2023 NFL Draft: Top 3 needs for the Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders
Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders

The Cleveland Browns will be in a challenging position in the 2023 NFL draft. They don’t have picks in the first two rounds, mainly because of the trade that brought them quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Their earliest pick would be 74th overall as part of the trade that landed them wide receiver Elijah Moore.

Seeing how general manager Andrew Berry will navigate the draft would be fascinating. Without much draft capital, the Browns would have to trade down if they needed additional picks. However, it’s noteworthy that the Browns finished 7-10 last season, despite Watson serving an 11-game suspension.

But the Cleveland Browns cannot rest on the possibility of a better record with Watson, Moore, and Dalvin Tomlinson on board. After all, they are playing in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions: the AFC North. Unfortunately, they cannot make any additional moves in free agency due to their $7 million cap space.

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They must upgrade their roster to stand a chance against division rivals the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cincinnati Bengals. That said, here are three positions the Cleveland Browns must prioritize in addressing through the draft.

#1. The Cleveland Browns need more firepower at wide receiver

Watson has the arm to complete long throws to Moore, Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and tight end David Njoku. However, given other teams' talent at wideout, they will need more depth in this position.

The Bengals have Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase. Pittsburgh has Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Allen Robinson II. The Ravens added Odell Beckham Jr.

If these teams run up the score by unleashing their passing attack, the Browns must have the ability to respond.

Adding a wide receiver opens up their offense even more. They can get one-on-one matchups by sending in more wideouts. Likewise, using two or three wide receiver formations opens up wider lanes for running back Nick Chubb to exploit.

Having a deeper rotation at wide receiver will also prevent opposing defenses from loading the box too often in anticipation of a run play. It doesn’t hurt to give Watson more targets downfield, especially after the Browns finished 22nd in passing yards per game (202.6).

#2. The Cleveland Browns could use additional defensive backs

The Cleveland Browns have a decent rotation at cornerback with Greg Newsome II and Denzel Ward. However, the safety position could be a cause for concern. Replacing John Johnson with Juan Thornhill doesn’t improve their pass defense, and it might have even regressed. Thornhill gave up triple-digit quarterback ratings when targeted from 2020 to 2022.

Meanwhile, his fellow starting safety, Grant Delpit, improved last year. His numbers are significantly higher than in 2021, earning him a starting role. Even then, they need more talent in the secondary to slow down the opponent’s passing attack.

#3. The Cleveland Browns are in dire need of defensive linemen

Getting Ogbonnia Okoronkwo gives them another defensive end that can pressure opposing quarterbacks. However, he and Myles Garrett cannot carry the heavy load of their pass rush.

Last season, Garrett led the team with 16 sacks. However, Taven Bryan had the second-highest total with a measly three. That discrepancy explains why the Browns finished with the fifth-fewest sacks last season (34).

Getting help for Garrett allows the Browns to attack the offensive line from multiple directions. Adding talented defensive linemen to their roster will also help address their struggling run defense. In 2022, the Browns surrendered the eighth-most rushing yards per game at 135.

Plugging lanes with physical defensive linemen can help the Cleveland Browns shut down their opponent’s rushing attack. They must prioritize this concern, especially when facing Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, and Kenneth Walker III this season. Also on their schedule are showdowns against mobile quarterbacks Justin Fields, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray.

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Edited by John Maxwell