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Draft on Tap: Assessing defensive linemen prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft

The Browns could use one of their six picks to add depth to their defensive line

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With the NFL Draft a week away, the countdown is on to see who the Browns use their six draft picks on to add young talent to the roster.

To continue with the assessments of position groups the Browns could focus on, let's look at the defensive line.

The Browns brought back key players of their defensive line during free agency, re-signing DE Za'Darius Smith, DT Shelby Harris and DT Maurice Hurst II. They also added DT Quinton Jefferson in free agency to a line that is anchored by DE Myles Garrett and features DE Ogbo Okoronkwo.

However, the Browns could look to add younger players to their defensive line who could learn from the veterans in the room. Let's break down a few prospects at defensive tackle and defensive end that could be a fit for the Browns with either their Day 2 or Day 3 picks.

Here's a look at the top prospects for defensive tackle that could be potential fits for the Browns.

Defensive Tackle

NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund highlighted two defensive tackles in the latest episode of Draft on Tap, discussing Ohio State's Michael Hall Jr. and LSU's Maason Smith.

Hall played three seasons at OSU where he finished with 45 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also recorded one fumble recovery. His best season came during the 2023 season, as he set a career high of 24 total tackles.

"Interior defenders are an interesting puzzle to solve yet again in this year's draft. One that could be a target for the Browns: OSU's Michael Hall Jr.," Frelund said. "Hall Jr.'s burst – which is his acceleration when the ball is snapped – was the third-fastest among all Power 5 DTs on the field last season for the Buckeyes. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder ran a 4.78 40-yard dash in Columbus at his Pro Day, a time that tied the fastest at the position from the combine."

Smith missed all but one game of the 2022 season with an injury, but recorded 47 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two passes defended in his three seasons at LSU.

"Maason Smith – the 6-foot-6, over 300-pounder from LSU – has some special traits that this team could be well-positioned to make the most of," Frelund said. "After an ACL tear in 2022, he played over 580 total snaps last season, and was impactful as a pass rusher with 20 pressures on 345 pass rush snaps, per PFF."

Another player who could be in the range for the Browns and a potential fit is Kris Jenkins. In four years at Michigan, Jenkins tallied 113 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery. He is a strong run defender and ranked sixth among defensive tackles at the combine with an athleticism score of 83.

Here's a look at the top prospects for defensive end that could be potential fits for the Browns.

Defensive End

The Browns have key veteran edge players that help anchor their defense in Smith, Garrett and Okoronkwo. However, they could look to add some youth to that part of their defensive line.

Adisa Isaac brings a level of recognition and awareness as an edge prospect. He can work his way around blocks due to his active hands and feet, as well as his reaction to the snap. Isaac missed the 2021 season due to an Achilles injury, but over four seasons at Penn State, he tallied 92 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. He also recorded one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. At the combine, Isaac ranked ninth among all defensive end/edge players with an athleticism score of 74.

Jonah Elliss can attack the pocket well through different approaches and can use his motor to expose blockers. In three seasons at Utah, Elliss tallied 78 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. He also added three passes defended, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. Elliss was also named a second-team Associated Press All-American in 2023, and first-team All-Pac-12 Conference.

Austin Booker spent two seasons a Minnesota before he transferred and played his final year at Kansas. In 2023, Booker was named to the first-team All-Big 12 Conference, as well as Big 12 Conference Defensive Newcome of the Year. He led the team with 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks and tallied a total of 56 tackles during the 2023 season. He also recorded one pass breakup and two forced fumbles. Even with his limited sample size in games, Booker has an explosive athleticism and is a solid rusher.

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