Browns Armchair Draft-Act II
This is when the real fans start separating themselves from the so-called “die hards”. For the second stint of Browns picks, we’re going to examine some great possibilities for the second pick of round two and the three other second-day picks in rounds three and four.
Round 2, Pick 52 Overall (19th in round): Defensive Tackle Jaleel Johnson, Iowa
The Browns need to add more depth to the interior of the d-line, which is headlined by emerging stud Danny Shelton. With a promising young core of pass rushers (let’s not forget 2015 second round pick Nate Orchard), Johnson would be great lined up next to Shelton. He made a living getting penetration with his strength and getting under offensive linemen, and with a 6'4, 310-pound frame getting leverage is not easy.
Johnson played the majority of his snaps the last two seasons, and his production spike in those years demonstrated that he was an intelligent player who put the work in to be a contributor at the next level. In 2016, Johnson had 56 tackles, including ten behind the line of scrimmage and 7.5 sacks (per Sports Reference). He led the Iowa Hawkeyes in tackles for loss and sacks, which was good enough for being named first-team All Big Ten (per nfl.com).
Here’s an outstanding video breakdown from Setting The Edge on how his technique is so much better than a prospect of similar draft grade in Auburn’s Montravius Adams, who has been getting a ton of hype without having much quality tape on the field.
The Browns need more consistent penetration from their defensive line to keep linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey free on early downs. Johnson can be effective on the field all three downs as well, however.
He continuously showcased his polished set of pass rush moves that are uncommon for a college interior defensive lineman to have outside of a simple bull rush. According to Pro Football Focus, he was sixth in the nation with 43 QB pressures in his pass rush snaps. That’s not too shabby for being 310 pounds. He had two pass deflections, too. In this RSP Film Room episode, Matt Waldman and Charles McDonald dive deep into just how much of a mismatch Johnson can be as an interior force with athleticism and sound fundamentals.
With Johnson and Shelton on the inside, along with hard-working Jamie Meder, the Browns wouldn’t have to blitz as much to get pressure. That would enable them be more exotic in their coverage schemes, and potentially create more turnovers with more bodies in the back end. Johnson can step in right away and be an impact player on the line of scrimmage.
Round 3, Overall Pick 65 (1st in round): Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado
The Browns do not have a plethora of quality man-to-man cover guys outside the numbers right now, and this would be a great developmental move with Joe Haden regressing in both health and production these last two seasons. Witherspoon has the ability to make plays some other corners cannot with his skill set, and he is just scratching the surface of his potential as a dominant cover man at the NFL level.
He was very effective in a key game against Utah, where he made a few key pass breakups. The touchdown he did concede late in the game was simply a tremendous catch. He shows great promise, and you can see the talent of this rangy corner in the red zone. Long arms are key for outside corners in the NFL going up against huge receivers, and he certainly has them.
He’s tough to get on top of on fades with his 40.5-inch vertical (per CBS Sports), and can recover when beaten on slants and breaking in-routes with that 6'3 length and good closing speed. This interception in the end zone against Oregon gave Colorado a huge W.
Witherspoon does need to get stronger and more physical against the run, as he’s only listed at 198 pounds (per nfl.com). That’s a weakness that can be greatly improved with hard work and the right attitude, though. He also does need to get quicker to play in the slot, but that’s not realistically his skill set anyhow.
The key is this: Witherspoon was tied for first in the country with 13 pass breakups last season, and he allowed an under 32% completion rate (according to Pro Football Focus). Only four corners allowed a lower completion percentage.
He could be a Pro Bowl cornerback for many years in the Browns secondary, which is something that all defensive coordinators covet in today’s league now more than ever.
Round 4, Overall Pick 108 (1st in round): Tight End George Kittle, Iowa
With Hue Jackson leading the offense, the Browns need to have versatility at the tight end position. That’s Kittle’s calling card. He has three-down expertise, as Kittle is possibly the best blocking tight end in this class, which is one of the deepest at the position in recent memory.
Pro Football Focus rated him as the second-best run blocking tight end last season of potential prospects in this draft, as numerous clips show him driving edge defenders way off the line of scrimmage. The way the tight end position has shifted, that kind of blocking acumen can be crucial on early down personnel groupings and short-yardage situations.
This play against Nebraska on the goal-line highlights his toughness and willingness to do the dirty work. His block on Nebraska’s edge defender in the hole opens up a hole the size of the Amazon River for running back LeShun Daniels Jr.
The Browns also would get a mismatch in the passing game with the former Iowa Hawkeye lined up over slower linebackers and shorter safeties. With a reliable starter in Gary Barnidge as a mentor, the Browns could get a great safety net for a young quarterback here in the 6-foot-4 Kittle. He can move the sticks in the slot and as a flanker lined up near the line.
The Browns would be getting outstanding situational value here, as he can make things happen for backs in the run game with fundamental blocking technique and with soft hands a young QB can rely on when nothing else is open down the field. Kittle’s catch radius was really underused at Iowa in a predominantly run-oriented, ball-control offense.
Jackson can have a handful of plays for him that will make the Browns offense more multi-dimensional with two-tight end sets. Kittle’s Big Ten toughness would fit right in with the black-and-blue style of play in the AFC North division.
Round 4, Overall Pick 142 (34th in round): Safety John Johnson, Boston College
With the Browns addressing their other in-box type safety hole in getting Melifonwu, I love the idea of getting the 6'0, 208-pound DB here. At BC, Johnson showed he is someone you can trust in leading the back end of your defense. He has shown the ability to play both in the slot in man alignment and in the deep third.
If the Browns could have Melifonwu more near the line of scrimmage coming downhill and in the flat with Johnson providing the center field help for corners, the Cleveland pass defense could be formidable for years to come. Johnson creates turnovers, as he has very good ball skills and is adept at play recognition from reading a QB’s eyes.
None of the current Browns safeties can be effective in a center field role, and Johnson could potentially be that type of player that is the “quarterback” of the secondary. He had six picks in his two seasons playing safety at BC (per Sports Reference), and he could potentially fill the void left by Tashaun Gipson going to Jacksonville via free agency a few years ago.
Johnson is a good tackler as well, but he isn’t a defender who is going to really make impact hits at the safety position. He did have 77 tackles in 2016, though, so it’s not like he won’t get the job done. The Browns could get a starter right away here at the free safety position with Johnson’s high-level football IQ and ball-hawking ability.