We are now inside three weeks until Cleveland hosts the 2021 NFL draft. It’s getting to be crunch time for the Browns and all the other teams as pro days wrap up and scouting boards get finalized.
Mock drafts are a good chance to explore different scenarios, so in this edition, we’ll play with a new concept. What happens if the Browns traded out of the first round?
For that to happen, it takes a motivated buyer to come up to No. 26 overall. And I found one in the Miami Dolphins, who rocket back into the first round to snag Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips, a perfect fit for their “multiple” defensive front.
In this hypothetical, Miami agrees to send the Browns both of its second-round picks in 2021, No. 36 overall (from Houston) and No. 50, in exchange for the No. 26 pick. The teams also swap seventh-round picks, with Cleveland moving up from No. 257 to No. 231, the Texans pick also owned by Miami via trade.
The trade leaves the Browns with the following 10 selections:
If you want to track the progression of the mock drafts, here are the first three editions:
No. 36: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
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Ossai isn’t always available at the No. 36 pick in current mock drafts, but he made the cut in this edition. His length, power and intensity on every rep are very desirable as a foil to Myles Garrett on the opposite side. Ossai does have some experience playing in space and off-ball, but his NFL money will be made going forward and attacking the quarterback. He’s not an elite athlete and he’s still learning pass rush countermoves and playing the run from a tighter alignment, but Ossai has potential to improve across the board. Ossai can get his feet wet rushing the passer early, exactly what the Browns need.
No. 50: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
(AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Melifonwu looks the part at 6-foot-2 and over 200 muscular pounds, and he has the closing burst and catch-point strength to be effective playing CB on the outside. He can play press man but projects better in zone and off-man, where he can keep an eye in the backfield. Melifonwu is a better all-around football player than his older brother, Obi, a second-round pick by the Raiders in 2016. The athletic profile is very impressive, and he’s shown enough at Syracuse to make the pick here on Melifownu worthwhile. It might not show as a rookie, but if the Browns are going to gamble, it’s better to gamble on the superior athlete.
No. 59: Richie Grant, S, UCF
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Grant fits the bill as a coverage safety, able to play single-high but better-served in a split role. He’s big enough and savvy enough to also slide down and line up over the slot as a heavy nickel. For a Browns team that likes to roll with three safeties, Grant’s ability to play multiple spots and handle diverse coverage assignments makes a lot of sense. He will miss some tackles and is oddly blockable in space, but that’s why a good coverage safety is available late in the second round.
No. 89: Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
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Wallace gets lost in the shuffle of this outstanding wide receiver class. He’s one of the best deep-ball trackers in the draft and plays bigger than his size as both a receiver and a blocker. The Cowboys offense was simplistic in what it asked of Wallace as a route-runner, and that will take some time. But he’s got a natural savvy to change speeds and set up defenders with his shoulders and hips. Wallace catches throws outside his body as well as anyone, and he’s tough as nails–though there are some durability concerns with some history of knee injuries.
No. 91: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
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Thomas opted out of playing in 2020, but he resurfaced at the Senior Bowl and impressed with his length and ability to play the ball in the air. The smoothness out of breaks for a 6-foot corner is very nice, and in the 2019 season he showed he can sit in holes and undercut shallower routes nicely. He’s at his best in press using inside technique to help bring the sideline into play. That’s not a perfect fit for the Browns, but as a reserve outside CB its a nice changeup to have for DC Joe Woods. The tackling and field awareness offer potential for much more, too.
No. 110: Alim McNeill, DT, North Carolina State
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McNeil has a lot of tools as an interior force. He is strong, balanced and has an impressive violence to his hands. McNeil’s first step off the snap can be way too much for guards and centers to handle, but he is inconsistent at getting the timing right. While he’s a very good athlete for a 315-pounder, he doesn’t flow well laterally or use his legs while engaged as well as he should. There is a lot of potential to work with if the Browns can be patient and bring him along at his own pace.
No. 132: Dayo Odeyingbo, EDGE, Vanderbilt
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It would require a bit of good fortune for the Browns to land Odeyingbo with this pick, but it’s not out of the question. He’s a talented pass rusher with high-level athletic potential. However, Odeynigbo will miss at least most of the 2021 season after tearing his Achilles in January. Cleveland is well-positioned to swallow a redshirt season for a player with Odeyingbo’s upside. Adding extra picks, such as in a scenario like this, makes it even more of a no-brainer.
No. 169: Brenden Jaimes, OL, Nebraska
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Jaimes (pronounced HI-mays) played tackle at Nebraska, but his positional versatility and high football IQ make him an excellent fit as a No. 6 lineman. He’s capable of playing any spot along the line, including center, in a reserve capacity. Jaimes does have starting potential as a right tackle, but in Cleveland he capably fills the role of swing reserve–at least early in his career.
No. 211: Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
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Mitchell is a nice late-round RB prospect with a polished inside-to-outside game and decent hands in the passing game. He was very productive for the Ragin Cajuns with a running style similar to Kareem Hunt, though he’s not as fast or as shifty with his feet in traffic. The Browns could use a No. 3 RB with some between-the-tackles ability, and Mitchell consistently maximized what was blocked for him in college. Good fit.
No. 231: Shane Buechele, QB, SMU
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Buechele has some physical limitations, but he’s a nice fit for what Kevin Stefanski’s offense requires of a quarterback. He’s smart, accurate, poised and tough as nails. He lacks Baker Mayfield’s arm strength and isn’t much of a threat to make plays outside the base structure, however. His leadership and precision on tight-window throws are worth a longer look for the Browns, who have the aging Case Keenum and the underwhelming Kyle Lauletta behind Mayfield currently.