The uncertainty surrounding who the Browns might target at pick No. 26 in the 2021 NFL draft isn't likely to settle anytime between now and April 29, when Round 1 officially begins.
Sure, free agency signings and departures could sway Browns mock projections — which have primarily targeted defensive positions — but it's still anyone's guess at what the Browns, or any of the other teams picking in the final leg of Round 1, will do when they're on the clock.
ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. picked Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins to Cleveland in his Mock 2.0 and discussed Collins, as well as options at defensive end, in a conference call with reporters across the country last week. His prediction hasn't changed, but what if the Browns opt to bolster their secondary rather than the front seven in the first round?
That's what Kiper focused on when asked about Cleveland's first-round possibilities this week.
He believes there's only two players — one cornerback, one safety — who would be a nice fit in the last first-round: CB Greg Newsome II (Northwestern) and S Trevon Moehrig (TCU).
Let's focus on Newsome, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound cornerback who only played in three games last season but still totaled seven pass-breakups and his first and only career interception.
"He's a solid player," Kiper said. "When you look at him on tape, he's a very consistent player. Instinctively, he's a very good player. He's a smart kid. I thought he was very impressive in coverage. He stuck to the receivers and he's got a good turning motion and locates the football. He's put together two really good years and he's got a lot of really good experience.
"You'd like to see more than one career interception. I thought about putting him in the late first round, but I'd project him right now as an early-to-mid second. He's not going to get out of Round 2."
If drafted to Cleveland, Newsome could contend for a potential starting job along with Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, who missed all of 2020 with a shoulder injury. Cornerback is a position where a team can never have enough depth, and with Terrance Mitchell and Kevin Johnson possibly becoming unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins March 17, the Browns could have plenty of interest in the cornerback market.
The same can be said for the safety position, too.
Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph, two safeties who ate a large chunk of snaps last season, are also in the final days of the one-year deals they signed in March 2020. Ronnie Harrison Jr. and Grant Delpit, set to return in 2021 after missing his entire rookie year with an Achilles injury, are two young and promising players, but the position could need more depth.
That's where the possibility of Moehrig arises. After recording seven interceptions in three seasons with the Horned Frogs, Moehrig established himself as a ball-hawking safety who is also capable of delivering hard hits. Some mock drafts have him going in the middle of the first round — Kiper mocked him to go at pick No. 17 to the Las Vegas Raiders — but others suggest he still could be available in the final picks of Day 1.
If he's available for the Browns at pick No. 26, Kiper believes he'll be difficult to pass.
"Are you going to take a safety high (in the first round)? Probably not," Kiper said. "But when you get to 26, if Moehrig is there, he would be the only one that I would jump at. He would be a great pick. I think an accurate argument would be that he's one of the best defensive players in this draft."
Kiper named several other defensive backs with potential first-round possibilities — Kelvin Joseph (Kentucky), Shaun Wade (Ohio State), Aaron Robinson (UCF), Tyson Campbell (Georgia) and Asante Samuel Jr. (Florida State) rounded out the cornerbacks, while Richie Grant (UCF), Andre Cisco (Syracuse) and Jevon Holland (Oregon) are next on the list at safety.
But none of those options provide the same level of certainty as Newsome or Moehrig for the secondary. Both players figure to go behind likely top secondary picks in S Patrick Surtain II (Alabama), CB Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) or CB Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech), but they could plug some of the biggest holes the Browns could address on defense.
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