2022 Browns offseason


For Browns fans the 2022 NFL Draft is as important as we have seen in a long time. This is a franchise that was thought to have turned the corner into a consistent contender but after a disappointing 2021 season, there are questions that linger on this roster. As we head into the combine, I wanted to put together some information that fans can put in the back of their minds when it comes to what Andrew Berry and Paul Depodesta might be looking for in the draft.

Top Two Round Analysis:

Position Focus: First off, lets make sure we are clear that an analytics-heavy front office will focus all of their efforts in producing in the pass game (especially explosive passing game) and stopping the opponent’s passing game/QB. If you ever hear someone link the Browns, or any front office that leans heavily on data, to a “run stuffing” whatever, then just ignore said analyst. It is fairly certain that the Browns will only focus on these positions high in the draft (top 2 rounds)- QB, LT/RT, pass rusher, good coverage DB. JOK last year was a very unique case as a hybrid LB/S type of player who was a tremendous athlete that excelled in coverage at ND. I think that type of hybrid uber athletic player who can cover is now clearly in the mix as opposed to your prototypical middle LB who stops the run. DT is typically not considered a highly coveted position early in a draft by the Browns but if they did ever go that route it would certainly only be one that is a dominant pass rusher and not a run stuffer. There is a reason why data heavy franchises like the Browns are so focused on the passing game. Here are the explosive pass play ranks of Superbowl teams since 2016: 2nd, 5th, 4th, 5th, 1st, 9th, 2nd, 20th, 1st, 6th.

Key Metrics:

Age– We have long known that other sports like Baseball and Basketball favor younger prospects than older ones. The NFL has really trended that way as well and the data has shown that younger players (under 22) have outperformed the older draft picks high in drafts. From 2000-2017, 26% of first round players drafted at age 21 or younger (excluded QBs), have made at least one all pro team with a weighted career approximate value ( Approximate Value: Methodology | Sports-Reference.com) per player of 0.42. This compares to only 18% of players drafted at age 22 or older making an all pro team and a wAPV of 0.40. It’s not a gigantic difference but enough to trend toward younger players in round 1.

Andrew Berry has only been in charge of two drafts but in those drafts, he has made four top two round selections (Jedrick Wills, Grant Delpit, Greg Newsome and JOK). All four of those players were 21 years of age at the time of when they were selected. Maybe it is just coincidence that they were all under 22 at the time of the draft but it probably is not if you understand the data trends. Is it to say that the Browns absolutely will never draft a player who is over 21 if they fit a need and check every other box? Maybe not but for purposes of trying to predict who this front office will likely continue to target, I think they will almost always skew younger. It should be noted that the one exception may be at QB where data does tend to lean toward more starts being valuable to a good NFL career. We have seen just as many older QB prospects perform well than younger ones. And this is not to say that the Browns will have a hard and fast rule of cutting off players right at 22 years old, that would be absurd. I do believe, however, that once the prospect is around the age of 22, there is a sliding risk/upside scale and the bar must be higher for the slightly older prospect. Meaning, a player at 22.2 years old must be substantially better prospect than a similar player at 21.2. Also, it will matter what class that older prospect is in. A 22.1 year old Junior (Like Treylon Burks for ex) gets more leeway than a 4th year Senior at the same age.

Workout Metrics– The Browns really tend to also target very good/elite athletes in rounds 1 and 2. They love elite athleticism matched with on field production. They will not take a great athlete who tested well but was a big underachiver in college. high in the draft. On the otherhand, it would be a complete shock if they drafted a player with excellent on field production but posted poor athletic testing. Every round 1 and 2 selection under Berry has produced a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of at least 8.4. RAS was developed by Kent Lee Platte and aggregates all combine/pro day measurables into a single number on a 10-point scale. Because Delpit was injured leading up to the 2020 draft and last year many players didn’t participate in full workouts due to the pandemic, there is a lot of incomplete data to produce SPARQ scores (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness. Nike created SPARQ to athletically measure high school athletes and was initially adopted in the NFL by the Seattle Seahawks). However, rest assured each of Berry’s selections produced enough athletic testing data to likely post high scores.

