Based on what we saw last off-season, there is little correlation between what the Browns do in free agency with what they will do in the draft. Let’s look back to last year; the Browns traded for QB Tyrod Taylor, signed RB Carlos Hyde as well as a few cornerbacks. Then in the draft, the Browns used high picks on those same positions when they drafted QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb and CB Denzel Ward.
The big acquisitions this off-season have been WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Olivier Vernon and DT Sheldon Richardson. If the opportunity presents itself, I would expect the Browns to double-dip and draft players at the same positions. Richardson signed a three year contract that the Browns can get out of after two years. The Browns can draft a player like DT Jeffrey Simmons who has an ACL injury and allow him to sit this year and let him be a rotational player next year, then by the time the Browns can move on from Richardson; Simmons will be able to step in. That’s just one example of what the Browns can do, suffice to say they have plenty of options.
While it is unlikely that the Browns go after a wide receiver with an early pick after acquiring Odell Beckham Jr., it is totally plausible that they would draft one in the 5th round where the Browns have three picks. At that point in the draft, teams are looking for a solid player who can contribute on Special Teams. Whether as a return man or a gunner, getting players who fill multiple needs is an important aspect of building a team and few people build a team as well as Browns GM John Dorsey.
Interestingly, the defensive end position is one where the Browns are probably less likely to draft a player, unless they get amazing value. Besides for Vernon, the Browns already have Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Chris Smith, Anthony Zettel and Chad Thomas at the defensive end position. Garrett is a blue-chip player, Ogbah has had moments where he looked dominant, Smith and Zettel did a nice job as rotational guys and Thomas will probably get another opportunity to show that he wasn’t a bust when the Browns drafted him last year in the 3rd round. There are only so many spots on the roster they can give to the position, so adding another player in the draft wouldn’t make sense.
There are two positions on the team that still needs to improve. The first is linebacker and the second is safety. It is possible the Browns will sign a veteran player and still try to fill these positions in the draft. Free agents like linebacker Zach Brown and safety Tre Boston would be good players for the Browns to pursue. Meanwhile, in the draft, linebackers like Mack Wilson from Alabama or Tre Lamar from Clemson are players who come from winning programs and can fit well with the Browns. While safeties Taylor Rapp from Washington and Amani Hooker from Iowa could be good fits in the back end of the defense.
In previous regimes, if the Browns would sign a player at a certain position then it was a pretty good bet they would not draft a player at that same position. Thankfully, those days are long gone and GM John Dorsey is building a team that will compete this season and many seasons to come.