Road to the Draft

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Road to the Draft: The cases for, against each prospect who's being mocked to the Browns

Here’s a roundup of the pros and cons to each of the names who’ve been linked to the Browns in the upcoming draft

As the 2021 NFL Draft gets closer and closer, we're spotlighting a different position group or draft storyline at ClevelandBrowns.com.

In our Road to the Draft series, we've taken a deep dive into the top prospects available at each position group. Now, we're bringing them all together and looking at the reasons for and against why they should go to Cleveland at pick No. 26.

Defensive End

Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

The case for: The Browns could use their first overall pick to formulate a clear long-term plan across from Myles Garrett at DE. Considered by some to be the safest edge rusher pick of the class, Ojulari earned second-team All-SEC honors after leading the conference with 8.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2020. Ojulari possesses all of the skills and technique necessary to become an instant impact-player in the NFL.

The case against: The one trait Ojuari doesn't have on his side is size. At 6-foot-2 and 249 pounds, he's slightly smaller than average for his position, which may lead to concerns over how well he can transfer his skills to the NFL.

Gregory Rousseau, Miami

The case for: Rousseau recorded 15.5 sacks in 2019 to lead the ACC and was the conference's Defensive Rookie of the Year. That season alone gave Rousseau, who opted out of the 2020 season, enough stock to be considered a first-round pick in 2021. Miami has a long history of producing some of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, and Rousseau, who proved he's capable of wrecking backfields out of sheer strength and speed, could add himself to the list.

The case against: A large chunk of Rousseau's 15.5 sacks from 2019 could be considered "coverage sacks," according to CBS Sports draft analysts Chris Trapasso. Coverage sacks are when a defense records a sack more so from quality play from the secondary, which gives pass rushers more time to reach the quarterback regardless of whether they won their battle at the point of contact. Trapasso and other analysts believe Rousseau will need improvements to his technique to be an every-down threat in the NFL.

Jaelan Phillips, Miami

The case for: Phillips was the beneficiary of Rousseau's opt-out season, and he might've done enough to prove himself as an even better prospect. He led Miami with eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss in 10 games in 2020 and has immense size at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds. He also registered 45 tackles last season and proved to be efficient in stopping the run.

The case against: Phillips' durability could be an area of concern. He suffered three concussions at the college level and played in only 11 games his first two college seasons at UCLA.

Kwity Paye, Michigan

The case for: Paye was ranked the top player on Bruce Feldman's 2020 Freaks List for The Athletic. His explosiveness and lower-body strength should translate well to the NFL and be a stiff challenge week-to-week for opposing tackles. He was a Second Team All-Big Ten pick the last two seasons.

The case against: Paye doesn't have a wide array of pass rush moves that could make him a consistent threat to the league's top linemen. According to Brugler, Paye has an "underdeveloped pass rush plan and countering skills'' and "violent hands, but his attack is simplistic and lacks diversity." Paye also made 11.5 sacks in 38 games, which is below average compared to other prospects.

Joe Tryon, Washington

The case for: He certainly doesn't lack size at 6-foot-5 and 259 pounds, which he used to lead the Huskies with eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss in 2019. Washington coaches also raved about Tryon's coachable attitude, which should bode well for whatever teams drafts and develops him.

The case against: Tryon opted out of the 2020 season, which was a crucial development year after his initial breakout season in 2019. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein believes he is "too obvious as a rusher and doesn't have a myriad of go-to moves or counters when he's facing off against a talented opponent."

Cornerback

Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

The case for: Cornerback depth is always needed in the NFL, and the Browns likely will need to add some in the draft after they struggled with cornerback depth in 2020. Farley would be an intriguing prospect. In 2019, he led the ACC with 16 pass deflections and four interceptions and displayed an NFL-caliber level of instincts and physicality. He also is a sound tackler and accrued 56 of them across 23 collegiate starts.

That case against: Durability. He dealt with a back injury at the end of 2019 and underwent a microdiscectomy in March, forcing him to miss pre-draft workouts. He's also relatively new to the position — he converted to cornerback after originally playing as a wide receiver in 2017, his redshirt season.

Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

The case for: Newsome ascended as one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten in 2019, when he led the Wildcats with 11 pass deflections. He improved his play even more for 2020, when he led the conference with 10 pass deflections in six games and recorded his first collegiate interception.

The case against: Similar to Farley, it's durability. He missed three games in each of his college seasons due to recurring injuries. And despite accruing 25 passes defensed, he registered just one college interception.

