Cleveland Browns Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State – Round 3
The Browns have emphasized the cornerback position with a first-round pick in 2021 devoted to Greg Newsome II and a massive contract extension for Denzel Ward this year. However, Cleveland found its long-term trio by snatching up Emerson early in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Emerson is a big outside corner who will allow Ward to go inside or outside and give the Browns significant versatility.

For the NFL, Emerson (6-2, 201) is a big, long, physical corner who fits well as a press-man or zone corner. He has good instincts and is adept at covering up receivers who come into his area. With his height, length and strength, he is skilled at defending big receivers and battling them on contested catches. Emerson might be able to do some man coverage on receiving tight ends as well. He is an ideal press-man corner with strength and physicality to jam receivers at the line. With his strong arm punch, Emerson is adept at stalling and rerouting receivers to disrupt the play for the offense. With his height and length, Emerson’s build makes him a natural press-man corner for the NFL, and he has enough quickness and athleticism to turn and run with big wideouts down the field. He is a good weapon to defend fade passes in the red zone.

Emerson has sufficient speed to play corner and not move to safety, but he may not be a corner who the Browns want to line up against a deep speed receiver like a Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or Will Fuller. The super fast receivers who stretch the field vertically could present a mismatch problem for Emerson, which is suggested by his 40 time from the combine. The speed issue is something to be cognizant of, but Emerson has enough speed to handle most NFL receivers, and he could develop into a corner capable of being competitive against bigger No. 1 wideouts like Mike Evans, Michael Thomas or DeAndre Hopkins. Emerson shows a closing burst and is a hard hitter in space.

The biggest negative with Emerson is a lack of ball skills. He had only one interception in college and seemed content to slap passes away rather than trying to bring down interceptions. In the NFL, Emerson needs to improve his ball production, and that will be a point of emphasis for his defensive backs coach.

In scouting jargon, one of the best thing that can be said about a player is that he is a “dog.” That means he is super competitive, a fighter, and a player who wants to win at all costs. Team sources have called Emerson a dog, and that could go a long way to Emerson panning out in the NFL.

NFL teams starting defenses include three cornerbacks, and Emerson could quickly emerge as a solid starter for Cleveland. He may not be prolific as a pro, but with his skill set and competitiveness, Emerson looks like a safe pick to develop into a reliable pro.

2021: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB
2020: Jordan Elliott, DT
2019: Mack Wilson, LB
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

David Bell, WR, Purdue – Round 3
There were some projections of Bell being a first-round pick, but team sources told they had him graded much lower. Thus, Bell slid toward the middle of the 2022 NFL Draft. During the early portion of 2022, multiple team sources said they had Bell graded on Day 2 or in the mid-rounds. Those evaluators saw speed concerns as the big problem for Bell translating to the NFL. He ran slow times at the combine and in pre-draft workouts, which only reinforced teams view that he could have major problems separating from NFL cornerbacks. Their tape study and watching Bell in person led them to have concerns about him being too slow, and that was the catalyst for him sliding deep into Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

For that reason, I think Bell has bust potential in the NFL. He was a tough and gritty wideout in the Big Ten, but I think he is going to have major issues separating from NFL defensive backs. Of Cleveland’s early-round picks, I think Bell has the largest potential to go bust.

2021: Anthony Schwartz, WR
2020: Grant Delpit, S
2019: Sione Takitaki, LB
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

The Browns ended up not selecting a player in the first two rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft thanks to the Deshaun Watson trade and moving down from the second round to the third. Hence, I do not see a player with serious boom potential for Cleveland. Martin Emerson and Perrion Winfrey could prove me wrong based on their skill sets, but overall, I think Cleveland had a solid draft to build up depth on its roster with some potential for a few players to grow into starting roles.

2021: Greg Newsome, CB
2020: Jedrick Wills, OT
2019: Greedy Williams, CB
2018: 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

Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma – Round 4
Many thought Winfrey would go on the second day of the 2022 NFL Draft, but he ended up sliding to Day 3 because of significant character concerns and being a terrible run defender in college. The Browns needed an interior pass rusher, so Winfrey landed in a good playing time opportunity. He has the skill set to be a dangerous interior rusher and will definitely see single-block opportunities thanks to Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Winfrey may never work hard enough to become a three-down starter, but he could be a nice rotational pass rusher for the sub package. It will be up to Winfrey to mature, become a professional, and work hard to play up to his massive potential and have an NFL career. Winfrey definitely could be a solid rotational player and depth tackle if he is dedicated.

2021: Richard LeCounte, S
2020: Jacob Phillips, LB
2019: Sheldrick Redwine, S
2018: 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 2022 NFL Draft Grades:

68. Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State – C- Grade
The Browns are deep at cornerback, so I don’t understand this selection. I like that the Browns moved down, but they had huge holes at receiver and defensive line. Surely, they could’ve found someone who made more sense than Martin Emerson. I like Emerson a bit as a tall corner with good length, but this fit isn’t great.

78. Alex Wright, DE/OLB, UAB – C- Grade
This is the opposite of the Browns’ first pick. With Martin Emerson, they didn’t fill a need, but got decent value. Now with Alex Wright, they’re filling a need on the edge, but are getting poor value, as Alex Wright was a fifth-round prospect. Cleveland’s draft feels like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

99. David Bell, WR, Purdue – B Grade
Once upon a time, people were telling me that David Bell belonged in the first round. I stopped getting those e-mails eventually, as N’Keal Harry comparisons surfaced. I’m not convinced David Bell can separate, but I like the gamble here in the third round rather than the initial frame. Bell could fill a need if people are wrong about his separation issues.

108. Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma – A+ Grade
I slotted Perrion Winfrey to the Browns in the re-draft because it made so much sense. Cleveland needed defensive line help, and Winfrey is someone I had in the second round. This is a major steal for the Browns, as they’re getting someone who dominated in the trenches at Oklahoma.

124. Cade York, K, LSU – O’BRIEN Grade
Ugh, come on. I know the Browns had kicker woes, but kickers can be found on the street. Seriously, just walk down the street and ask people to try out for kicker, and you’ll find a half-decent one. There’s no need to waste a significant pick on one.

156. Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati – C Grade
Jerome Ford doesn’t fill a need at all for the Browns, who are extremely deep at running back. With so few picks, I don’t think the Browns could afford to make selections like this, though I don’t hate the prospect. Jerome Ford figures to be a solid receiver out of the backfield in the NFL.

202. Mike Woods, WR, Oklahoma – C Grade
Mike Woods was not a big producer at Oklahoma, and I didn’t have him on my radar as a draftable prospect. He would’ve been a fine UDFA, but I don’t know why the Browns drafted him over Justyn Ross, for example.

223. Isaiah Thomas, DE/OLB, Oklahoma – B+ Grade
Isaiah Thomas was someone I toggled between the sixth and seventh rounds, but didn’t make the final cut in the mock. The Browns need edge-rushing help, so perhaps Thomas will be able to contribute at some point.

246. Dawson Deaton, C, Texas Tech – B+ Grade
I mocked Dawson Deaton at 250 rather than 246, but I like this pick for the Browns because they really needed insurance at center. They lost J.C. Tretter, so they needed someone to compete with Nick Harris for the job.

2022 NFL Draft Team Grade: C-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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