Pre-Free Agency Cleveland Browns Seven-Round 2023 Mock Draft

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Pre-Free Agency Cleveland Browns Seven-Round 2023 Mock Draft

2023 NFL Draft

Pre-Free Agency Cleveland Browns Seven-Round 2023 Mock Draft


AP Photo/Paul Sancya

After trading for Deshaun Watson, the first season with him under center didn’t exactly go as planned. The Cleveland Browns finished 7-10, last in the AFC North. With plenty of key players set to hit free agency, big decisions once again loom this offseason. Before the free agency period starts, here is what the 2023 NFL Draft could look like for the Browns.

*Simulated using the PFF Mock Draft Simulator, no trades. 


Round Two: Mazi Smith, Defensive Interior, Michigan 

The Browns run defense was not great, at all. They allowed the eighth most rush yards per game with 135, and 22 touchdowns, which was the fourth most. Cleveland needs to improve the interior of their defensive line, and that starts with Mazi Smith. At 6’3, 326 pounds, Smith dominates the interior of the defensive line, completely closing open running lanes, and moving offensive linemen with ease to get into the backfield. Over the last two seasons Smith had 46 pressures, two sacks, 67 tackles, and 53 run stops. When it comes to pass rushing, he can even still improve in this area by refining his hand techniques more. Smith is extremely athletic and would provide a major boost in the middle. 

Round Three: Zacch Pickens, Defensive Interior, South Carolina

With Taven Bryan set to be a free agent, doubling down on interior defensive linemen seems like the way to go. When it comes to his pass rush ability, it stands out. He is quick off the line and plays with active hands to deconstruct blocks. This led to 41 pressures and nine sacks over his career. If he can improve the leverage he plays with, he could take this to the next level. When stopping the run, his active hands also allow him to get off blockers and stop the running back. He is extremely physical and has the lateral agility that he combines with how well he reads plays to diagnose where the running back is going and get to that gap. This led to Pickens having 93 tackles and 61 run stops over four seasons. The Browns need all the help they can get on the interior, and Pickens would continue to provide that.


Round Four: Kyu Blu Kelly, Cornerback, Stanford 

The pass defense for the Browns was good in 2022 allowing only a 60.7% completion percentage for 3,336 yards. But, cornerback could become a major need depending on free agency. The Browns have Greedy Williams, Thomas Graham Jr., and A.J. Green set to be free agents. Blu Kelly is an extremely sticky cornerback who does a great job of keeping stride and mirroring receivers. What also stands out about Blu Kelly is his competitiveness at the catch point that he uses with great timing to create a pass breakup. This past season he allowed only 22 receptions on 42 targets for 373 yards. Blu Kelly is aggressive, sometimes too aggressive as he missed 24 tackles over his career due to his timing being sooner than it should be leading the poor angles. Even with that, he has also helped against the run with a total of 36 run stops. He still has the capability to be a reliable starter in the secondary for the Browns. 


Round Four: Riley Moss, Cornerback, Iowa

Doubling down on cornerback depth is next with the three set to potentially be gone. Moss is extremely fluid and has great speed to change direction quickly and mirror receivers. He also has great power, which he uses to effectively jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. With his size at 6’1, 194 and his physical mindset, a team could transition him into a safety to fully utilize his skills better. Still, Moss has put together an impressive college career with 49 run stops, allowing only a 53.6% completion percentage for 1,584 yards, created 20 pass breakups and 11 interceptions. His tackling needs improvement, but overall Moss can provide valuable depth and contribute on special teams. 


Round Five: Olusegun Oluwatimi, Center, Michigan 

Ethan Pocic is another player set to hit free agency. If he doesn’t return, Cleveland will need another starting caliber center, and Oluwatimi can provide that. He is an agile mover and reacts quickly to stunts. Oluwatimi uses great hand placement as well, latching onto defenders and using leverage accordingly to drive them back. Last season at Michigan was his best year, as he allowed only nine pressures and zero sacks. He can lunge forward sometimes when he goes to reach, which leads to him not getting set and defenders being able to get past him easily. Still, he can be a quality starter in the NFL.


Round Six: Keytaon Thompson, Wide Receiver, Virginia 

Outside of Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones, the wide receiver position needs more depth with playmakers who can step up. Thompson has the speed to be a downfield threat, as he gets off the line quickly and is extremely elusive in creating yards after the catch. He offers quarterbacks a receiver with a large catch radius and good ball skills. He will turn 25 as a rookie, and his route tree needs improvement, as he is limited here after playing in the wide-open spread offense Virginia runs. 


Round Seven: Drake Thomas, Linebacker, North Carolina State

At the linebacker spot, Cleveland has Sione Takitaki, Anthony Walker Jr., and Deion Jones set to be more free agents. This makes getting linebacker depth crucial, so Thomas is the pick to help with that. Thomas reads run plays quickly, he then follows that up with great speed and ability to get off blockers. This helped him make 148 career run stops, it also helped him when blitzing as he had 91 pressures and 18 sacks. His closing ability is great, and he reads plays well in coverage, resulting in only 580 total yards given up and only one touchdown. He isn’t a violent hitter, but can provide a major boost to this linebacking core. 


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