With the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, it’s time to determine who General Manager Andrew Berry and the front office will add to the Browns roster.
For this mock draft, I used Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator. One of the reasons I like PFF’s mock draft simulator over any other is PFF allows you to make trades, and it grades you (A+ - F) on each trade and pick you make. When choosing athletes to select, their grading system takes into account now only the player, but where you selected that player.
Before beginning a mock draft, PFF has four different settings you can set: Public vs PFF Board, care for positional value, draft for need and randomness. Each setting is rated 1-10 for a completely customizable draft experience. For this mock draft, here were my settings.
Public vs PFF Board- 5
Care for positional value- 8
Draft for need- 8
Randomness - 2
I wanted the board to be in-between the public and PFF board to ensure the draft would be filled with surprises and not just straight down the PFF board. I wanted each team to care a ton about positional value and needs and not a ton on randomness to try to create the most realistic draft possible.
This year’s draft is a rare one for the Browns due to the Deshaun Watson trade, and the expectations now surrounding the team. Due to the addition of the former Texans QB, the Browns lost their first-round picks for the next three drafts, plus a 2023 third, and their 2022 and 2024 fourth-round selections. Due to all of the compensation given up by Berry and crew, the Browns currently enter this year’s draft with seven draft selections (No.’s 44, 78, 99, 118, 202, 223 and 246). Since next year’s draft is supposedly a better overall draft than this year’s, I made it my goal to try to accumulate more picks in the 2023 Draft throughout my mock draft.
First trade: Saints at 44
CLE gets: No. 49 and 2023 3rd
NO gets: 44
Analysis: My thinking here was the Saints are probably not going to be a great team next season. At No. 44, there was still a lot of defensive lineman and linebackers on the board, and I had no preference of who to grab. Trading back five spots and gaining an extra third round pick felt like a no brainer.
First pick (R2, No. 49)- Nik Bonitto- EDGE- Oklahoma
Analysis: Bonitto, at only 6’3, is an undersized EDGE defender, but he can rush the passer. At 240, NFL Network says his comp is Vic Beasley, somebody who can either play as a 3-4 outside linebacker or as a 4-3 defensive end and uses his athleticism to get to the quarterback. There is concern of his ability to be a three-down pass rusher at his weight, but the Browns won’t need him to do that immediately. The Browns are mostly looking for VALUE with the limited draft supply they have, and Bonitto will provide value as a third down pass rusher in key situations, bolstering the teams’ defensive front.
Second trade: Texans at 80
CLE gets: No. 80 and 2023 3rd (CLE)
HOU gets: No. 78, 2023 4th and 2024 5th
Analysis: Hindsight is 2020; I realize that, and if I could go back, this is a trade I would have not made. I was looking to try to find a way to acquire an additional third-round draft choice, and Houston seemed like the perfect fit. Could I take back the 2023 third-rounder Berry gave up in the Watson trade? That was my thought process. Moving back two spots while giving away next year’s fourth seemed like a fair trade off, but they wouldn’t go for it, so I caved and ended up giving up an extra 2024 fifth, which seems like a little too much.
Second pick (R3, No. 80)- Dylan Parham- G/C- Memphis
Analysis: Parham is a versatile lineman. He played right tackle in 2020, then switched to right guard in 2021. An anonymous AFC scout said he can play any three of the interior lineman spots in the pros. Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan is the best OL coach in the sport. The Browns have had a lot of injuries on the offensive front over the last few seasons. You can never have too much line help, and the idea is if Nick Harris struggles at center, the Browns have a guy who can potentially anchor the line in Parham.
Third trade: Rams at 104
CLE gets: 104, 142, 175
LAR gets: 99, 202
Analysis: I loved this trade from my end. Yes, I moved back five spots, but I picked up an additional fourth and fifth-round selection for a sixth. The draft is all about value, and I felt this trade offered great value.
Third pick (R3, No. 104)- Matthew Butler- DT- Tennessee
Analysis: At 6’4, 295, Butler is a massive human being, and one of the most underrated players on the board in the fourth round. Even though I drafted an EDGE player with my second round pick, I couldn’t pass up on Butler here in the fourth round for the Browns. He was named a second-team Academic All-American by the sports information directors in 2021, so the smarts are there. At his size, he still made 47 tackles, including five sacks, in his senior season. He’s got a good motor, and the scouts at NFL Network liked his tape against Alabama, listing it as one of his strengths.
Fourth trade: SEA at 109
CLE receives: 109
SEA receives: 175, LB Tony Fields II
Analysis: After drafting Butler, there was another player I was targeting since he was graded high on the NFL Network Draft Profile, so yes, I did make one last trade and moved up from 175 to do so. Giving up a special teams player in Fields didn’t make me flinch one bit.
Fourth pick (R4, No. 109)- Zyon McCollum- CB- Sam Houston State
Analysis: When I traded pick 175 we received from the Rams in the previous trade to Seattle, McCollum was the man I was targeting, and I lucked out he dropped to me. The kid is 6’2, a long corner, who’s projected to be a potential starter in the league. He’s got great ball instincts and fluid feet. There’s potential for him to even play some safety and he covers punts. He was also a team captain while in school. Even with the extension of Denzel Ward, you can never have too many defensive backs in football, and the Browns have sustained a ton of injuries in their secondary over the last few seasons.
Fifth pick (R4, No. 118)- Cade Otton- TE- Washington
Analysis: We all know how much Stefanski likes tight ends, and it’s hard to find a guy graded at 6.1 or above on the NFL Network draft profile this late in the draft, and Otton grades out at 6.3. The 6’5, 250 pounder is a receiving threat in the passing game and has great route running ability. His family has deep roots in football. Cade's grandfather is the state of Washington's all-time leader in high school coaching wins. He was coached by his father in high school, where Cade was named Class 2A State Player of the Year as a senior. To top that off, his uncle Brad played quarterback at USC, and his younger brother Ryan was offered by Washington in the summer of 2020 to be part of the recruiting class of 2022, per NFL Network.
Sixth pick (R4, No. 142)- Javion Heilligh- WR- Coastal Carolina
Analysis: For some reason, NFL Network didn’t have a draft profile on him, but I found one from Bleacher Report who really likes this kid. They compare him to Donovan Peoples-Jones, which is good enough for me! He’s a natural route runner with good hands and will add another much needed weapon to the Browns receiving room.
Seventh pick (R7, No. 223)- Erik Swenson- OT- Oklahoma
Analysis: At this point in the draft, I like to draft only lineman (both offensive and defensive) as I feel they are the best candidates to develop into potential players with the right coaching and as mentioned with Parham, there’s no better offensive line coach in the NFL than Callahan. Swenson, according to Sports Illustrated, started three years at OU and played both tackle spots. Yes, another Ou guy for the Browns.