Linebacker

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame

The case for: Has the perfect blend of size and speed, which are two traits the Browns covet most at linebacker. He totaled 24.5 tackles for a loss, eight passes defensed and five forced fumbles in his final two seasons at Notre Dame and was named an All-American in 2020. Owusu-Koramoah has no glaring weaknesses to his game and has spent the last two years as arguably the most dominant defensive player in the ACC

The case against: With no glaring weaknesses or durability concerns, we'll focus on draft strategy here. Owusu-Koramoah appears increasingly likely to fall before the Browns at pick No. 26, so Cleveland might have to gamble by trading up to select him. If the Browns have other plans for their Day 2 or Day 3 picks, they might not be willing to give them up.

Zaven Collins, Tulsa

The case for: Carries ideal size for the position at 6-foot-4 and 259 pounds and tremendous durability — he rarely left the field at Tulsa. He won the Bronko Nagurski Award in 2020 and garnered an astounding four interceptions in eight games in 2020, displaying a top-tier understanding of pass coverage as a linebacker. He also has experience and potential at the line of scrimmage and could carve a role as an edge rusher, a level of versatility that could be intriguing for a Browns defense already loaded with versatile players.

The case against: He has improvements to make as an overall tackler. According to The Athletic's Dane Brugler, Collins "needs to improve his run fits and take-on technique" to avoid missed tackles.

Jamin Davis, Kentucky

The case for: Davis established himself as a fearless tackler in 2020 after racking up 102 tackles to go along with three interceptions and five passes defensed. He was one of four SEC defenders to end the season averaging double-digit tackles and he's been one of the most recent and fastest risers up draft boards after recording a 4.47 40-yard dash and 42-inch vertical jump.

The case against: Davis has just one full season as a starter and still has a few steps for improvement as a tackler despite his 2020 success. Brugler believes Davis "doesn't attack with a forceful punch" and "will drop his eyes and strike too high as a tackler, falling off ball carriers."

Defensive Tackle

Christian Barmore, Alabama

The case for: The Browns might need to select a defensive tackle early and add to a position group that currently holds just four players on the roster. Barmore could be a solid fit after he exploded with the Crimson Tide in 2020 for eight sacks, three passes defensed and three forced fumbles. He is one of the biggest draft prospects at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds and maximizes that weight with natural explosion, which gives him a high NFL ceiling that touches Pro Bowl potential.

The case against: Barmore had just one year of starting experience at Alabama. The raw talents he displayed in 2020 will be appealing to NFL teams, but his draft spot will come down to whichever DT-needy team believes the time spent to harness the raw traits will be worth it.

Safety

Trevon Moehrig, TCU

The case for: The Browns' safety room has a number of players capable of considerable snaps in 2021 with John Johnson III, Ronnie Harrison Jr., Grant Delpit and more in the fold, but they could still add to the room's depth in the early rounds. Moehrig is the only prospect who appears poised for a Round 1 selection after winning the Jim Thorpe Award in 2020, when he registered two interceptions and 11 passes defensed.

The case against: The Browns don't need to reach for a safety they're not 100 percent confident in — Johnson, Harrison and Delpit are all still under 25 years old. Moehrig also isn't physically imposing at 6-foot and 202 pounds, which could lead to durability concerns.

Wide Receiver

Elijah Moore, Ole Miss

The case for: Wide receiver is the lone offensive position the Browns appear to have a shot of considering in the first round. Moore built a monstrous 2020 season with eight touchdowns and 1,193 yards, which earned him First Team All-SEC honors. He ran a pleasing 4.35 40-yard dash and is a lethal receiver in space.

The case against: This receiver class is deep and will likely hold several quality options to pick later in Day 2 or Day 3. Moore will likely fall as a second-round pick, but he still has a few questions that obscure his draft stock. One of them is size — at 5-foot-9 and 178 pounds, Moore will always be one of the smallest players on the field and will be at a physical disadvantage against some of the top cornerbacks in the league.

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

The case for: Bateman's physicality as a 6-foot, 190-pound receiver led to 19 touchdowns and 2,395 yards across 31 collegiate games. He presents a big target for quarterbacks and is projected to make a strong push for starting snaps as a rookie.

The case against: Not as quick as other top receivers (4.41 40-yard dash). Brugler also believes Bateman "lacks explosive burst off the line or out of his breaks with average acceleration by NFL standards."

Over the next few weeks, as the 2021 NFL Draft gets closer and closer, we're spotlighting a different group each day at ClevelandBrowns.com.

Our Road to the Draft series will dive deep into the top players available at each group. In this series, we'll be analyzing what the Browns have on hand and how that may affect the team's decision making with its nine selections.

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