Every Sashi Brown/Depodesta selection in rounds 1 and 2 produced a SPARQ score of at least the 82nd percentile or better. Even Larry Ogunjobi was 4th among DT in SPARQ at the combine in his season. Not to complete dive deep into the minutia but the Browns, among every NFL team, leans on specific workout metrics within different position groups. It’s not easy to pinpoint the exact measureables they look for within these position groups but should be noted, for example, that every Sashi/Berry edge rusher drafted (Garrett, Nassib, Ogbah) posted excellent 10 yard splits (1.62 or better). Even the Browns FA signing of Takk Mckinley (1.60) last year was a little more proof that a good 10 yard burst is something they covet with Edge rushers. It is important to note that teams are starting to more and more utilize GPS tracking data which is not available to the public. This data was used to help draft Richard Lecounte last season and is most likely used more when there is incomplete speed information or if there is a strong disconnect between game/tape speed and 40 times.

Within the Edge rusher position group, dating all the way back to the Sashi Brown era, 10 yard splits seem to jump off the page as a key metric. Between draftees and notable FA and trades, here are the 10 yard splits of Edge rushers between Sashi Brown and Andrew Berry:

Edge Rushers: 10 yard split

Garrett 1.57

Nassib 1.62

Ogbah 1.56

Miller 1.64

Takk 1.6

Winovich 1.57

Clowney 1.59

All of them are 1.64 and under. Even Shareef Miller, a 2019 4th round pick of the Eagles by Berry, produced a decent 10 split (1.64).

Power 5 School– Between Sashi and Berry, every single one of the nine drafted players in the top two rounds have come from a Power 5 school. Considering a large percentage of all top two round selections in any draft will always come from a Power 5 school, this may likely just be a product of the pool of players typically selected. But it is something that should be noted.

PFF Data– This is not to say that the Browns use PFF’s draft board to drive selections because that would be absurd. But, they clearly either use data to produce similar results or the Browns entrust the graders at PFF enough to supplement their internal scouts. In either case, history says that the Browns draft board aligns nicely with PFFs big board. In fact, the Browns four selections in the top two rounds under Berry have all ranked in PFFs top 21 in both seasons. And that doesn’t even consider the fact that they drafted some players on the PFF board, who were ranked higher than consensus, later in drafts when they selected Jordan Elliot and Harrison Bryant. When projecting who the Browns may be looking to draft high this season, it would be a mistake to ignore PFFs big board and I would be stunned if they completely overdrafted a player that PFF had ranked much lower than draft slot.

QBASE– I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that if the Browns do decide to draft a QB this season, make sure you pay attention to what the Quarterback-Adjusted-Stats-and-Experience (QBASE) projection system spits out. The inventor of this projection system is Andrew Healey, who came from footballoutsiders and is now in the Browns organization as VP of Strategy and Research. It should be noted that QBASE gave Baker Mayfield the 4th highest grade in the database’s history and of course the Browns drafted Mayfield #1. For what it’s worth, the QBASE projection gave FA Marcus Mariota the 7th highest grade in database history.

Every non OL round 1 pk has been min 8.8 RAS, 2nd round 8.7

Min RAS of 8.7 for non OL

Min SPARQ 73% for non OL in rounds 1/2

Applying some of the filters above, we get a decent list of candidates for the Browns at pick #44

Round 3 Options:

  • Historically the Browns have stretched the age limit once they start getting into round 3. For example, Jordan Elliot was a 3rd round selection in 2020 at age 22.4. However, he was 23rd on the PFF big board and ranked #1 among DT in pressure rate that year so the Browns will stretch the age limit if the trade off is great production.

