As mock drafts continue to pour speculation on whom the Browns might select in the 2021 NFL Draft, one defensive position has started to become slightly more frequent among others as the spot the Browns could target with pick No. 26: defensive end.
The position is loaded with high-upside players, several of whom project to be available in the second half of the first round. The Browns, who released DE Adrian Clayborn on Tuesday and have a decision to make on the expiring contract of DE Olivier Vernon, are in the market for adding another potential starter and more depth.
That's why NFL Network Draft Analyst Daniel Jeremiah predicted the Browns will select DE Joe Tryon from Washington with their first-round pick. Jeremiah, who spoke with reporters on a conference call Tuesday, admitted that the order of edge position players taken off the board this year will be tough to predict — a few of the top players were 2020 opt-outs who had limited game time and reps last season — but believes Tryon, one of the players who did opt out, would still be a safe pick for Cleveland.
"Tryon has an ideal frame/build for an edge rusher," Jeremiah said about Tryon in his Top 50 Draft Prospect Rankings 2.0. Tryon was ranked 27th.
"His game is built on his strength and power more than his speed and agility. He has an average get-off as a pass rusher, but he has shock in his hands to jolt offensive tackles, separate and close on the quarterback. He has a nasty push/pull move and can shorten the edge by powering through the outside shoulder. He isn't bendy at the top of his rush due to some ankle tightness. His effort is exceptional. He dominated tight ends at the point of attack against the run and he can reset the line of scrimmage. Overall, Tryon plays with force and effort, which affects both the run and pass game. He can make an impact on all three downs and should get on the field right away for the team that drafts him."
At 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, Tryon won't have to add much to his body to fit the ideal frame needed for NFL-level success on the edge, and he showcased his power with nine sacks in his last two seasons at Washington — eight of which came in a dominant 2019 display that also featured 41 tackles.
He's been a frequent edge rusher mocked to the Browns, but so has Kwity Paye (Michigan), Jayson Oweh (Penn State), Azeez Ojulari (Georgia) and several other defensive ends at the top of the 2021 class.
Just about every edge rusher on that list, however, comes with a sizable question mark. Paye has raw potential that only began to show in his final two seasons, the last of which was abbreviated due to the pandemic, and will need to continue developing in the NFL. Analysts believe both Oweh and Ojulari need more time for development, too, and both don't quite possess the same big frame as Tryon or Paye, who was ranked ahead of Tryon in Jeremiah's rankings.
With Paye — and other top DEs in Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau from Miami, two players projected to be picked first at the position — already off the board, Tryon could be the next best fit for the Browns. His size and strength alongside Myles Garrett could give the Browns a 1-2 punch off the edge, and both players could be three-down defenders that elevate other areas on the defense by applying quick pressure on the quarterback.
"There's a lot of questions on (the defensive ends)," Jeremiah said, "but with Tryon, he's got size. He's got length. He's got really active, good hands. He gets a little stiff in the ankles — you see that when he gets to the top of his pass rush. But this is somebody who has the ability to collapse the pocket."
The entire outlook of the position class and draft needs for Cleveland could change drastically in coming weeks as college pro days, which have added importance this year due to the cancelation of in-person events at the Scouting Combine, and free-agent signings trickle in.
The defensive ends class, in particular, could see plenty of shifting, too. Both Jeremiah and ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. highlighted in recent video calls how big pro days could bump one edge rusher over another in prospect rankings.
"I think teams are all over the map on these edge rushers," Jeremiah said.
But as the list stands now, Tryon is Jeremiah's pick for a young, NFL-ready edge rusher the Browns defense needs.
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