Browns 2023 draft class carries 1 core theme: size matters
It doesn't take much effort to find the biggest theme of the Browns' 2023 draft class. Just look at the height and weight of each of their seven draft picks. Size mattered for the Browns in General Manager Andrew Berry's fourth draft in Cleveland, even though that wasn't necessarily the plan when their draft began with 74th overall pick. It started with 6-foot-3 WR Cedric Tillman and continued with their next two picks — the 335-pound DT Siaki Ika and the 6-foot-8, 374-pound OT Dawand Jones.
Just about every player the Browns picked from there had size as one of their biggest tools, and while choosing large players wasn't a main piece of the Browns' pre-draft planning, Berry will take the extra weight with the hopes of building a more powerful football team. "Even though we drafted some bigger bodies, it's not just like they're big guys that can't move," he said. "That's something that we will always prioritize because I do think the NFL is becoming more and more of a space game."
Each player the Browns picked at the beginning of their draft class could have a chance to put their size to good use as a rookie. For Tillman, the expectation will be to become a big, reliable weapon for QB Deshaun Watson. Tillman is the tallest receiver at the top of the Browns' depth chart and showed at Tennessee that he knows how to use it to his advantage. Expect Tillman to box out plenty of defenders over his Browns career. He can be a dependable jump-ball target in the red zone, too, and adds the finishing touches on a receiver room that also welcomed two speedsters this offseason in Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin. "I think (size) makes a big difference, honestly," Tillman said. "One on one, balls in the air, having my body, it's easy for me to box guys out. Also, in the blocking game, a lot of guys can't go toe-to-toe with me and when I have the ball in my hands. A lot of corners and safeties don't want to tackle me. I know that, and I just use it to my advantage."
Ika, meanwhile, will have a chance to use his weight to carve a potential starting job in the Browns' defensive tackle rotation, and his talents as a run-stuffing defensive tackle could lead him to be a player new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz looks to use on non-passing downs. Ika is able to maneuver around the trenches well despite his heavy frame, which was arguably the most impressive skill the Browns saw in him.
Schwartz told Ika in his video call after he was drafted that he wanted to turn him from "dump truck to a Ferrari." Ika candidly said Saturday that he wasn't quite sure what that meant, but Berry provided some clarity in his post-draft press conference. "It means that he no longer has the two-gap (technique)," he said. "He just has to get up the field and disrupt, get off the ball, get off the ball, get off the ball, as opposed to just build a stone wall and hold up the offensive line.
With Jones, the Browns will be able to take a bit more of a patient approach. He won't be needed to step into a more immediate role with LT Jedrick Wills Jr. and RT Jack Conklin holding the starting jobs, but he could become a quality backup option if he shows he can use his gargantuan size to fend off edge rushers of all shapes and sizes in the NFL. "He's not just big, he's human-orca big," Berry said. "I just don't think you really see people with that size and that movement ability." None of the other four players in the draft class are shorter than 6-feet tall. Fourth-round DE Isaiah McGuire is 6-foot-4 and used his big frame to become the sack leader at Missouri in each of the last two years. Fifth-round pick QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (6-foot-1), fifth-round pick CB Cameron Mitchell (6-feet) and sixth-round pick C Luke Wypler (6-foot-2) all play positions where a tall frame is almost a necessity. "It's really how the boards fall," Director of Player Personnel Dan Saganey said after Jones and McGuire were selected. "We're very active with trade calls and, really, we're trying to take the best consensus players that we can with our coaching staff, with our scouting staff and with football research. We feel with the way things have fallen, we're very happy with."
The Browns will learn more about how all of their rookies use their size to their advantage on May 12. That's when rookies will be on the fields at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus for the first time for rookie minicamp, which runs until May 14. Perhaps then, the core theme of the draft class will be look even more evident — size matters. "If you have big, athletic players at any position group," Berry said, "you'll take them."