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Browns land SEC talents, focus on top defensive needs on Day 2

After patching their offensive line and tackling arguably their biggest team need in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry and honed in on fixing some of the biggest holes the Browns had on defense Friday on Day 2.

Cleveland selected safety Grant Delpit, defensive tackle Jordan Elliott and linebacker Jacob Phillips with its three picks to finish the early rounds. All of them have an SEC-school background, and all will have a shot at making significant contributions to the Browns defense as rookies.

"We added three good players to the defense at all three levels," Stefanski said in his post-draft conference call with local reporters. "I think each one of them is a schematic fit for us in what we want to do. We wanted to add good players to our team, and it so happened that it was three players on the defense tonight."

Each of the draft picks addresses what were arguably the three biggest needs the Browns had on defense. 

Even though Cleveland signed NFL veterans Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo at safety in the weeks before the draft, it needed to add more depth to a position group that struggled with injuries and consistency last season. Delpit, one of the most dynamic safeties in LSU's storied history at the position, should fix that problem.

The Browns have selected Grant Delpit in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Delpit, who won the 2019 Jim Thorpe Award -- given to the best defensive back in college footballmade plays from multiple pre-snap positions as a free safety for the Tigers. Berry and Stefanski listed his versatility as their favorite reason for his selection and have plans to use it from the start, which should help expand the amount of looks Joe Woods can have with his defense in his first year as Cleveland's defensive coordinator.

"You saw him play every job in the back end, except corner," Stefanski said. "He can be in the post. He can be down low. He can play nickel. He can play dime. A guy that can play across the defense was impressive. He is certainly a playmaker, and something we will stress is making plays on the ball."

With Elliott, the Browns added a potential long-term option at a position that ran short on depth last season. Cleveland is set at defensive tackle with Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi and Andrew Billings, so the Browns can give Elliott, a second-team AP All-American last fall, time to develop.

The Browns plan to utilize Elliott's quickness, which received a boost after he lost 30 pounds between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, from the three-technique. He developed a knack for breaking through blocks last season with Missouri and led all Tigers defenders with 10 tackles for a loss.

"He's a guy with quickness, penetrating ability and who was very disruptive at Missouri," Berry said. "He's a really good fit in our scheme. We like the guy's talent and like the guy's upside for our defense."

Phillips gives the Browns a reliable tackler as an inside linebacker, a position that also needed depth from the draft after the Browns departed with veterans Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey. He led the SEC in tackles last season and possesses an NFL-caliber level of speed, which is a necessity in the 4-3 defensive scheme Woods wants the Browns to keep from last season.

The Browns will give Phillips, who turned 21 at the beginning of April, ample time to develop, but he'll likely open the season in the mix for playing time alongside B.J. Goodson, Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki.

"We really liked the length, the speed and the ability to play in the system," Stefanski said. "Those linebackers have to run. You see him running in that system they play down there at LSU. You see him running down the sideline going to make great tackles. Just a high-effort, high-motor guy."

The Browns have selected Jacob Phillips in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Phillips also rounded out an SEC-heavy first two draft days for Cleveland. All four of the Browns' 2020 draft selections have come from SEC schools, and Phillips marked the 10th LSU selection in the draft's two days, tying Ohio State in 2016 for the most draft selections in the first three rounds of a draft.

Berry and Stefanski didn't enter the draft with a plan to focus on SEC talent, but the conference certainly gave the Browns what they looked for defensively on Day 2.

"We didn't go into this saying, 'Let's draft SEC players,'" Stefanski said. "Now, if you were only going to draft from one league, it'd probably make sense to draft from that league. It's just how it shook out. We're just looking high and low. We'll find a good player wherever they may be."

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