  • They also start expanding the breadth of position groups they target once we get into round 3. Whereas they normally wouldn’t target positions like off ball LB or DT in the top 2 rounds, this is where those groups start becoming good values to the Browns.

  • For this group of players, I filtered based on currently sitting inside the PFF Top 110 big board and either are young (<22 yo) with solid athletic traits (RAS 6+) or if the age limit is stretched (>22 but <23 yo) they are high producers in college.

Rounds 4-7 Options:

  • All of the guardrails get stretched in these rounds as the pool of players to pick from gets reduced.

  • Browns will stretch their age limits here as evidenced by Richard Lecounte and Demetric Felton both drafted at age 22.5+ but still both under 23.

  • Browns will continue to look for players who are young and athletic (think Donovan Peoples-Jones) but underachieved in college. Or they will draft players who may be a bit older or posted poor combine/work out numbers but could hang their hats on at least one on the field trait/characteristic (ie PFF grades, award winners or a specific metric or stat that can translate to the NFL).


Edge Options: Browns likely will focus on sub 30 year old edge rushers who have posted above average pressure rates but below avg sack to pressure numbers. Those are where some of the inefficiencies lie as sacks can be fickle. Last year, the Browns paid up for Jadeveon Clowney, who produced 0 sacks but was top 40 among 123 qualified edge rushers in pressure rate in 2020. Takk McKinley was also signed and he produced only 4 sacks in 2019 but was 34th among edge rushers in pressure rate. Other edge free agents like Tyus Bowser (2 sacks in 2020 and 8 sacks in 2021) and Melvin Ingram (0 sacks in 2020 and 5 sacks in 2021) had outlier negative sack to pressure rates (6% and 0%) while producing above average pressure rates, and had excellent bounce back seasons. In fact, in 2020, there were 27 edge rushers who produced a pressure rate of at least 10.5% but had a low sack/pressure figure (<17.5%). In aggregate, they produced a 12% sack to pressure ration. Of those 27 players, only 2 (Ogbah and Okwara) produced double digit sacks in 2020. Those same 27 players produced an aggregate sack/pressure rate of 16% this past season and 7 players reached double digit sacks. Let’s do a case study on Shaq Barrett and his evolution. For the first few years of his career in Denver, he was mainly a rotational pass rusher. But he would always produce very good pressure numbers but they didn’t always translate into sacks. In his final two seasons in Denver, Shaq pressured the QB at good rate of 12.4%, but could only convert those pressures into 7 sacks total (12.5% conversion rate). Between his age and the above average pressure rate combined with below average sack conversion rate, Barrett would’ve been squarely on the Browns board back then. Instead Tampa scooped him up in FA for only $1 million in 2019 and he exploded for a 20 sack season. If you only concentrate on sacks without recognizing that a certain level of pressures should turn into sacks, a team can miss on some hidden gems.

By just doing a simple filter for edge rushers under the age of 30 who produced an above average pressure rate of 10.5% while also producing a below average sack to pressure rate of 17.5%, I have five guys who fit the bill- Dennis Gardeck, Demarcus Walker, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Charles Harris and Dorance Armstrong.

Dennis Gardeck (ARI) would be an ultra cheap flier as he only played 16% of snaps last year and had zero sacks. But he produced 13 pressures on only 103 pass rush snaps. In 2020, Gardeck produced 7 sacks on a similar number of pressures (18). That sack to pressure ratio of 39% was absurd and totally not sustainable. And his 0% sack to pressure rate last year was a complete regression. Based on a league average rate of 17.5%, he should have produced closer to 6 total sacks in the two seasons.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (LAR) is another rotational pass rusher who wouldn’t cost the Browns much at all. I doubt a team like the Rams with veterans and a difficult cap situation will re-sign him. He produced almost identical back to back seasons (21 pressures on 148 pass rush snaps in 2020 and 21 pressures on 150 snaps last season). Either player would be cheap and fill the role that Takk Mckinley had last year.

