For months, we fielded your draft questions. We did our best to address all of the hypotheticals. We made some predictions along the way, some of which actually kind of sort of happened. Many others very much did not.
Now, with the draft in the rearview mirror, we enter a new chapter of the 2021 season, and we're imploring you to get your questions into the mailbag.
We're tackling three of your queries on a soggy Friday in Northeast Ohio.
Is it surprising that JOK slid all the way to pick at No. 52? If you had to give a draft a grade what would it be? — Joe A., Loxahatchee, Florida
Let's start with the second question. I'm certainly biased, but I'm not alone in loving what the Browns accomplished last weekend. The moves Cleveland made in free agency, specifically on defense, really opened things up when it came to making selections in the draft. I really liked both of the trades, as the Browns took advantage of the extra draft capital they acquired last year to go up and get Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah for a relatively small price and then later acquired a 2022 fourth-round pick. The Browns didn't waver as they patiently awaited their 26th overall selection in the first round and got their guy in Greg Newsome II, who provided the best combination of "best player available" and "player who helps address one of the team's biggest roster needs." And I particularly liked the picks on offense, as Anthony Schwartz brings a different element of speed to the receivers room, James Hudson III provides more depth at tackle and Demetric Felton gives Kevin Stefanski a Swiss Army knife of sorts to add to his offense.
Simply put, this was one of my favorite drafts in my time with the Browns. I'm a tough grader, but I'm giving it an "A" with one big caveat, which was best explained by Andrew Berry and Stefanski in the moments after the team's final pick.
"We also know the reality of the situation is all of these guys who come in and work and have to earn roster spots and earn a role, and quite honestly, we have a lot of work to do before we get to September and the season opener," Berry said. "We are certainly hopeful and excited about the guys we were able to add to the organization, but we have a lot of work to do before we reach our ultimate goals this season."
As for Owusu-Koramoah's slide to 52, yes, it's safe to call it a surprise. Nearly all of the folks in the business of analyzing the draft pegged the Butkus Award winner to go in the first round. Then, when the second round began, most had him listed as the "Best Player Available." Alas, the Browns waited and waited until they couldn't wait anymore, moving up seven spots to grab him before someone else did.
Asked if he ever could have envisioned the Browns landing both Newsome II and Owusu-Koramoah, Browns national scout Charles Walls said, "no way."
"No way, no how," Walls said. "We are happy, though."
Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta said the Browns see Owusu-Koramoah as a perfect fit for the scheme they plan to run on defense. Berry did, too, while acknowledging he may not have been a fit for a number of other teams, thus causing him to fall farther than most anticipated.
"I do think Jeremiah is a little unique in the manner in which he produces so he is not going to necessarily be everybody's flavor or fit," Berry said. "You are talking about a player who is a little bit undersized for a classic linebacker. You are talking about a guy who was used in a variety of roles at Notre Dame, and that is not necessarily going to be the right fit or maybe quite as highly valued of a skill set depending on the defensive system.
"We certainly did not expect him to be there when he was. We are fortunate he was and think he is going to add something to our team."
Whatever it was that caused it, the Browns were the beneficiary, and Owusu-Koramoah was thankful to land where he did.
"My motivation lies strictly within the game of football and my appreciation for football," Owusu-Koramoah said. "I am not going to use something that is external in terms of a draft and people not picking me. I see those linebackers that were going in front of me, and I see those defenders that have gone before me, but you have to take certain things and add energy to certain things."
What a great offseason the Browns are having in acquiring players with talent and upside! With the team sitting on 90 players and then getting that number down to a 53-man roster, what were the number of players the Browns kept "by position" in 2020 and will that mirror itself in 2021? — Philip H., Saint Clairsville
Here's the rundown from last year when the Browns announced their official 53-man roster. Of note, the Browns made a couple of moves one day later, thereby adjusting some of these totals.
QBs - 2
RBs - 3
FBs - 1
TEs - 5 (Went to 4 before season opener)
WRs - 6
OL - 9
DL - 8 (Went to 9 before season opener)
LBs - 6
DBs - 10
Specialists - 3
It's impossible at this point to guess what those numbers will look like in 2021, but it's hard to see them drastically changing. Remember, the Browns brought back almost everyone from their 2020 coaching staff, and the players are returning to the same broad concepts and schemes on offense, defense and special teams. The one area where we'll speculate just a bit is defensive backs, simply because the Browns were hit so hard at the position with injuries during training camp last year. In a recent interview on Cleveland Browns Daily, defensive coordinator Joe Woods noted the team played just 16 dime snaps all season. It's something he'd like to see increase in 2021.
"You can see the impact that we could have," Woods said. "It's really about putting more speed on the field and creating matchups where you feel like you have an advantage."
You're certainly right about the increase in the number of candidates, and the Browns will need to replace their on-field signal-caller from last year (B.J. Goodson). Two of the team's top free agent signings, LB Anthony Walker and S John Johnson III, have plenty of experience doing it. Johnson said he would "gladly do it" if the team asked him to and Walker said he'd "take it and run with it" if given the opportunity.
We'll obviously learn more on this topic when the players hit the field this summer.
"That is something that I am more than capable of, and I enjoyed it," Johnson III said. "I feel like I was the glue to that defense. I feel like if I was not out there, things would have been a little different. I just feel like when guys turn around and they see No. 43 out there, they are comfortable and they know that they can rely on me. Having a green dot is just something that came second nature."