By Chandler Adams
Across The Browns Podcast Host
This is the first time, in a long time, where the Cleveland Browns are asking, "How do we win the Superbowl?" and not, "Which QB are we taking?" While that's exciting, it's also very nerve-racking. Now the pressure is on. There are no more misses. The window is wide open and they must take advantage of this. In my last article, which you can find HERE, I discussed three players I think the Browns could benefit from signing this off-season. This mock draft is being done as if those signings had taken place.
This is an analysis of rounds 1-3. Rounds 4-7 will be posted later this week.
Round 1 - Pick 26: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
This one likely won't play well with the popular crowd, but that's not what I'm here to do. I'm giving my honest opinion and reasoning on these picks. I know Ifeatu Melifonwu has been the popular choice here, and for good reason. He's 6'3, 215 lbs, and can move. The only problem is his transitioning when coming out of breaks. I think Samuel is the better player, and if Ward had not shown his ability to match up on big WR's in the NFL then I would think Melifonwu would be the way to go.
Samuel does a lot of things very well. When watching him play, the first thing you notice is his willingness to play "nasty.” Even though he is definitely undersized, he doesn't have that mentality. Loves playing press man against bigger WR's. Aggressive when going after ball carriers. However, the most impressive thing about Samuel Jr. is his ball tracking ability. On only 32 targets his way this year, he had eight picks and/or pass-breakups. He's able to do this because of his change of direction. It's like watching poetry live on turf.
Although pairing him with Denzel Ward would make them one of the smaller duos in the NFL, their ability to shut down WR's in man coverage would make life a living hell for OC's. Expect some teams to knock him for his size, but the tape and the analytics don't lie. This kid can absolutely play.
Round 2 - Pick 58: Alim McNeill, DI, NC State
This is my guy this year. I've been on record as saying that, and I won't back down. Last year my guy was Jordan Elliot, and oddly enough, they are sort of similar in how they play. McNeill is slightly shorter and 20 pounds heavier, but they both get off the line at a rapid pace.
Here is the youtube video of me reacting to Jordan Elliot being drafted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyfOoHWQR6s
McNeill has the ability to take on double-teams, pop off of the line of scrimmage, collapse the pocket, and hold his gap. He's everything you could ever hope for in an IDL.
So, why is he available in the second round? He doesn't have a "move" yet to get to the passer. All he really has is just a fast charge. While it's worked in college, he will need to develop more than just that. Also, he doesn't necessarily alter the running game - he’s more of a gap holder. Lastly, his conditioning was a factor in fast-paced possessions, and it showed. All of those things considered, he is still a steal at 58 for a team in need of more pass-rush presence.
Analytics are starting to consistently show that pass rush is far more consistent than pass coverage. Analytics are also showing that an interior pass rush is far more disruptive than an exterior pass rush. The Browns have lacked many things over the last two decades, but a consistent pass rush (outside of Myles Garrett) has been at the top of the list.
Chris Jones, Kenny Clark, and Ndamukong Suh. Three of the four final teams in the NFL season had a dominant inside presence.
Round 3 - Pick 89: Ar'Darius Washington, S, TCU
Washington has so many amazing abilities that come with his game, but one thing is going to keep coming up during the draft process - his size. At a mere 5'8“, 180 pounds, NFL WR's and TE's could definitely cause some matchup issues. However, he plays right through these "limits" and is constantly making plays.
Take this snippet of Pro Football Focus's article on the 2021 draft for example, “In his career at TCU, Washington allowed only 16 catches on 37 targets for 172 yards with three scores, five picks, and seven pass breakups." When it comes to tackling, size definitely does not matter with Washington. Over the last two seasons, he has had 584 coverage snaps and only two missed tackles.
Washington is, dare I say, comparable to Tyrann Mathieu. Undersized, great tacklers, instincts, and visions off the charts. I don't like comparing, but they are inevitable in this field.
As to how he fits with this Browns roster, this secondary is suspect. I envision, as a best-case scenario, Delpit, Harrison, and Washington could all be on the field at the same time. Deplit would play a more TE matchup role. This is especially important because next year the Browns will face Kelce, Andrews, Waller, Hockenson, Fant, Kmet, and Rudolph. With that, Washington and Harrison can play the more traditional safety roles. Watching the deep halves, shadowing #1 WR’s, or whatever they are needed to do.
Round 3 - Pick 91: Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
This man is simply built differently. To be honest, this is a reach at pick 91. Schwartz is the fastest person in this draft, and I don't think it's close. However, he is not a great WR. So, why take a chance on a guy like that? A few reasons.
- Open up this offense. They lacked the ability to let it rip last year.
- Learn from two of the best in the game. Beckham Jr. and Landry can help him get a better feel for the game.
- Diversity. Look at the Chiefs the last three years. They have more speed than they know what to do with.
- Most importantly, you simply cannot expect a CB to matchup with this guy one-on-one. He will fly by every cornerback in the NFL with ease. This means safeties are going to get his attention and will help guys like Beckham Jr., Landry, Hooper, Chubb, and Hunt tremendously.
Taking risks in the NFL draft is not something you want to bank on. However, when you have a team as good as the Browns, sometimes calculated risks are the ones that send you over the top. Schwartz has the speed to help the Browns do just that.
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