Minutes after the Browns drafted Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the 52nd overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, head coach Kevin Stefanski, defensive coordinator Joe Woods and linebackers coach Jason Tarver began drawing up plays on a whiteboard and circling spots where Owusu-Koramoah could play.
After months of watching his tape and seeing all the ways Owusu-Koramoah's versatility helped him become a star linebacker at Notre Dame, the coaches couldn't resist. "JOK" was coming to Cleveland, and the Browns believe he can become an impact player.
"Versatility shows up in this game in terms of alignment, in terms of your job and what you do," Stefanski said on draft weekend. "You love guys who can pass rush and drop into coverage. You want to be able to impact the game in multiple ways. At linebacker, certainly, the guys we were able to add this weekend – guys who can run, guys who can play the run and guys who can play in pass coverage and zone – that is a big key to our success as a defense."
Dane Brugler agrees, and that's why he believes Owusu-Koramoah could be in for a big career in Cleveland.
Brugler, an NFL Draft Analyst for The Athletic, ranked Owusu-Koramoah as the second-best linebacker of the 2021 class. He, as well as many other draft pundits, believed Owusu-Koramoah was a surefire first-round pick because of his versatility, yet he didn't come off the board until the 20th pick of the second round.
The tape, however, doesn't lie — Brugler still believes Owusu-Koramoah can bring first-round value to Cleveland.
"He's not your traditional stack linebacker, but he can do so many different things that he's going to help this defense," Brugler said in a "Browns Breakdowns" video with Nathan Zegura. "He's going to help in personnel packages, and he's going to help the coaches do their job better, so it's going to be a lot of fun to see how he's deployed and what packages they have together for him."
Brugler believes the bulk of Owusu-Koramoah's talent comes from his speed and acceleration, which helped him become both an excellent blitzer and quality slot defender. Those two traits are difficult to find in the same linebacker across the NFL.
The Browns already have several great blitzers on their defensive line in Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley, all players who could command double coverage from opposing offensive lines this season.
So if there's space for Owusu-Koramoah, who recorded seven sacks in his last two seasons, to rush the quarterback, the Browns should like their chances of sending him to the backfield and grabbing a sack.
"Most linebackers … they just don't have this kind of speed and explosiveness," Brugler said. "It's so rare. That's what makes blitzing arguably one of the best parts of his game."
Speed is also a necessity in the slot position, which is where Owusu-Koramoah made a large chunk of his big plays his last two years at Notre Dame. His lone college interception occurred last season on a play where he originally misread a juke move from the opposing receiver.
But as soon as he realized he was beat, he turned around and stayed close to the receiver as he zipped down the sideline. That put him in position to read the eyes of the receiver when the ball was thrown, turn around again and jump to make the interception.
"Most linebackers are cooked at this point, but not JOK," Brugler said. "We're just not seeing many linebackers make plays like this in the NFL."
Linebackers, of course, are supposed to make plays in the run game, too. No linebacker will survive long in the NFL without sound tackling skills, and that's where Brugler went next in dissecting Owusu-Koramoah's game.
One of the best examples Brugler had was not a tackle, but rather a forced fumble — yes, Owusu-Koramoah had a knack of forcing the ball loose, too. He recorded five forced fumbles in his last two college seasons, including one against Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers, a third-round draft pick.
That's the play Brugler broke down, and he also highlighted how Owusu-Koramoah purposely positioned himself to possibly force a fumble when he realized Rodgers was going to make a catch.
The play was possible, again, because of Owusu-Koramoah's top-tier speed.
"This is not a unique thing for him," Brugler said. "With his closing burst and length, he's able to create those kinds of collisions and knock the ball out."
The Browns are clearly ready to give Owusu-Koramoah opportunities at multiple linebacker roles as a rookie, which is why coaches couldn't resist racing to the whiteboard when Owusu-Koramoah was drafted.
Brugler's dive into the tape shows why their urge was justified.
"He's not your traditional stack-backer," he said. "He can line up over the slot and make plays like this. You don't have to hole him in anywhere. Line him up over the slot. Line him up over at linebacker. Do different things with him because of that athletic versatility. He's a really, really unique player."