Dorance Armstrong (DAL) would be another cheap option, although his pressure and sack numbers may have been a bit inflated due to the attention paid to all the other star Cowboy pass rushers/

Demarcus Walker (HOU) is maybe the least favorite of these guys for me but he’s a veteran with a solid pedigree (2nd round pick).

Charles Harris (DET) is the real prize here and probably the one who will cost the most among this group. A former #1 pick by the Dolphins, who busted for Miami, Harris had a career season with the Lions last year. He had a top 40 pressure rate, among qualified edge rushers, with 8 sacks and comes into free agency with the highest PFF pass rush grade among players under 30 years old. He would not be under consideration if the Browns re-sign Clowney or if they think they have a good chance to re-sign him. Buit if they don’t then consider Harris the Browns #1 free agent target among edge rushers. Now, the Browns will not go overboard here with an offer, considering his 8 sacks last year was 2 more than he had combined in his prior four seasons. Maybe something clicked last year or maybe it was an anomaly but again considering his round 1 pedigree and age, he could be worth the risk.

Edge Rushers over 30 years old:

It should be noted that the list above is only edge players under the age of 30, which I believe is the Browns sweet spot. However, they have signed two DL in Berry’s two seasons, Adrian Clayborn and Malik Jackson, who were barely over 30 as well. Clayborn was turning 32 the summer the Browns signed him and Jackson was just 31. So if the Browns think there is value for a rotational pass rusher who barely exceeds 30 years old I think they won’t completely shut that out. Similarly to Clowney and Takk, both of these guys produced pressure rates above the 10.5% average (Clayborn 14.9%, Jackson 10.6%) while sacking the QB at below the 17.5% average to pressure rate (Clayborn 8.3%, Jackson 9%). So if we cut off the age at 32 years old but still apply the same two filters as above (above average pressure rate with below average sack to pressure rate), one name climbs to the top- Randy Gregory.

Randy Gregory (DAL) is only 30 years old and has a first round pedigree under his belt that the Browns will love. He finished 10th in PFF pass rush grade and 11th among all edge rushers in pressure rate. He produced 6 sacks but that was well below a figure he could have produced based on those pressures. He also only played in 12 games. Spotrac has estimated that he will get $13m per year so he would clearly only be in play if Clowney is not re-signed.

Defensive Tackle Options: Similarly to the edge options, the Browns will clearly focus their attention on guys under the age of 33 who can rush the passer much more than any run stuffing ability. They will likely look for those guys with solid pressure rates but may not have converted those pressures into high sack totals. We can look back to Malik Jackson last season as a perfect example. In 2020, he produced 33 pressures on 309 pass rush snaps for the Eagles (10.6%) but only 3 sacks (9%). He finished the season 29th among 136 Defensive Tackles in PFF pass rush grade. In 2019, Andrew Billings had a 6.5% pressure rate and in 2018 an 8.2% rate with a 40th ranked PFF pass rush grade. He was only able to convert those pressures into 5 sacks (11.6% conversion rate). Jackson was 31 and Billings 24 years old when the Browns signed them for cheap deals in free agency. Even though neither player made a big impact, these are examples of the type of DT and the metrics the Browns will likely look for in free agency.

Here are a few names that I think the Browns will be in the mix for at DT:

Tim Settle (WFT) is not a household name and got lost in the mix on a talented WFT defensive line but at age 25, he has tremendous value. Last season in limited snaps (19% of total defensive snaps), he was able to produce a 9% pressure rate and a 27th ranked PFF pass rush grade. Even though he had no sacks last season, he’s posted 7.6% and 9.6% pressure rates in the prior two seasons with 7 sacks on limited snaps. So the sacks should regress back to normal this season and based on his history, he should continue to pressure the QB. He was 27th in pass rush grade a season after finishing 22nd in 2019. He should come really cheap and be an excellent option as a rotational DT for the Browns.

