The full 2021 NFL Draft order is officially out, and after making some splashes in free agency, the Cleveland Browns will enter the next big event of the offseason with serious leverage to upgrade their talent level.
Adding to the good vibes is the fact that the draft itself is taking place in Cleveland. While the Browns don’t pick until No. 26 overall in the first round, they have multiple selections in the third and fourth rounds to build out more roster depth and develop players for the future.
Because free agency took care of several serious needs, Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry will have the luxury of investing in high-upside prospects and won’t necessarily have to reach for needs at every draft spot.
With all that established, here’s a new seven-round mock draft for the Browns.
Cleveland Browns draft picks: Updated 2021 NFL mock draft
First round, 26th pick: Zaven Collins, LB Tulsa
There’s just no better fit to what the Browns need on defense than what Collins brings to the gridiron.
He’s a 260-pound playmaker with the range to get sideline to sideline, and he also has the ball skills of a defensive back, evident in the four interceptions he hauled in during the 2020 campaign. His power from the linebacker spot also makes him a nightmare for blockers to deal with when he blitzes.
Collins’ unique skill set also features a more advanced arsenal of pass-rushing moves than you’d think. While he’s not going to be a traditional hand-in-the-dirt, 4-3 defensive end, Cleveland defensive coordinator Joe Woods could get really creative with how he deploys Collins in his scheme.
With a veteran to learn from in former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and an elite run stopper in Sione Takitaki already in the linebacker corps, Collins is the type of chess piece who can thrive no matter what alignment the Browns are in. He can play in the middle or off-ball in a 4-3 defense, line up as an edge-rusher in a 3-4 or even play a hybrid safety type of role in 4-2-5 sets.
The possibilities seem endless in terms of what Collins can do on the football field. Every mock scenario played out has Collins still on the board when Cleveland goes on the clock in Round 1. If one of the top edge defenders falls to here, it’d be tempting for Berry to snatch him up. However, passing on Collins would likely come back to haunt the Browns in some form or fashion.
Second round, 59th pick: Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Evaluating Campbell is a little tricky, because he played alongside fellow cornerback Eric Stokes at Georgia, and this past year, got a boost from first-round EDGE prospect Azeez Ojulari helping to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
That said, all the physical tools are there for Campbell to shine in the NFL. He’s not as consistent as you’d like in coverage, which is why he falls to near the end of Round 2. What Campbell does do well is tackle, which is extremely appealing to a zone-based team like the Browns.
Denzel Ward has improved in his ability to wrap up and lay the lumber, yet he also got concussed due to poor tackling technique earlier in his career. Greedy Williams suffered nerve damage in his shoulder due to his tackling woes in training camp and missed all of 2020 because of it. Those are Cleveland’s projected two starting outside cornerbacks.
Obviously, adding former Los Angeles Rams standouts John Johnson III and slot corner Troy Hill is going to help the Browns’ secondary a lot. With Ward due for a big contract extension soon and uncertainty surrounding Williams, though, it wouldn’t hurt to bring in a little competition to the outside corner spot with a prospect like Campbell.
Third round, 89th pick: Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU
Although he opted out for the 2020 campaign, Shelvin is among the better interior defender prospects in a class that’s not rife with talent at the position. He’s a space-eating, 346-pound tackle who commands double teams versus the run.
Some may view Shelvin as a pure 3-4 nose tackle and nothing else. On the other hand, he has a motor that doesn’t quit and is fully capable of aligning alongside Cleveland’s Sheldon Richardson in a four-man front.
Now, is Shelvin going to need to come off the field in obvious passing downs, especially early in his career? Probably. That doesn’t mean he’s not worth the investment here. Getting a specialist like Shelvin is exactly what the Browns should be looking for at this stage of the draft, particularly with another third-round choice shortly to follow.
The truth is, there isn’t a lot of depth at the defensive tackle spot behind Richardson and 2020 opt out Andrew Billings, who’s a total wild card. Whether it’s Billings or Shelvin who’d seize the starting job, either would have to be an upgrade from last year’s starter Larry Ogunjobi, who left for Cincinnati as a free agent.
Jordan Elliott went to the Browns in the third round of the 2020 draft, and made little impact in his maiden pro campaign. Elliott is adept at pass-rushing, so getting a run stuffer like Shelvin fits what Cleveland needs in its defensive tackle corps very well.
