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Takeaways from Kevin Stefanski at the 2024 NFL Combine

Stefanski discussed a planned visit to Deshaun Watson, development of draft picks and more

Stefanski presser 2.28

INDIANAPOLIS – The Browns continued their media portion of the 2024 NFL Combine as head coach Kevin Stefanski took the podium on Wednesday.

Here are three takeaways from Stefanksi's media availability.

Stefanski and OC Ken Dorsey to visit Deshaun Watson

Watson is still working through his recovery process from shoulder surgery to repair a displaced fracture to the glenoid that ended his 2023 season, but Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry provided an update on Tuesday that Watson will begin throwing in March. Then on Wednesday, Stefanski said that both he and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will go out to Los Angeles to visit with Watson.

"He's hitting all of his milestones," Stefanski said. "Ken and I are going to go out and see him next week and spend some time. Not talk football, just catch up. Won't see him throw, but just want to check in on him. But I text him almost every day, so he's in a good place."

It's a chance for Watson to spend time with his new offensive coordinator ahead of the offseason as he continues to rehab from his shoulder injury. 

Stefanski added they are working through the offensive philosophy that Dorsey brings to the table with Watson for the 2024 season. Dorsey and their other offensive coaches have brought a number of ideas as they work to build their offense. Stefanski said they have been looking at all the details – such as changing terminology, aiming points or a technique – to find the best direction forward for the offense.

Benefits of NFL Combine for late-round draft picks

The Browns are without a first-round draft pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, yet the front office has been hard at work throughout their time in Indianapolis. The NFL Combine provides a chance for the front office and coaches to meet players, and Stefanski sees the value in doing so.

"It's really important," Stefanski said. "And I think we try very hard here to get in front of the players. We'll have Zooms with the players that we don't catch here, and players in our building in the spring as part of our 30 visits."

The Browns' first pick of the NFL Draft isn't until the second round at No. 54. They then have a third-round pick at No. 85, two fifth-round picks, two sixth-round picks and one seventh-round pick.

"So, all of these are exposures for us, and as you know, when you're making these decisions and you're adding these guys to your team, you want to find out as much as you can about them," Stefanski said. "And sometimes in 15 minutes it's hard to find out everything. So, our scouts do a great job as information gatherers and try to teach you about a guy and explain what a guy is about. But ultimately, getting them in the building or here getting in front of them I think is really important."

Developing players from late-round draft picks

The Browns have been in his position before where they have taken players in later rounds and been able to develop them throughout their rookie year. Last year in the 2023 NFL Draft, Cleveland took WR Cedric Tillman and DT Siaki Ika with two picks in the third round, OT Dawand Jones and DE Isaiah McGuire with two picks in the fourth round, QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and CB Cameron Mitchell in the fifth round and C Luke Wypler in the sixth round.

"I think you've seen with our rookie class we're willing to really use all our resources that we have," Stefanski said.

Jones earned his chance early in the season after RT Jack Conklin suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first week of the regular season. He started Week 2 against the Steelers, and finished the season with nine total starts. Jones dealt with his own season-ending knee injury in November, ruled out for the remainder of the season following Week 14.

Thompson-Robinson also earned his own chance as QB Deshaun Watson dealt with a shoulder injury. Thompson-Robinson started three games throughout the season and led the Browns to a win over the Steelers in his first start as a rookie in Week 11. Tillman found some opportunities in the receiving corps as the season progressed. He finished the season with 21 receptions for 224 receiving yards. He also had one carry for eight yards.

The Browns will have a similar opportunity with the 2024 NFL Draft. Stefanski said their goal as a coaching staff is to be intentional with their development of young players.

"If you can draft a third-round pick or a fifth-round pick and turn them into first-round talent, quote-unquote, you're winning on the margin," Stefanski said. "So, development of players is really a big part of our operation. I think Andrew (Berry) has constructed it as such. I think what we do with all of our departments touching all of our players in different resource departments. Whether it's nutrition or strength and conditioning, coaching, obviously playing a role in that. But once we get our players, it's our job to develop them, to get them the best versions of themselves."

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