Maliek Collins (HOU) is a solid young veteran (27 yo) who finished 31st in pass rush grade while pressuring the QB at the 40th highest rate among 150 DT last season. He finished 6th among DT in ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric. After posting three straight seasons of 7%+ pressure rates in Dallas, he struggled badly in his one season with the Raiders in 2020. He bounced back nicely last season and as a bonus also finished top 40 in run defense. He is a guy who may cost a little more but brings with him a bit more certainty.

Nathan Shepherd (NYJ) doesn’t stand out a ton and isn’t a great run defender, but he is a decent rotational DT option if the Browns strike out with some of these other guys. At 29 he’s a bit old for how long he has been in the NFL (4 seasons) but should be ultra cheap. He has finished 30th and 19th in PFF pass rush grade in two of the last three seasons, so he has shown enough flashes on tape to be interesting.

DaQuan Jones (CAR) is the oldest of this bunch (31 yo) but finished top 46 among all DT this season in both PFF pass rush and run defensive grades. Jones is solid as a rock, as he has produced between a 6-7% pressure rate in three straight seasons, a pass rush grade between 60-69 in four straight seasons and has played in every regular season game in four straight and six of the last seven seasons. He is a model of consistency for a veteran.

D.J. Jones (SF) falls just barely below the avg pressure rate (6.9%) and the avg sack conversion rate (12.5%) but I am including him here. He’s only 27 years old, finished 50th in pass rush grade and 22nd in run defense. He probably is a better run defender (#1 in ESPNs run stop win rate) than pass rusher but he does just enough there for the Browns to consider him.

Note- BJ Hill would normally be a great option as well but considering the Bengals are flush with cap space and Larry Ogunjobi also a FA and coming off a bad foot injury that required surgery, I am assuming he will likely re-sign with Cincinnati.

Wide Receiver Options: If you have been paying attention to NFL free agency, you are well aware that spending big money on Wide Receivers has been a major losing proposition for a number of years. In fact, 32 WRs have signed as UFA since 2018 for $8M or more in total contract value. Only two of the 32 WRs reached 1000+ receiving yards in their first season after signing in FA and 0 WRs caught more than 6 TDs in that season. Last season, 10 WRs signed for at least $8M in total contract value and none had more than 850 receiving yards on the season. The average season among the 32 WRs has been 41 rec, 503 yds and only 3 TDs. Teams have essentially paid #1 or #2 WR money and received #3/#4 WR production in return. Its been an absolute wasteland.

So what is a WR-needy team like the Browns supposed to do in this case? Well, I would be very surprised if an data driven FO like the Browns would attack the WR market by overpaying for the production they already know they’ll likely to receive. I find it hard to believe that they will be in on the top guys like Mike Williams or Christian Kirk (I am excluding Davante Adams and Chris Godwin because there is almost a 0% chance either ever makes it to actual free agency). Instead, I think the Browns will specifically target younger WRs who have either not been given a lot of playing time or who have shown the ability to stretch the field and make plays after the catch. They will not be signing anyone who is going to pose as one of their top two WR targets, but likely 1-2 guys who give the team depth or take a flier on guys who have speed/athletic traits with potential for upside.

  1. Cedrick Wilson (26 yo): Wilson was stuck behind maybe the best WRs corp in the NFL in Dallas and never got a chance to display all of his talents. But when he did play, he was excellent. He caught 6 TDs on only 71 targets, which ranks as the 12th highest rate of TD per target among NFL WRs. He also ranked 52nd in yards per route run and 53rd in PFF grade among nearly 200 WRs. He has played over 50% of offensive snaps only 10 times in his career and in those 10 games he has averaged 3.6 receptions for 56.4 yards and 4 total TDs. He can get deep, an area where the Browns have struggled, as he finished with the 8th highest PFF grade on deep balls last season. He received 19.7% of his targets on deep balls, right at the league average for NFL WRs. As discussed in the Browns draft section, the Browns FO pays a lot of attention to SPARQ and speed score metrics. Wilson wasn’t elite but still posted a decent 6.88 RAS score and his speed and measurables all ranked above the NFL average WR. On most any other team, Wilson would be a top priority to return but with a difficult cap situation and an abundance of talent in Dallas, they likely won’t be able to retain him.

