by J.T. Toth
Photo of Cedric Tillman on the field.
As readers of Draft 412, we know you—the fans and our subscribers—want news on the Steelers. But your rooting interests go deeper. You want intelligent reporting on the enemies and the other teams in the AFC North qualify as such. Our articles this week will not only provide you with in depth coverage of the Steelers but will allow a peek behind the curtain on the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns.
This is our report on Cleveland’s draft:
Since going 11-5 in 2020 and defeating their longtime rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers (48-37), in the playoffs, the Browns have been slowly descending to their traditional spot in the AFC North. The Browns did not have a 1st or a 2nd round pick in 2023. The 1st round pick was part of the colossal haul it took to obtain QB-Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. The 2nd round pick was sent to the NY Jets for WR- Elijah Moore. Cleveland fans are looking forward to a full season with Watson as a Brown and will look to improve on their last place finish in 2022.
Here is a look at what the Browns did in the 2023 NFL Draft:
R3 (73): WR Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
R3 (98) DT Siaki Ika, Baylor
R4 (111) OT Dawand Jones, Ohio St.
R4 (126) Edge Isaiah MGuire, Missouri
R5 (140) QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
R5 (142) CB Cameron Mitchell, Northwestern
R6 (190) C Luke Wypler, Ohio St.
Cleveland keeps trying to improve at the WR position, and this year is no different. They traded for Elijah Moore and signed Marquise Goodwin in the offseason.
Cedric Tillman, their first pick in this draft (at #73 overall), was part of the Tennessee duo with Jalin Hyatt, which offered to future pro targets for quarterback Hendon Hooker. Tillman could be starting—sooner rather than later—next to Amari Cooper. He will challenge Donovan Peoples-Jones right away for playing time because of his size and speed.
The Browns' second pick in round three focused on the defensive side of the ball, hoping to address one of the most porous run defenses from 2022. Baylor’s Siaki Ika is a massive body that will fill the nose guard position (a Danny Shelton clone) and should see early playing time in Cleveland. They also fortified their defensive line in free agency and signed Dalvin Tomlinson away from the Vikings. Siaki Ika gives them another 300 lb. lineman to rotate with Tomlinson.
The Browns stay close to home and select Ohio State’s 6’8” behemoth, Dawand Jones.
Cleveland needed some depth at offensive tackle and are taking a risk with Jones in the 4th.
Jones has been labeled at times as lazy and could become a potential 400 lb. player (378 now). There were other tackles still on board such as Pitt’s Carter Warren or Georgia’s Warren McClendon that may prove to have been better options, but the Browns rolled the dice on Jones and may or may not win in the end.
Later in round four, the Browns nabbed Missouri’s edge rusher, Isaiah McGuire. Opposite of the All-World edge, Myles Garrett, the Browns only have Ogbo Okoronkwo and little else in the rotation. With edge as their #1 need, the Browns get a player In McGuire who will vie for some playing time.
In round five, the Browns took a flyer on UCLA’s Dorian Thompson Robinson at quarterback. Cleveland already has Deshaun Watson starting, with Joshua Dobbs as the backup. DTR will battle Kellen Mond for 3rd string with some rumors having the Browns moving him to a Kordell Stewart-like slash role, taking advantage of his versatility, size and speed.
In taking DTR, the Browns didn’t address the elephant in the room, which is the lack of depth at running back. Adding talent behind Nick Chubb may turn out to be the wiser play here. With their 2nd choice in the round, Cleveland tapped the services of Cameron Mitchell, a cornerback out of Northwestern. The Browns lost the former LSU standout Greedy Williams in free agency and needed to add a CB who has some potential. They hope Mitchell is that guy, but at first, he’ll likely play a role only on special teams.
The Browns took a center here in Ohio State’s Luke Wypler. They already have two potential starters on their roster in Ethan Pocic and Nick Harris. Not a pick at a position of need, but one of the best players left on the board at the time, so it’s hard to knock the pick.
Overall Grade: C
In the absence of picks in rounds one and two, Cleveland did not do enough with what draft capital they had to make up for the missing slots. Cedric Tillman alone could improve this draft grade by becoming a starter by mid-season. With the other three teams drafting well, I believe Cleveland’s draft will turn out to be the worst of the AFC North.