CLEVELAND, Ohio – Scribbles in my notebook after the Browns pick three players in the third round:
1. Browns fans were waiting for their favorite team to draft a receiver. And they kept waiting after the Browns traded out of the second round, sending their No. 44 pick to Houston in exchange for a third round pick and a pair of fourth round selections.
2. They took David Bell with the 99th pick in the draft, a third-rounder from Purdue. Great Ohio State receivers Garrett Wilson (10th pick) and Chris Olave (11th pick) were prized by NFL teams. But it was Purdue’s Bell who was selected as the Big Ten Receiver of the Year.
3. Wilson and Olave are elite athletes. The 6-foot-1 Bell was simply productive with 93 catches and a 13.8-yard average. He had only five drops. As the Athletic’s Dane Brugler wrote: “Bell is a smooth, savvy pass catcher with dependable ball skills and flashes Michael Pittman-like ability at times.”
4. So why was he drafted so low? I asked Browns GM Andrew Berry that question, and he said it was his lack of speed from him. His 40-yard time was 4.65, ranking 29th among receivers at the NFL Combine. He doesn’t flash eye-popping athleticism. He reminds me of a bit of Rashard Higgins, a fifth-round pick in 2016 who had some nice moments with the Browns.
5. But he runs routes well. He has good hands. He’s tough (he never missed a game in three years at Purdue) and he can be the possession receiver the Browns need. A year ago in the third round, the Browns picked Anthony Schwartz. The receiver from Auburn has Olympic caliber speed. But he had some injuries in college and with the Browns in 2021. He also wasn’t nearly a polished route-runner and receiver like Bell. Yes, I’m very upbeat on this pick.
6. I wasn’t thrilled to see the Browns trade down from No. 44 to No. 68. They also added picks 108 and 124 in Saturday’s fourth round in a deal with Houston. The draft charts and analytics like the deal because of all the extra picks. In a draft where I don’t have a first round pick (because of the Deshaun Watson trade with Houston), I’d rather pick 44th in the second round than have those lower picks.
7. The Browns obviously had another opinion. Vice President of Player Personnel Glenn Cook talked about receiving “good value” and talked about how the draft board was set up. In other words, they didn’t see a huge difference between the 44th pick and others they were looking at in the third round.
8. Here’s how Berry explained it: “The decision was made because we did felt like we had a number of players that were graded similarly…we felt like the sweet spot was more mid-to-late second day and in the middle rounds. It’s really just how the board fell at some of the different spots that we were targeting. We felt good about the value and adding to the volume of picks we would have this weekend.”
9. Even Berry admitted he was a bit surprised to take a cornerback with their first selection, which turned out to be Martin Emerson from Mississippi State. But the Browns believe “you can never have enough corners,” as Coach Kevin Stefanski explained. The Browns seem set at the position with Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II, Troy Hill and Greedy Williams – but all have injury histories. Cornerbacks are like pitchers. They tend to get hurt, and you need a lot of them.
10. Berry on the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Emerson: “He has top-level size for the position. We think he is effective in press (coverage)…We actually thought he had a pretty well-rounded game [in terms of] press, zone and good run support. We liked him a lot.”
11. Emerson had only one interception in three seasons at Mississippi State. He is praised by scouts for his ability in man-to-man coverage. That is impressive because he played in the SEC, known for its fast and athletic receivers.
12. The Browns also picked Alabama-Birmingham defensive end Alex Wright with their No. 78 selection. He’s 6-foot-5 and 271 pounds. He was a first-team all Conference USA selection. The Browns brought him to town for one of their 30 designated visit with players before the draft. They loved his attitude and intelligence of him.
13. Cook said Wright arrived at UAB weighing only 210 pounds, looking very thin on that 6-foot-5 frame. So he’s added 61 pounds on three years. He is not close to the type of player the Browns project him to become in the NFL. Lots of room for growth.
14. It’s hard to evaluate this draft so far because the Browns are picking in the middle rounds. In terms of need, they went into the draft looking for a pass rusher and receiver. They found Wright and Bell. They always want cornerbacks, and that’s Martin.
15. The Browns still need a significant defensive end to play across the line from Myles Garrett. It’s why I believe they will eventually sign Jadeveon Clowney, or at least add another veteran capable of starting at that position.
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