The Browns on Friday selected BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki with the No. 80 pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Takitaki is the Browns' second selection in the draft, following LSU CB Greedy Williams, who was selected 46th overall.
"A really physical exciting player. Plays super hard every play. He can run, can cover and can blitz," Browns assistant general manager Eliot Wolf said. "He played defensive end last year so he has some pass rush to him. We are really excited and fortunate to get him here with this pick."
Over his final two seasons at BYU, Takitaki racked up a combined 197 tackles. His 118 tackles in 2018 led the Cougars and ranked 31st in the nation. He led BYU with 12.5 tackles for loss the previous year.
View photos of BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki, whom the Browns selected with the 80th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
"This is a physical, physical football player. He plays with violence," Wolf said. "We felt like that was something that separated him from some of the other linebackers in this class. We feel really good about the value here and his ability to contribute to the team."
Takitaki (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) saved one of his biggest performances for BYU's biggest game in 2018, racking up 12 tackles, including one for a loss, in an upset of then-No. 6 Wisconsin. A team captain for his senior season, Takitaki finished his college career with a whopping 19 tackles in BYU's bowl game.
"He was an absolute wrecking ball," Wolf said. "That was the second game that they played. If you weren't looking at him, you would have noticed him. He was all over the field – bashing people, breaking up passes, sacking the quarterback and knifing into the backfield to make tackles for loss. It was really exciting to watch. You kind of watched his maturation throughout the season. They were using him more off the edge early – this was his first year as a linebacker and so they started expanding his role and you could see him do some of the other things that more of a pro style or what (defensive coordinator) Steve Wilks is going to ask him to do as a linebacker. You could see him do more of those things as the season progressed."
A Fontana, California native, Takitaki was the youngest of seven in a house with four sisters and two brothers. He played on both sides of the ball in high school, starring as a running back and linebacker, while also playing for the volleyball team.
"What makes me a great linebacker is that I play inside or outside," Takitaki said. "I am willing to come in and fit in wherever the coaches need me and where the team needs me. I am pretty comfortable playing both. If I had to play outside linebacker and set the edge here and there or play inside linebacker you could flow and make plays left and right or being in charge of the defense and things like that, I feel comfortable doing both. I feel like that is what makes me a unique linebacker."
The Browns hold five more picks, one in each the fourth (119), sixth (189) and seventh rounds (221) and two in the fifth (155, 170).
"We are excited to add talent to any position," Wolf said. "Joe (Schobert) is two years removed from a Pro Bowl. Christian (Kirksey) had an unfortunate injury thing happen last year, but we still think he can be productive. Genard (Avery) is a guy who is going to fit into the defense someway, whether it is rushing or playing off the ball. We signed Adarius Taylor from Tampa, and we have D'Juan Hines and Xavier Woodson-Luster who are going to compete for positions."