The Cleveland Browns were one of the bigger surprises during the 2020 NFL season and are poised to truly break out in 2021. A focus for this offseason has been on the defensive side of the ball, as Cleveland will look to improve on an underwhelming season from that unit. Now, the 2021 NFL Draft is coming up quickly and the Browns will have to make sure to nail their picks.
Cleveland ranked 21st in the NFL on defense in 2020, as that unit fell a little short of their offense, which was 14th despite losing Odell Beckham Jr. to a torn ACL. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are legitimate cornerstones on defense, but they could use some help.
The Browns signed John Johnson III to help at safety, Takkarist McKinley to help on the edge, and Troy Hill at cornerback. While they will help, that should not stop them from adding more talent to their defense in the 2021 NFL Draft.
With the No. 26 overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Browns should focus on adding a defender. These three players would fit the bill should they be available when Cleveland comes on the clock.
3. IDL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
The Browns need some help along their defensive line as Larry Ogunjobi departed in free agency. While Onwuzurike may be a bit of a reach at this spot, he does fill a need on the interior of their defensive line.
The former Washington prospect is disruptive in the middle of the line with great athleticism and quickness that can translate to pass rushing. He is a strong run defender as well, making him someone opposing offenses focus on and helping ease some pressure off of all-world pass rusher Myles Garrett.
Onwuzurike could develop into a starter down the road and if he added size could play in a 3-4 front as well.
2. EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL)
Rousseau is one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft class. He opted out of the 2020 season after a monster 2019 in which he had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. So why is he so low on some mock drafts? Because he is very raw and has some work to do developmentally.
He has excellent size and length, and his athleticism is evident as he played wide receiver and safety in college, but is underdeveloped thus far. If given the opportunity to develop, Rousseau could become a game-changer along the defensive line. But with 2019 being the only real tape people have on him along the defensive line, teams are rightfully hesitant.
The Browns need a replacement across from Myles Garrett with Olivier Vernon a free agent, and Rousseau could eventually give them that. Given the position they are in, they can afford him the time he needs to develop and he would be learning from one of the best in the business.
1. Linebacker Zaven Collins, Tulsa
Linebacker is arguably the biggest need for the Browns heading into the NFL Draft. They addressed safety and cornerback in free agency, and now it is time to upgrade the second level of their defense.
There are a few linebackers that could be available in this spot, lining up need and value. Zaven Collins won the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player and would instantly upgrade the team’s defense.
Collins is a complete defender that gets it done in all facets of the game, whether it be as a pass rusher, against the run, or dropping into coverage. His versatility is perfect for the modern NFL and would be an excellent addition to the Browns should he be available when they are on the clock.