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As the Cleveland Browns prepare, by taking a few days off, for Week 1 and the Kansas City Chiefs, general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski prepare to see the fruits of their two years of labor together.
While the focus of all NFL draft classes is on the general manager, the collaboration between those picking the players and those using the players on the field is vital. It is why Cleveland’s brass used the word “alignment” throughout the process that led to Stefanski then Berry being hired in the winter of 2020.
Berry has to understand what Stefanski and the coaching staff are looking for while Stefanski needs to use the players to the best of their abilities.
That being said, Berry gets final credit and blame for those players he has added to the roster. That is especially true when it come to the NFL draft. With the 2021 season about to kick off, it is a good time to take a quick view of where Berry’s first two draft classes stand as of now.
The final evaluations of any draft class are best done three to four years following that draft but that doesn’t mean we can’t compile information early to track the progress.
(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
2020 - LT Jedrick Wills In his first NFL draft, Berry had a big need at left tackle. After acquiring Jack Conklin in free agency, the Browns still needed a blindside protector for Baker Mayfield. Enter the very young Wills from Alabama. Wills played fine as a rookie but struggled at times. This was to be expected given the pandemic-related limitations, switching from right to left tackle and his youthfulness. Despite all of that, Wills wasn't a weak link and now, with a full offseason, is primed to take a big step forward. 2021 - CB Greg Newsome II Berry wasn't as cornered with his first-round pick this year. Instead, he focused on talent, positional value and possible need with the selection of Newsome. So far so good with the Northwestern star corner. He has shown the versatility to play inside and out, an understanding of route combinations and the speed, quickness combination the team valued when selecting him. He could start in Week 1 and, even if he doesn't start, should play a big role. Analyzing AB - So far so good with his top picks. Wills looks like a budding star while Newsome seems to belong as a starting corner on a quality team as a rookie. Not much more you can ask for.
2020 - S Grant Delpit Unfortunately for Berry and Delpit, this pick is graded as incomplete. Delpit fell in the 2020 NFL draft for a variety of reasons but looked like a steal before rupturing his Achilles. His return during the 2021 training camp has been limited with continued injury concerns. Cleveland expects Delpit to be ready to play early in the season, perhaps in Week 1, but fans are expecting the worst at this point. 2021 - LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah The Notre Dame linebacker also fell for a variety of reasons but, like Newsome, looks like the real deal as a rookie. While it is visually obvious that JOK is small compared to most linebackers, he showed in preseason he makes plays no matter what. Owusu-Koramoah may not start for the Browns in Week 1 but he will see the field and give defensive coordinator Joe Woods a lot of versatility to work with. Analyzing AB - Both Delpit and JOK were expected to be drafted much higher but fell. Berry took a chance on falling talent in the second round. This will be an interesting theme to watch in the coming years. For now, Delpit can't be graded because of injuries but the rookie linebacker could be a stud very quickly.
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2020 - DT Jordan Elliott, LB Jacob Phillips Two players who struggled as rookies but the team had high hopes for going into 2021, Berry's first third-round has some work to do. Elliott is still battling among a variety of players for playing time on the interior of the defensive line. While he has a chance to play an important role, the team brought in veteran Malik Jackson to start and tried to bring back Sheldon Richardson as well. Phillips' rookie season was limited by leg injuries but he was showing well in camp before hurting his bicep. Originally it was reported that he would miss the entire season but, instead, was placed on injured reserve at a point so that he could return this season. With Anthony Walker brought in via free agency and Owusu-Koramoah drafted in 2021, Phillips could have a fight for playing time if and when he does return. 2021 - WR Anthony Schwartz Speed, speed and more speed. Schwartz was drafted for his speed but also for the future. In 2021, Cleveland has Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins ahead of the rookie on the depth chart. Schwartz may be able to make an impact play here and there for the offense and on special teams but, due to the team's depth, may have to wait a season to really shine. Analyzing AB - The third round isn't a round to point to as a win for Berry so far. His three picks could have minimal impact in 2021 with Elliott and Phillips needing to show something to be counted on for the future. Schwartz is more of a long-term play with a chance to make a couple of impact plays in 2021.
(AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)
2020 - TE Harrison Bryant An example of talent being drafted over need, Bryant fell to Cleveland in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft and Berry decided he need to take him. As a rookie, Bryant flashed at times but showed a need for more functional strength to be a part of the every-down offense. Not much has changed in 2021 but Bryant's numbers could increase slightly before even more chances opening up in 2022. 2021 - OL James Hudson, DT Tommy Togiai Hudson and Togiai were similar selections as Bryant for Berry, talent that fell further than expected. From the start, Hudson looked like a developmental player with upside but needing a lot of work. During preseason, that evaluation was proven correct but the Browns gave him a lot of snaps to help him develop. The team could be hoping they have no reason to use Hudson much in 2021 while hoping for better when called upon in the future. Togiai joins Elliott in a battle on the inside of the defensive line but didn't separate himself much in training camp. As a fourth-round pick, this isn't surprising but Berry is hoping for production in line with Bryant's rookie season from Togiai. Analyzing AB - The Bryant pick looks like good value while Hudson's future is the only thing important for him. Togiai's ability to soak up snaps at both the 1-tech and 3-tech positions will be important to keep the line fresh in 2021 and to help Berry's fourth-round grade be better than middling in year two.
(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
2020 - OL Nick Harris A player that was seen as fitting the zone blocking scheme that Stefanski runs, Harris is still seen as the future center for Cleveland. Size is a real concern for this pick as he can get stronger and learn from Bill Callahan but will it be enough to make up for his stature? J.C. Tretter has had some struggles staying healthy so the Browns might see Harris sooner than desired. He has a lot to prove, if he gets a chance, in year two. 2021 - LB Tony Fields II, S Richard LeCounte III Two more players drafted with the long-term in mind, Cleveland is hopeful that Fields and LeCounte can help on special teams as rookies. Fields has struggled to even see the field during the offseason but LeCounte has flashed as a ballhawk safety in the preseason. As fifth-rounders, their special teams play will be the most important while waiting for a chance to play more on defense in the coming years. Analyzing AB - A lot left to be determined but that is not surprising when you get into the fifth round. Berry and the team hope that Tretter stays healthy and Harris continues to develop for the future while Fields and LeCounte may have more of a shot to produce as rookies than Harris does in his second year. LeCounte looks like a steal, already, for Berry.
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)
2020 - WR Donovan Peoples-Jones The state of Ohio, or most of it, has a love-hate relationship with Jim Harbaugh. They hate the school he coaches but love that The Ohio State Buckeyes get to beat him quite often. Peoples-Jones gives Browns fans another reason to love Harbaugh as his poor use of DPJ caused him to slip to the sixth round. While he didn't have a ton of catches, Peoples-Jones flashed as a rookie and has been the star of training camp in 2021. A steal of a pick. 2021 - RB/WR Demetric Felton Could lightning strike twice for Berry in the sixth round? Felton's versatility has popped off the page for the Browns in camp. While listed as a running back, in most places, Felton has looked his best as a slot receiver option. He will also get a chance to make an impact as a returner. Can he have a similar rookie season as DPJ and develop an important role for the offense in the following years? Analyzing AB - So far, Berry has seemed to hit home runs with value picks in this round drafting underutilized, dynamic players.
Seventh Round and Overall Thoughts
(AP Photo/Steve Luciano)
2020 - No picks 2021 - No picks Analyzing AB - It seems Berry has little use of seventh-round selections. Instead, he has signed two of the most sought-after undrafted free agents, A.J. Green and Marvin Wilson, shortly after the draft ended. At the end of a very long three days, Berry has given media and fans the final stanza off from having to focus on Analyzing AB's First Two Years So far, Andrew Berry has been very good at the top of his drafts and at the bottoms. Adding Wills, Newsome and JOK in the first two rounds is some great additions. Delpit's major injury could seriously hurt Berry's hit rate but that is still to be determined. Late, with the additions of LeCounte, DPJ and Felton, Berry also has made some very good picks of value. It is the middle rounds where Berry could set himself aside as an elite drafter. While the hit rates go down quickly, teams should still expect some solid production in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. So far, only Bryant and LeCounte look certain to provide some of that. The rest have work to do. Even so, that is a solid hit rate but far from elite. Berry has been very good at drafting players that Stefanski can use wisely. It will be interesting how his first two drafts are graded after four years but, for now, he gets a solid grade of 'B' with a chance that the grade could quickly go up to an 'A' or 'A+' depending on a few players.