  2. Isaiah Mckenzie (26 yo): (**SIGNED WITH BUFFALO) Mckenzie was my favorite under the radar FA WR last season but no team bit on him and instead he returned to Buffalo on a minimum deal. He only caught 20 balls for 178 yards and 1 TD this past season but he was stuck behind the plethora of great Bills WRs. He has only played over 80% of offensive snaps twice in his career. In those two games he torched defenses for 17 receptions, 190 yards and 3 TDs. He also is a great weapon out of the backfield, as he had 9 rushes for 47 yards with 4 of those going for a first down. Mckenzie was also 6th in the NFL in kickoff return average, an area where the Browns have been atrocious in the last few years.

  3. Zay Jones (27 yo): A former 2nd round pick, Jones posted tremendous numbers in college while also blowing away the combine. He posted the 5th best SPARQ score among WRs at the combine and his metrics are in the 94th percentile among WRs. His career hasn’t materialized as he had hoped but he has shown promise as a solid #3 type of WR who can start as a #2 in a pinch if needed. Last season he had his best season from a yards per route run perspective (1.35) and finished 96th out of 187 WRs in that category. He only dropped one ball last season and has a solid 5.8% drop rate in his career. He will never be an elite NFL WR but for the right price, he profiles as an excellent #3 outside WR in an offense.

  4. DJ Chark (25 yo): I am curious what Chark’s market will be like coming off of a torn ACL but there is a chance he is the most coveted WR not named Mike Williams. He is still very young, at 25 years old, and has shown flashes of being a potential #1 WR in the NFL. In his 2nd season he posted a 73-1,008-8TD stat line but has regressed ever since. He has had problems hanging on to the football (7 drops in his last 11 games) and just hasn’t produced at all. His yards per route run have dropped from his peak 2nd season when he posted a 1.69 figure to 1.48 in 2020 and 1.40 in limited games last season. Not having good QB play is probably a big reason but it’s not the total story. Still, the Browns will like how young he is, the fact that he has produced at a high level in the past and has elite size/speed (9.94 RAS coming out of LSU).

  5. Equinimeous St. Brown (25 yo): Now we get to the absolute bargain bin level of WR with St. Brown. The Browns would be able to get him for absolute peanuts. St. Brown blew up the combine when he came out, posting at 4.48 40, a RAS of 9.84, all at 6’4 and 218 pounds. The problem is he just hasn’t translated any of that to the pros with the Packers in his young career. He only has 39 receptions and 580 yards in his three seasons with the Packers. This is an offense that has been desperate for other WR options outside of Davante Adams, but St. Brown has never stepped up. Still, with all of that speed and athleticism, at 25 years old and at 6’4, it would certainly be worth a 1 year flier at a small salary to add depth to the WR room.

  6. Richie James (26 yo): James missed the entire 2021 season with knee injury that required surgery. He was only out of half the season and was waived by SF but was not picked up, so the injury should not be an issue. He should also cost the Browns relatively no money to take a look. The positives for him is he has shown good flashes when given the chance in the Shanahan offense that obviously translates well to the Browns. In 2020, he posted an excellent 1.7 yards per route run, a top 50 figure among all NFL WRs. Where he has really flashed is after the catch, a staple of the Shanahan offense. His 8.5 yards after the catch per reception figure in 2020, ranked 2nd in the entire NFL behind his teammate Deebo Samuel. And it wasn’t just the SF offense that allowed the after the catch yardage, James was 12th among all NFL WRs in 2020 in missed tackles forced per reception at 22%. That is the same percentage that Tyreek Hill and Cooper Kupp posted in 2020.