick return duties next season. Grant, a Pro Bowl returner, was slotted as the starting punt and kick returner last season before suffering a season-ending torn Achilles in training camp.
WR Michael Woods II - Round 6 (202 overall)
Stats: 10 games, 10 targets, 5 receptions, 45 yards
The Browns gave Woods a few looks throughout the season and elevated his playing time in the final month — he played over 30 percent of snaps in three of the last four games. They didn't need him to step into a big role with Cooper and Peoples-Jones atop the depth chart, but the Browns are encouraged about the tools Woods showed throughout the year.
"I've been very impressed," pass game coordinator/wide receivers Coach Chad O'Shea said. "Mike's had some really good weeks on the practice field for us. You saw that in the last game with him showing up doing some things in the last couple weeks. We've had him in there some more. With Mike, there's so many things he brings to the table. I think he had a great skillset. As a player, I think he has awesome intangibles also. He's a guy we put in the category as very intelligent. He can play in a multiple role for us because he can handle that mentally, and he has the physical skill set and combination to be successful."
"So moving forward, Mike needs to play to his strengths, which is I can do a lot for this team and I can have a big role because I can play different spots inside and outside. I'm really excited about the future of Mike Woods."
EDGE Isaiah Thomas - Round 7 (223 overall)
Stats: 10 games, 9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 QB hits
Thomas was able to carve a rotational role on the edge midway through the season, which is a great sign for a player selected as deep as he was in the draft class. He showed glimpses of being a solid player, too, and will also be one of the young players in the mix to carve a bigger role on the defensive line next season.
C Dawson Deaton - Round 7 (246 overall)
Deaton suffered a season-ending torn ACL in training camp. He was one of three center options from the Browns who ended the season on injured reserve and could be back next year to compete for depth at center and guard.