The 2019 NFL Draft is just a week away. The Browns may not have a first-round pick, but the team still holds eight picks over the course of the seven rounds. So, Cleveland can still improve this roster through the draft. The Browns have already upgraded the roster with their moves in free agency and the trade market. These moves have shifted the balance of the team and have helped shore up some of the big needs on the roster. I examined the team’s biggest needs going into free agency. So, what are the biggest needs now going into the 2019 NFL Draft? Well, here is how I rank the needs on the Browns roster going into next week’s draft.
1. Offensive Tackles
I believe the offensive tackle positions are the biggest needs left on the Browns depth chart. It is a position where the starters do not give me a ton of confidence. Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard had OK years last year, but they are both players who the Browns could definitely look to replace with better players. This year’s draft class is really good at the offensive tackle spot. So, the Browns could get a shot at No. 49 to find an offensive tackle to either replace one of the tackles or prep one to develop behind the two starters. Guys like Dalton Risner or Greg Little could slip to that spot in the draft given how deep the position class is this year.
I have the linebacker corps as my No. 2 biggest need on the Browns. With the release of Jamie Collins, the Browns depth chart is thin at linebacker. Joe Schobert is the leader at linebacker and the centerpiece of the position. Christian Kirksey brings experience, but injuries and a drop in play is a little concerning. I do not think Genard Avery is the answer at the third linebacker spot on the depth chart, because I think he is best at edge rusher where he can rush the passer. So, the Browns should definitely look to add a linebacker before entering training camp. The draft is not strong at this position, but a player like Mack Wilson in the second or third round could be a nice option.
3. Interior Defensive Line
Interior defensive line is still a big need even after the huge acquisition of Sheldon Richardson. The depth of the Browns interior defensive line is simply non-existent after Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi. Beyond these two talented starters, the Browns need talent at the position. Cleveland could look to add at least two interior defensive linemen in the draft. Luckily, the 2019 NFL Draft is extremely deep at this position. Guys like Dre’Mont Jones, Jerry Tillery, and Khalen Saunders could be options for the Browns in the second or third round. The team should definitely hit this position hard to give this unit better depth next season.
Denzel Ward is the cornerstone of the cornerback unit, while Terrance Mitchell is a corner who I think can be a quality starter alongside Ward. An injury derailed Mitchell’s season last year, but when he was on the field, he played well. T.J. Carrie is a quality slot corner, while Phillip Gaines is a depth level corner. Eric Murray could be a factor at this position, which will help the depth. But, the Browns could be wary of the unit’s vulnerability to injuries. Ward had a string of concussions that cannot be overlooked. Mitchell missed quite a bit of time last season. So, the starting duo is faced with injury concerns going forward. Cleveland may want to nab another starting level corner in the draft to help alleviate the stress of losing either player and having to put in one of the corners who are better at specific roles and not as a starter. Amani Oruwariye, Trayvon Mullen and Rock Ya-Sin could be available in the second round and be possible starting level corners in the NFL.
5. Special Teams
Cleveland has added a lot of nice mid-level free agents who can help upgrade the Browns special teams, especially on the coverage teams. I like Britton Colquitt at punter. But, the Browns kicker position is still a big need in my opinion. I am just not overly confident in Greg Joseph as the team’s kicker. Though, I am not to keen on picking a rookie kicker. I would only look to upgrade the position through free agency with a veteran kicker.
6. Edge Defenders
The Browns alleviated this need quite a bit with the acquisition of Olivier Vernon. Vernon forms a great starting duo with Myles Garrett. Behind these two, Genard Avery showed exceptional promise as a pass rusher, while Chris Smith and Anthony Zettel were solid contributors. The Browns could use another edge rusher who could be a more consistent pass rusher than Smith and Zettel. The 2019 NFL Draft is filled with edge rushers this year, so the Browns could definitely find a player to fill this need. Oshane Ximines and Chase Winovich are two edge rushers who could be available in the second round.
7. Tight Ends
David Njoku, who has all the potential and talent to explode this season and be considered one of the top tight ends in the league, leads the Browns tight end unit. Behind Njoku, the Browns have Demetrius Harris, who is best at blocking, and Seth DeValve, who is a pass catcher primarily. The Browns have a good mix of blocking and receiving talent in their backup group, but the consistency is not there. Both DeValve and Harris have not been consistent players throughout their career. So, the Browns may look to nab a tight end in the draft to pair up with Njoku. Freddie Kitchens may want a more reliable second tight end, so he can use two tight end sets more often. Irv Smith could slip to the second round, while Dawson Knox is another interesting name in the middle rounds.
The Browns safety position is an interesting unit. After the Browns traded away Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, the safety unit had a big hole. But, the Browns shored up the hole with the acquisitions of Morgan Burnett and Eric Murray. Burnett should be a suitable starter at strong safety in replace of Peppers, while Eric Murray will be a player who can move around the secondary to fill multiple roles for the defense. But, the Browns could look to find a more long-term starter in the draft. Juan Thornhill could be an option in the second round to fill this long-term need.
9. Interior Offensive Line
The Browns interior offensive line has been the strength of the offense for many years. Even though the team traded offensive guard Kevin Zeitler this offseason, the interior offensive line is still in good hands. Left guard Joel Bitonio and center J.C. Tretter are two of the better players in the entire league at their respective positions. The only question mark is new right guard Austin Corbett, as he will be thrust into his first full time starting position. But, I believe he will be good at right guard. He has the talent to fit right in and be a quality guard. The Browns have two experienced backup offensive guards in Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann. The only area the Browns may look to improve at is the backup center spot. But, the Browns will probably not spend one of their top picks at this area of the roster.
10. Wide Receivers
The Browns have had so much trouble at finding wide receivers over the last many years, but that is not the case anymore. With the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns wide receiver position is filled with talent. With Beckham as the star receiver, the Browns have Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway to be the main contributors next to Beckham. Damion Ratley is another younger receiver who could also develop and be a possible contributor. So, the Browns are pretty set at this position. But, Cleveland could still look to nab a receiver late in the draft to add even more depth at the position.
Baker Mayfield is the franchise quarterback. The Browns do not need to be in the market for a quarterback and that is a great thing. Drew Stanton is the veteran presence in the unit, while Garrett Gilbert is a young quarterback who the Browns took a flier on this offseason. Cleveland could take another flier on a quarterback, this time in the draft. A late-round selection of a quarterback could give the franchise a young player to develop and maybe turn into a trade asset down the road as the Patriots did with Jimmy Garoppolo. Nevertheless, the Browns quarterback unit is in great hands with Mayfield.
12. Running Backs
The Browns running backs unit is the deepest and most talented unit on the roster. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are two of the best young running backs in the entire league. The unit also has Duke Johnson, who can be a versatile weapon for the offense. There have been rumors of a Duke Johnson trade, but if they stay the course with these three backs, the Browns are set at this unit.