Cleveland Browns Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama – Round 5
The Browns did not have a first-round pick after the trade for Odell Beckham Jr., but they managed to make some excellent selections to further bolster their roster. Their fifth-round pick was an absolute steal in Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson. He slid because of makeup concerns, but there is no doubt that he is talented. Wilson has the play of a second-day pick and could become a three-down starter early in his NFL career.

Wilson was the best pass-coverage linebacker in the 2019 NFL Draft. He is a quick linebacker who covers a lot of ground in zone coverage while also showing the ability to run down the middle seam. Wilson should be a nice asset to cover tight ends running vertically down the middle of the field and running backs leaking out of the backfield, and he also should be a good defender to help with receivers crossing the middle of the field. On top of being able to cover up receivers, Wilson has rare ball skills for a linebacker, possessing an ability to take the ball away. He is smart and instinctive to get in throwing lanes and disrupt passes. Wilson’s pass coverage is his best trait, and he should be an asset in coverage quickly in his NFL career.

As a run defender, Wilson could stand to get better at taking on and shedding blocks when runs come downhill straight at him. He has some speed to close, is able to change direction to redirect, and does a nice job of getting to the flat on perimeter runs. In college, Wilson did not show much run defense coming downhill and firing into a gap at the line of scrimmage, and that also is reflected in his meager tackles-for-a-loss production. If Wilson were as good at defending the run as he is the pass, he would have been a top-10 pick, so improving his ground play will be his big point of improvement.

Because of Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey, Wilson probably won’t start as a rookie. Eventually, he could see the field as a Mike or Will linebacker. During the course of his rookie contract, I think he could become a solid starter for the Browns who is an asset in pass coverage and makes their defense stout in the middle of the field.

2018: Denzel Ward, CB
2017: David Njoku, TE
2016: Carl Nassib, DE
2015: Danny Shelton, DT
2014: Justin Gilbert, CB
2013: Leon McFadden, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU – Round 3
The Browns grabbed some linebacker depth with Sione Takitaki in the third round. They have their current starters in Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert, but perhaps Takitaki could challenge Sam linebacker Genard Avery for a starting spot. Takitaki was a fine college player, but I’m not convinced that he is fast enough, physical enough, or instinctive enough to become a solid starter in the NFL.

Takitaki was productive for BYU in 2018, totaling 118 tackles with nine for a loss, three sacks, three passes batted and one forced fumble. In his first season of lots of playing time, as a junior, Takitaki had 79 tackles with 12.5 for a loss, five sacks and two passes batted. The 6-foot-1, 238-pounder has some strength and quickness but is not especially fast.

I’m not convinced that Takitaki will be able to break into the lineup for Cleveland over Schobert or Kirksey. Additionally, I think Mack Wilson is a better player than Takitaki, so Wilson will earn a starting spot over Takitaki. Of the Browns’ two selections on the second day of the draft, Takitaki seems to have the most bust potential for me.

2018: Antonio Callaway, WR
2017: Jabrill Peppers, S
2016: Corey Coleman, WR
2015: Xavier Cooper, DT
2014: Christian Kirksey, LB
2013: Barkevious Mingo, LB

Potential Boom Pick

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU – Round 2
After signing some veterans in free agency and trading for Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns entered the 2019 NFL Draft with only one true need, which was for a cornerback to go across from Denzel Ward. Cleveland was fortunate that Williams slipped into the second round and fell within range for the organization to grab a potential play-maker for the team’s defense. With the young pass-rushers the Browns have up front and Ward taking on No. 1 receivers, Williams could be a boom pick who ends up being a very good corner to go against No. 2 receivers on a weekly basis.

For the NFL, Williams would fit best in a press-man scheme. In that style, he could use his size and length to cover up receivers running with them downfield. Williams has the straight-line speed to run in press man, and if he gets stronger, that would help him to be an excellent press-man corner.

Williams enters the pros with some limitations. He lacks instincts and awareness while not playing up to his timed speed. That was evident against Georgia and Alabama last year. He does not play well in or have good feel in off-man coverage. He also is not a great fit as a zone corner. Thus, Williams was more of a second-round talent. While Williams was a second-round talent and has some limitations, he went to a perfect landing spot, where he won’t have to be the No. 1 corner who takes on the best receiver each week. Ward will handle that job, giving Williams the luxury of seeing No. 2 receivers. That should really help to mask some of his limitations and give Williams the potential to be a boom pick for Cleveland.

2017: Nick Chubb, RB
2017: Myles Garrett, DE
2016: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE
2015: Cam Erving, C
2014: Johnny Manziel, QB
2013: Jamoris Slaughter, S

Future Depth Player

Sheldrick Redwine, S, Miami – Round 4
This makes it back-to-back years I will go with a Miami Hurricane to become a good depth player for the Browns. Redwine did not get the attention of cornerback Michael Jackson or safety Jaquan Johnson, but Redwine had a quality enough senior year to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He totaled 64 tackles with 3.5 for a loss, two passes broken up and three interceptions in 2018. For the Browns, Redwine should be a good backup free safety to Damarious Randall, and he could develop into a starter. At the very least, Redwine should be a good depth player and special teams contributor.

2017: Chad Thomas, DE
2017: Larry Ogunjobi, DT
2016: Cody Kessler, QB
2015: Duke Johnson, RB
2014: Pierre Desir, CB
2013: Garrett Gilkey, OT

Walt’s 2019 NFL Draft Grades:

46. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU A Grade
Greedy Williams was expected by many to be chosen in the opening round. Teams gave him second-round grades, however. There was still a chance he’d sneak into the opening frame because of how weak this class is, so I think the value the Browns are getting with Williams is great. Williams doesn’t like to tackle, but he has plenty of talent, and he should be able to fill the need across from Denzel Ward.

80. Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU D Grade
This is a major reach, and I almost graded this as an “F.” There were so many other worse choices, however, so I’ll settle with a “D.” Sione Takitaki is a fast linebacker, but happens to be a tweener who may have to just be a special-teamer in his career. Takitaki also has a history of off-the-field issues, though he says he has turned his life around. We’ll see.

119. Sheldrick Redwine, S/CB, Miami C Grade
This is a bit early for Sheldrick Redwine. He’s a fast player, but doesn’t really know how to play safety well. He takes poor angles and doesn’t tackle well. He should be a good special-teams player, but he needs lots of development.

155. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama A- Grade
I’ve had Mack Wilson in the second or third round of my mock drafts, so I absolutely love this value. Wilson performed at a high level for Alabama early this past season. He struggled as the year progressed, but the potential was certainly there. However, Wilson tested poorly at the combine, and questions emerged about his instincts. It wasn’t a surprise to see him drop, but the Browns are getting a high-potential player in the middle of Round 5.

170. Austin Seibert, K, Oklahoma D- Grade
Stop it with these kickers, already, and draft players who will make it so you don’t need to use a kicker! It makes no sense to draft a kicker before Round 7 unless he can blast 65-yard field goals with ease.

189. Drew Forbes, G, SE Missouri State A- Grade
Drew Forbes made a name for himself at this pro day, where he tested off the charts. Level of competition is obviously an issue for Forbes, but it’s worth taking the risk, given the upside. Forbes was also a team captain, so I imagine the Browns will get 100-percent effort from him.

221. Donnie Lewis, CB, Tulane C+ Grade
Donnie Lewis is a try-hard player who was a 4-year starter for Tulane. Perhaps his hustle can earn him a spot on a 53-man roster as a special-teamer, but Lewis seems to lack the strength and physical traits to be a defensive player in the NFL.

2019 NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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