Based on their performances in the 2020 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns will be a scary prospect for any opposition come autumn.
The team, led by the 2020 NFL coach of the year Kevin Stefanski, ended the franchise’s 18-year playoff drought and is expected to challenge for a playoff spot in 2021 as well.
The Cleveland Browns’ roster is filled to the brim with marquee talent. Led by Myles Garrett, the defense usually gets good pressure on opposition QBs, forcing mistakes.
On offense, rushing duo Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb force the opposition’s pass rush and secondary to switch to run defense. This opens up the passing game for QB Baker Mayfield, who has two elite targets in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.
The Browns are excellent in all facets of the game and the team should be playoff contenders next season. Anything less would be considered a disappointment considering the talent on the roster.
But one thing that could damage the Browns’ ascent would be a poor showing in this year’s 2021 NFL draft. Like every other franchise, the Browns need to fill up the depth chart, especially on defense after the clearout this offseason.
Those cracks must be expertly filled with the best rookie talent available on the board for the Browns to go deep in the playoffs come 2022.
2021 NFL Draft: Top five prospects the Cleveland Browns should pursue
Cleveland currently owns five picks in the top 110 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here’s a list of their first five draft picks:
- First-round: No. 26
- Second-round: No.59
- Third-round: No.89
- Third-round: No.91
- Fourth-round: No.110
Take a look at the potential first five picks for the Cleveland Browns in this year’s draft.
#1 – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Larry Ogunjobi and Vincent Taylor left Cleveland for the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans, respectively, this offseason, creating a need for a new defensive lineman on the Browns’ roster.
The Alabama Crimson Tide’s Christian Barmore was the number one option available on my mock draft board.
The versatile DT recorded six sacks and three forced fumbles in the Crimson Tide National Championship-winning campaign last season. He is one of the best defensive prospects heading into the draft later this month.
#2 – Jabril Cox, Linebacker, LSU
The Browns will be looking for a linebacker in this year’s NFL draft after losing two this offseason. Tae Davis is set to join Vincent Taylor at the Texans, while B.J. Goodson is a free agent and unlikely to be brought back into the locker room.
LSU’s Jabril Cox is the premiere talent available on my draft board. The linebacker developed quite a reputation in college football, where his tackling and positional sense were a real asset in both man and zone coverage. Cox chalked up four interceptions in the 2020 college football season.
As a late second-round pick, Cox is a solid addition to any roster in my book.
#3 – Dayot Odeyingbo, Edge, Vanderbilt
Dayot Odeyingbo is a physically gifted, high-energy prospect. He’s quick to react at the line and has the speed and power required to get to an opposing quarterback.
Odeyingbo is a versatile, intelligent player and highly effective in the nose tackle position, providing more options and coverage. With the 89th pick, the interior defensive lineman could be a good option for the Cleveland Browns.
#4 – Tay Gowan, CB, UCF
Tay Gowan is one of the better defensive prospects in the 2021 NFL draft. He has all the physical traits you’d expect in an NFL cornerback.
The 6’2″ cornerback is athletic, well-built, has tremendous speed and is nimble on his feet. He has every skill required to compete in coverage in the NFL.
Gowan was a COVID-19 opt-out in 2020, but showcased his raw physical ability aplenty as a sophomore at UCF, finishing the 2019 season with two picks and eight passes defended.
If the Browns decide to add to the team’s CB depth chart in the draft, Tay Gowan could be the best pick available to Stefanski’s team.
#5 – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown enjoyed a fine college football campaign in 2019, racking up 1,042 yards and six touchdowns for the Trojans. His 2020 campaign wasn’t quite as spectacular due to injury, but even so, St. Brown still chipped in with seven touchdowns.
The Browns already have Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Tee Higgins and the impressive Donovan Peoples-Jones operating out on the flanks. Hence, I left this pick until late in the draft, as I didn’t see it as a pressing concern.
But if coach Stefanski really wants to up the ante, drafting St. Brown in the fourth round, assuming he’s still available, could be just the ticket.