The Cleveland Browns own the 26th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and that’s not because they have an extra first-rounder as a result of a trade. The Browns are here to stay as an AFC heavyweight, and should be legitimate Super Bowl contenders next season with a strong offseason. In particular, they’ll need to replicate their success from the 2020 NFL Draft, and no matter what, will need to rely on plenty of rookies to rebuild a terrible defense.
Draft strategy for the Browns
Cleveland needs to add speed all over the roster. The wide receiver position room does not mesh well with Baker Mayfield’s downfield strength, and must be rebuilt. The team will need an outside vertical threat as well as a gadget player. The absence of those guys was on full display as the Browns fell to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Kansas City was able to play press man cover-1 all game long, daring the Cleveland receivers to win downfield, which they are not built to do. That hurt the run game as the Chiefs loaded the box to slow down Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. There will be major changes coming to the WR room even before the draft kicks off.
On defense, the Browns could use at least one new starter at every level, but the focus should be the secondary. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods wants to eventually run a dime base, which features just one linebacker. That means the team needs to have plenty of playable safeties and cornerbacks, and they have very few at the moment.
Linebacker will be the lowest priority, but the role will be addressed in some way. Without further ado, let’s see how the Browns improved their team in this seven-round Cleveland Browns 2021 NFL mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 26: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
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Denzel Ward is one of the league’s best cornerbacks, but he doesn’t have much help. Terrance Mitchell is a fine depth player, but he’s not suited to be a CB2. That role was supposed to be Greedy Williams’ but he suffered a nerve injury in training camp and missed the entire season. Williams’ long-term status is unknown, and since he wasn’t great as a rookie in 2019, the team cannot afford to bank on him being a major factor.
Enter Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. The younger brother of 2017 Oakland Raiders second-round pick Obi Melifonwu, Ifeatu is just as freaky an athlete, but a much better football player coming out of college. He stands 6-3 213 pounds is impressively fluid and agile for a player his size. He’d step in immediately opposite Ward and provide a physical presence against bigger receivers while being able to keep up with the smaller, quicker ones.