Browns, NFL Draft

Defensive: WFNY Mock NFL Draft Strategies

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Why let the MSM sites have all the fun? While WFNY will continue to bring you headlines demonstrating what many of the industry leaders believe the Cleveland Browns will do in the 2017 NFL Draft, a new series of articles is being created to go more in depth about the different strategies the Browns might take in the first two rounds of the draft.

The MSM mock from this week highlighted CBS Sports Rob Rang where he gave the Browns Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick and Teez Tabor with the No. 12 pick. While he did not give a second round to his selections, the emphasis was obviously on providing help on the defensive side for the newly hired Gregg Williams.

WFNY will see how else the Browns might utilize this defense-first strategy.

The Rules

  • No trades unless the strategy is specifically geared around trades.
  • Demonstrate multiple options at each pick within the confines of the strategy.
  • Use a MSM Big Board to demonstrate feasibility of picks.
  • Select picks at the Browns four picks in Round 1 and Round 2.

The Draft Strategy

There is a significant thought that it is more important for a NFL team to be elite at one thing in order to be consistently successful (while not being terrible at anything). The Atlanta Falcons are demonstrating how an elite offense can mask an average defense. The Chiefs have shown the past few years how an elite defense can mask an average offense.

In order for a defense-first strategy to work for the Browns in 2017, they will need to dip into some of the $50 million in rollover cap room available to help the offense. In total, the Browns have over $107 million in cap room available for 2017 before potential cost-cutting moves such as re-adjusting the contract of cornerback Joe Haden.

The Browns can start utilizing that money to re-sign linebacker Jamie Collins and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.

The free agent market happens to be unusually strong with many starter-quality players that will be testing the market unless their teams come to terms with them before March. The Browns could boost their offensive line with signings such as J.C. Tretter (Green Bay center), Kevin Zeitler (Cincinnati Bengals guard), and/or Ricky Wagner (Baltimore Ravens tackle). Signing wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey might be too difficult a task, but there are other pass-catchers such as Kenny Britt who can add experience to the Browns there.

The key to the strategy is that the Buffalo Bills are expected to cut quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who the Browns could add as an immediate upgrade without sacrificing draft assets.

The Picks

WFNY Mock is sticking with CBS Sports for the big board this week. The selections below were all available at each spot.

No. 1 DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Garrett is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this draft. There are no other options as the quarterback class is weaker than usual at the top. Jonathan Allen, Malik Hooker, and Jamal Adams are all fine players, but Garrett is an elite disruptor.

No. 12 S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams does not run a true 4-3 or 3-4. He will mix-and-match his defenses on the fly and even allow his linebackers to call defensive audibles based on offensive formation. Having a versatile player such as Peppers would allow him to shift between multiple looks in those audibles without having to change the player package on the field.

Alternate selections:
CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

No. 33 DT Caleb Brantley, Florida
One option might be for the Browns to select McMillan from the Buckeyes. He is an inside linebacker who would allow Williams to have Christian Kirksey and Collins play the outside spots. The only issue is that he would not be the flexible-fit that other players could be and it might be a bit of a luxury to pick him given the other players on the board.

The Browns have a solid 1-technique defensive tackle in Danny Shelton. Des Bryant is supposed to be their 3-technique tackle, but there are concerns about him being a consistent contributor. So, enter Caleb Brantley who will allow the Browns to have the needed depth to the inside of the defensive line. Bryant is incredibly quick who should thrive as a gap-shooting tackle in William’s scheme.

Alternate selections:
ILB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
DE DeMarcus Walker, FSU
CB Tre’Davious White, LSU

No. 52 CB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
Having Budda Baker available at this pick is tempting. However, adding Jabrill Peppers at safety above means there is more need at cornerback and two players who fit well there too. The 2017 NFL Draft is just absolutely loaded with defensive back talent.

Speaking of tempting, Adoree Jackson is an all-everything type talent. He can return kicks, help on offense, as well as move around in the secondary. He is the type of versatile athlete that the Browns should love to have on their team. The problem is that if the Browns want him at cornerback, then they would be playing into his weakness. Jackson is more of a zone corner who might even move to free safety in the NFL.

The consolation prize is incredible. Lewis is expected to drop in the draft due to his limited size at 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds, but his talent is undeniable. He is the draft’s best cover corner, who fits the Williams press scheme perfectly. His size can hurt him as a run supporter, but Lewis carries a bit of that Skrine-style scrappiness. The Browns would have to be careful about his match ups (Andy Dalton to A.J. Green jump balls would destroy him), but Lewis can stay with any receiver with great footwork and hip movement.

Alternate selections:
S Budda Baker, Washington
CB Adoree Jackson, USC
FS Marcus Williams, Utah

Last Word

It is doubtful the Browns would utilize their first four picks on defense, but careful planning and execution during free agency could allow them to take advantage of a deep defensive draft. A defense adding Garrett, Peppers, Bryant, and Lewis could make huge leaps towards respectability in 2017.

  • mgbode

    nj0 was 2 years ago – unless we can find something earlier, I believe it was him.

  • mgbode

    Oh great, whaddya go and do that for… now I need to find another sensitive player to argue about next week.

  • Chris

    It’s the best nation in the nation.

  • Chris
  • Chris

    I’m guessing Zeke just increased the market on those top running backs. Very possible.

  • tigersbrowns2

    damn , MG is Johnny-on-the-spot !!

  • BenRM

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • mgbode

    I just have more powerful search engines since I can use the backend server.

  • WFNY_DP

    I agree on not taking Peppers at 12 because he’s a high ceiling/potentially low floor guy, especially if he gets miscast. The Browns need someone who might have a lower ceiling overall, but that has a higher floor and can be counted on to contribute right away.

    I will also admit to having my defenses up about him as a player because I read so much about how overrated he is (the commentariat on Eleven Warriors graded him as anywhere from a 4th to a 7th rounder, possibly deserving of being undrafted, which I’m sure was about 90% homer bias and hopefully sarcasm), and it flies in the face of everything I’ve watched over the past two years.

    But, please, I need to see the tape of his “diving at the ankles and whiffing” tactics, because it just doesn’t jibe with what I watched. And I watched it all.

    I’m sorry if this seems like I’m piling on you; it’s not a personal thing. It’s perfectly fine to not like a player and/or not want to draft him at a certain spot. There are certainly some things to question w/r/t his game and how it fits in the NFL (I, again, have questions about his coverage ability). But I don’t think the thing you keep citing is accurate.

  • scripty

    It’s fine. I also think what I’ve seen was possibly from his soph year (he had a 20% missed tackle rate) but he did get that down to 5%. I can’t speak to what year the highlights were from so it’s not the hill I feel I need to die on.

    I recall a crossing route where the slot got a cross (the Mike blitzed). He’s there on the weakside and just flailed as the WR ran in (back towards line then upfield unimpeded. THAT SAID, I admit I can’t recall upon introspection what year that was).

    Last night I tried to query All Pros and impact guys that switched position. I feel there’s some that field his SS time is adaquate whereas I am not comfortable with him. (Here I am talking myself on thinking he should go lower than 33). So I feel this is a position switch, but others can discuss that more at length than I can.

    I speak this not from some Buckeyes allegiance nonsense, but probably gunshy about position switches. Go Browns.

  • Frank

    Peppers at 12 is a bad pick. Not good at coverage. Mediocre production. Many many better options at that pick. Even under the defense first strategy, Adams, Hooker, Thomas (assuming the browns believe he can play 3T), and best CB available are all better picks.

  • Not so patient

    I would love this, although it would force us to go OL with every other pick.