With the Scouting Combine a few days away, the consensus for which area the Browns will target with their first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft at 42nd overall is nearly unanimous.
Most draft experts believe Cleveland will aim for a defensive lineman in that spot. It's easy to see why after the Browns struggled against the run and didn't generate much of a pass rush beyond the helpings from All-Pro DE Myles Garrett last season.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah thinks the Browns are in a good spot to grab an edge rusher. Two players came to his mind Friday when he considered where the Browns are picking in the draft and who could be a good scheme fit for Jim Schwartz's defense in his first year as the defensive coordinator.
The first was Will McDonald IV, who earned high praise from Matt Campbell, his head coach at Iowa State, when Campbell spoke with Jeremiah about his potential in the NFL.
"You think about the players they've had there in (QB) Brock Purdy and RB (Breece Hall), and (Campbell) said Will McDonald has the most upside of anybody they've ever had come through there," Jeremiah said.
That's a lot of upside.
Purdy, of course, was initially drafted as "Mr. Irrelevant" to the 49ers last year as the last pick of the draft at 262nd overall. He played wonderfully when they needed him to start five games due to injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, winning all five of his starts before an elbow injury knocked him out of the NFC Championship Game.
Hall, meanwhile, was considered a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year last season for the Jets before he suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through the year.
To say McDonald could be an even better player than either of his two former offensive teammates might seem lofty for a guy currently projected to land in Round 2, but Jeremiah sees why Campbell believes that.
McDonald tallied 34 sacks across five seasons with the Cyclones and immediately caught the eye of Campbell and his coaching staff as a freshman, even though he redshirted that season.
"He was a 206-pound freshman, and they couldn't block him in practice," Jeremiah said. "They put him in a game, and he had a sack in his first game, and they said, 'Do we need to redshirt him? He's only 206 pounds, but he's our best pass rusher.'"
McDonald, who's 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds, is still slightly undersized for the position, but Jeremiah believes he has an NFL-ready toolset.
"He can really get off the ball," he said. "He can win with spin moves. He can win just by turning the corner. Burst and bend is his calling card."
Those traits, which sound familiar to those of Garrett, play well under the scheme of Schwartz, whose defenses have previously found success by positioning defensive ends a bit further on the outside. The extra space allows for creativity and speed so they can rip through offensive tackles.
One player in the Browns' draft range whom Jeremiah believes could also fit that style is Felix Anudike-Uzomah. He totaled 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles the last two seasons with Kansas State, although Jeremiah thinks those numbers could've been even higher if he played in a scheme that more closely matched what Schwartz is known for.
"He can get off the ball and win with his hands," Jeremiah said. "He had to play a lot inside the tackle. He didn't get that much runway consistently, but when you wide him out and give him a runway, he was pretty dominant. He had a lot of production."
The Combine could alter the likelihood that either of those players are available to the Browns in the second round, but the need for the Browns to find another starting-caliber edge rusher won't change.
Jeremiah believes the Browns could find that with their first pick of the draft.