How big of an impact can the Browns 2020 NFL draft class have in 2021?

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There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Cleveland Browns going into the 2021 season. It all started with their great results in 2020 and continued into a very good offseason. Their 2021 NFL draft class, with Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah leading the way, was the cherry on top of an “excitement sundae” this offseason.

While that excitement is great for fans as training camp approaches, very rarely do quality teams rely on multiple rookies to make a significant, consistent impact throughout a season. Instead, rookies often flash quality play but struggle or hit the dread “rookie wall” later in the season.

While the Browns 2021 draft class has a lot of potential, it is possible that Andrew Berry’s first draft class, in 2020 could have a bigger impact. Taking a look back at each of those picks, where could they improve? What competition do they face for a bigger role? What can we expect from them in 20201?

OT Jedrick Wills

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

With his first pick as an NFL general manager, Berry selected Jedrick Wills out of Alabama. The college right tackle was quickly slotted in as the team's starting left tackle from day one. Wills, like most rookies, had his ups and downs but played well enough to keep the team's offensive line as a strength. Wills graded out at 61.5 from Pro Football Focus. Wills had one of the worst grades among Browns offensive players last season. PFF also noted that Wills gave up four sacks last year and had 11 penalties. Both numbers could improve in year two under Bill Callahan. Wills was a young draft entrant and has a lot of room for improvement. Wills is locked in as the team's starting left tackle for years to come. While the Browns drafted James Hudson in the fourth round this year, his role will come on the right side or on the inside, barring an injury to Wills. A significant bump in play from Wills should be expected in year two which can only help the Browns offense take another step forward and help offset any age-related decline from Joel Bitonio and/or J.C. Tretter.

S Grant Delpit

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Having Grant Delpit return from injury is like adding another second-round pick this year. Delpit tore his Achilles before the season started after falling to Cleveland much later than most expected. Things have changed in the defensive backfield in that time as the Browns traded for Ronnie Harrison and signed John Johnson III. While defensive coordinator Joe Woods wants to play three safeties often, Delpit could have to fight for as many snaps as possible. In what will be his rookie year, Delpit could be the wild card that helps take the Browns over the top with his size and speed combination.

DL Jordan Elliott

(Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)

With their first pick in the third round, the Browns added Jordan Elliott out of Missouri. Elliott, again like most rookies, struggled with the size and speed of interior offensive linemen at the NFL level. Like Wills, Elliott had one of the worst PFF grades for Browns defenders at 51.3. He struggled against the run and pass most of the season. This offseason, Cleveland cut Sheldon Richardson but brought in Malik Jackson to replace him. The Browns also added Tommy Togiai in the draft and signed Marvin Wilson as a priority free agent. With Myles Garrett and free-agent additions Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley able to slide inside, Elliott will have to fight for a bigger role in his second season.

LB Jacob Phillips

(AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)

While injuries were a big problem for Jacob Phillips, he only played 244 snaps, his play was even worse. The worst PFF grade of any Browns defender, yes even behind Andrew Sendejo, Phillips has a lot to prove as the Browns second third-round pick last year. Phillips showed that he has a lot of speed, when healthy, but the rest of his game was problematic as a rookie. In his second year, the former LSU Tiger will have competition with Anthony Walker coming over in free agency, Malcolm Smith returning for another year and the addition of Owusu-Koramoah and Tony Fields II. In a passing-oriented league, the Browns may only have one linebacker on the field most of the time. Even when they have two, Phillips has a battle on his hands to get on the field for the defense. His play on special teams is one way to grab his coach's attention.

TE Harrison Bryant

(AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

A slightly surprising pick, Harrison Bryant was added to a position group that already had Austin Hooper and David Njoku. The Browns had to take a chance on Bryant in the fourth round as they had a higher grade on him. Bryant presented as the rookie who would flash but struggle with consistency. He caught 24 passes for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2020. His PFF grade was quite low at 59.4 but his pass blocking was very good at 69.2. While the Browns didn't add to their tight end room this offseason, the return of Odell Beckham Jr., the drafting of Anthony Schwartz and the plan to use Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the field together could keep Bryant from matching his 625 snaps from last season.

C Nick Harris

(Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Drafting Nick Harris was a similar value pick for the Browns in the fifth round. Harris is the perfect fit for a zone-blocking scheme but he has some size disadvantages that needed work. Harris played admirably in training camp as Tretter recovered from injury but was clearly undersized and not ready for the strength of the NFL. Unless he takes a huge step forward or Tretter takes a big step backward, Harris will remain as a backup in the middle of the offensive line. If either of those things happens and Harris is the team's starter, the Browns would only gain about $300,000 in cap space by cutting Tretter. Highly unlikely. Instead, Harris could be the Browns starter in 2022 if he shows well in training camp or when called into duty.

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Cleveland's last three picks in the 2020 NFL draft all seem like relative steals compared to where many had them pegged. Peoples-Jones, similar to Bryant, showed flashes as a rookie with 14 receptions for 304 yards and two (very big) touchdowns. Peoples-Jones will be in an interesting position in his second season. While he showed a lot of talent, the Browns drafted Schwartz to add speed to the receiver group as well as have Beckham Jr. returning. Peoples-Jones has an uphill battle to be able to make a bigger impact in 2021 than he did in 2020. With Kevin Stefanski preferring to run two tight end sets most often, the Browns final pick in the 2020 NFL draft will have to shine with a similar snap count as last year (360).

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