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Offseason review: Cleveland Browns
DE, WR, DT, CB, G, OT, OLB, S
Round 1: Phil Taylor, DT
Round 2: Jabaal Sheard, DE
Round 2: Greg Little, WR
Round 4: Jordan Cameron, TE
Round 4: Owen Marecic, FB
Round 5: Buster Skrine, CB
Round 5: Jason Pinkston, ORT/G
Round 7: Eric Hagg, S
Potential free agents of note
DE, WR (depth), DT (depth), CB (depth), G (depth), OT (depth), OLB (depth), S (depth)
The Browns, with depth and talent issues at several positions coming into this year’s draft, addressed many problems on both sides of the ball.
New head coach Pat Shurmur's decision to hire Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator was encouraged by the Cleveland fan base. Jauron will overhaul a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 alignment. The transition was prevalent in the draft as the Browns targeted that side of the ball with two of their first three picks.
First-round pick Phil Taylor will be expected to be an anchor on Cleveland’s defensive front-four. Taylor and fourth-year interior defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin should be able to form a very solid tandem at defensive tackle.
Had defensive end Jabaal Sheard not had elbow surgery earlier this year, he might have been selected in the first round. Sheard’s injury, which is healed, shouldn’t be an issue for him in the future. In fact, he could start as a rookie. Despite Sheard’s addition, defensive end still is a major need for the Browns. Because of the defensive scheme switch, the team released veteran defensive end Kenyon Coleman.
Linebackers Eric Barton and David Bowens were also released before the draft. Depth remains an issue at both outside linebacker positions and cornerback. Seventh-round pick safety Eric Hagg is capable of playing nickel cornerback in the Browns’ defensive scheme. Fifth-round pick cornerback Buster Skrine figures to challenge for a job in the dime defense early on.
On offense, wide receiver was clearly the biggest issue coming into the draft. And with that, the team selected Greg Little in the second round. Little, despite his limited experience at the position, will be expected to challenge for a starting job this season. The team believes he projects to be a No. 1 receiver at the NFL level, but the Browns still have a depth and speed issues remaining at the position.
Despite the breakout season from veteran tight end Ben Watson, the team added the inexperienced Jordan Cameron in the fourth round. Cameron, who only played tight end for one season at USC, has good enough athleticism to take a chance on developing him. He’ll be expected to compete for the No. 3 role as a rookie.
The selection of fullback Owen Marecic in the fourth round could signal the end veteran Lawrence Vickers’ five-year tenure with the team.
The much-maligned right side of the offensive line could get a boost from fifth-round pick Jason Pinkston, who is expected to compete for playing time initially at right guard against Shawn Lauvao, but he could eventually be the long-term replacement for projected starting right tackle Tony Pashos.