Third round, 91st pick: Dayo Odeyingbo, EDGE, Vanderbilt
A torn Achilles suffered in January is all that’s preventing Odeyingbo’s stock from being higher. Teams may be a little wary of taking a risk on him in the earlier rounds, but that trepidation would result in the Browns’ gain in this mock draft scenario.
Odeyingbo is listed at 6-foot-6 and 276 pounds, so he has the size and versatility to flex inside at defensive tackle. His production as a pass-rusher went up in 2020, too, as he racked up 5.5 sacks in eight games for the Commodores.
Already established prior to this year as a viable run defender, Odeyingbo would be in an ideal position for success relatively quickly in the NFL once he’s healed from the Achilles injury. Superstar defensive end Myles Garrett is going to make any edge player’s job easier who’s opposite him.
Takk McKinley was the bargain-bin free agent the Browns signed to hopefully replace Olivier Vernon. There’s merit to that strategy, because McKinley is a former first-round pick who doesn’t lack for talent. The question is whether he can really be counted on to fill a starting role.
McKinley will probably get his shot in lieu of any other viable competition to challenge him. Provided he pans out like Berry envisions, it’d give Odeyingbo time to heal, get up to speed and eventually challenge for the starting spot opposite Garrett.
Fourth round, 110th pick: Ben Cleveland, iOL, Georgia
Wyatt Teller was the best guard in football and is a free agent next offseason. He won’t be cheap forever, and along with Ward, Mayfield and Nick Chubb, is going to try to cash in and may need to do it outside of Cleveland.
This could get confusing fast, so let’s just confine all Cleveland references in this section from here on out to the player in question, Georgia Bulldogs star Ben Cleveland.
At 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, this man entering the NFL from Athens is an absolute beast. Despite the obvious power to his game, Cleveland is more multifaceted than would be expected.
What’s surprising about Cleveland is his advanced technique as a pass blocker. He could easily just use the mauling tactics he deploys as a run blocker to win. Instead, he’s more finessed than that, and has the tools to be a Pro Bowler for years to come. His PFF pass blocking grade this last year (86.2) was higher than his still-strong run blocking grade (77.4).
Nick Harris looks like a capable center of the future for the Browns whenever J.C. Tretter is gone, but the guard spot has a much more dubious outlook. Berry and the front office could alleviate that concern by drafting Georgia’s Cleveland.
Fourth round, 132nd pick: Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
A familial connection further justifies having Williams come off the board here. His younger brother, the aforementioned Greedy, is already in the fold, and what better way to add some camaraderie and friendly competition to the cornerback group than by the Browns bringing the elder Williams aboard?
Williams is another corner who’s not afraid to stick his nose in and lay down a hit against the run. Again, that’s an area where Cleveland could use a little boost, even if there’s a little bit of splitting hairs going on there because of how much better the secondary is following the first wave of free agency.
The only real knocks on Williams are that he doesn’t bring some of that physicality as a tackler to his coverage technique, and he’s turning 25 in September. That advanced age means he’s more experienced, and as a long-tenured starter in the pass-happy Big 12, he was tested many times over the years and continued to improve his game along the way.
This is the classic case of a player just sticking to improving his craft and eventually reaping the benefits. Williams’ high football IQ, obvious tie to Cleveland and fit as a Cover 3-based corner make him an ideal Day 3 value selection for the Browns.
Cleveland Browns draft picks: Remaining 2021 NFL mock draft picks
- Fifth round, 169th pick: Cade Johnson, WR, South Dakota State
- Sixth round, 211th pick: Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
- Seventh round, 257th pick: Dylan Soehner, TE, Iowa State
Receiver shouldn’t be a huge priority for Cleveland. Then again, Odell Beckham Jr.’s future is a constant topic of conversation, Rashard Higgins continues to be a year-by-year evaluation, and KhaDarel Hodge is more of a special teamer than receiving threat. That leaves Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones as the seemingly surest long-term staples in the Browns’ receiving corps.
Getting someone with Johnson’s shiftiness, route-running savvy, burst and production level — he had 139 catches 2,554 yards and 25 touchdowns in his past two seasons of action — is a worthy Round 5 choice.
Rumph is another depth option to the front seven. He’s probably too slim to be a 4-3 defensive end, so he’d be a developmental hybrid player who could rush off the edge on clear passing downs, but he’d need to convert to off-ball linebacker in order to be more than an occasionally deployed specialist.
With David Njoku possibly not returning beyond 2021, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Browns to invest in a tight end like Soehner. The Cyclones standout is a blocking specialist and would serve as a nice complement to Cleveland’s pass-catchers at the spot in Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant.