Raekwon Davis | Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
DBN digs deep on analysis of six possible candidates in multiple rounds
The Cleveland Browns biggest needs this off-season are offensive tackle and the safety position. Behind that, perhaps offensive guard, backup defensive end, linebacker and defensive tackle.
The good news for the Browns is that this year features a very good defensive tackle class.
Veteran Sheldon Richardson is the heart of the middle of the defense. His linemate, Larry Ogunjobi, has shown flashes of brilliance and then will disappear in games.
Richardson was obtained by the Browns in 2019 after signing a three-year $36 million deal. He was taken with the 13th pick in the first-round by the New York Jets. He was the NFL Rookie Defensive Player-of-the-Year in 2013 after a 78 tackle season, his best year to date. Richardson made the Pro Bowl the following season. His first year with Cleveland he netted 62 total tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and knocked down four passes.
Ogunjobi was drafted by the Browns in the third-round of the 2017 NFL draft out of Charlotte. He had 50 total tackles last year with 5 ½ sacks. His three-year totals are 134 tackles, 12 sacks, one pass defense and one forced fumble. More importantly, he is a cog in the center of the defense.
But are these two men who Cleveland believes they want going forward? Does the team need quality backups, or potentials starters to come in and compete? Why were teams able to run up the middle on the Browns repeatedly last year? Was it Richardson and Ogunjobi, or the fact that former DC Steve Wilks ran that 4-2-5 defense which placed both linebackers in gaps instead of straight up on the center?
We here at DBN want to review what is out there on the defensive tackle position in the upcoming 2020 NFL draft. The below analysis is not the best defensive tackles, but the ones we feel will become available with the picks the Browns own.
After reading our thoughts, analysis and predictions, we want to know what you think about our research with a comment. Mail us Krispy Kreme. Take our poll.
Defensive tackles (listed by probability of round)
First-round pick #10
Derrick Brown – 6’, 5” 318 pounds
College: Auburn (senior)
40 time: 4.87
Career tackles: 166
Career sacks: 12
College starts: 38
Awards: Anthony Munoz Award (best lineman in high school – 2015), USA Today High School All-American (2015), Second Team All-SEC (2018), First Team All-SEC (2019), Lott IMPACT Trophy (best defensive impact player – 2019), SEC Defensive Player-of-the-Year (2019), Unnamious All-American (2019)
Projected round: 1
NFL.com prospect link: https://www.nfl.com/prospects/derrick-brown?id=32194252-4f39-3541-fadb-33b669a1b580
Thomas Moore: Derrick Brown has been as a player who possesses a “rare combination of size and disruptive traits” and who will “frequently bludgeoned inferior competition across from him,” according to his draft profile at nfl.com. He is difficult to move when he keeps the proper technique and is a running back’s worse enemy. He likely would have been a first-round selection in 2018, but returned to Auburn and earned first-team honors as both an All-SEC selection and the AP All-American squad. He was also a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy, and tied for the team lead with 12.5 tackles for loss. A three-year starter for the Tigers, Brown is by far the top pick for a team looking for help along the interior of the defensive line.
Rufio: He reminds me a lot of Fletcher Cox. I don’t think he will be a quickness freak of nature like Aaron Donald, and I don’t think he will be a power freak of nature like Vince Wilfork. But he looks to be big enough and quick enough for his size to be a match up problem. I see a lot of guys tasked with blocking Brown leaning, off-balance, and getting beat. He wins with talent, and he wins a lot. His technique isn’t 100% perfect, but he plays under control and it works for him. Brown seems to locate the ball well and has a feel for the offense: he gets his hands in passing lanes and generally has a good nose for the ball. He seems like a smart player based on the film I watched. And any player who gets a sack by using his blocker to tackle the QB gets a boost from me. The one game I didn’t see Brown dominate was against Alabama, which probably means there is a limit to the impact he can make on talent alone. Bama’s RG is shaping up to be a very good prospect himself, but he kept Brown contained for most of the game. I think is Brown works on his technique and his craft he can have the kind of career Cox has had. If he remains the same player he’ll still be pretty good.
Barry Shuck: This in all likelihood is a Top 5 pick. Behind Isaiah Simmons, Brown is the most significant defensive player in this year’s draft. Huge body, huge hands, huge play. If you like Aaron Donald, this is a hybrid. This guy is a destroyer of offenses. Played in a tough conference and saw lots of quality offensive linemen and still shined. Every NFL club is looking for talented interior pass rushers, and Browns fits that bill and more. Extremely difficult to block and is an excellent run stopper. Beats blocks with several moves frequently with strong upper body. Natural 3-technique DT with power and the ability to bull rush. Fast for a man his size and can have a violent nature. Very rough tackler. If he is still on the board at number 10 in the first-round, the Browns should sprint to the podium.
Second-round pick #41
Ross Blacklock – 6’, 4” 305 pounds
College: TCU (junior)
40 time: 4.49
Career tackles: 67
Career sacks: 5.5
College starts: 24
Awards: Freshman All-American (2017), Big 12 Defensive Freshman-of-the-Year (2017), First Team All-Big 12 (2019)
Projected round: 2
NFL.com prospect link: https://www.nfl.com/prospects/ross-blacklock?id=3219424c-4124-6567-64a2-94c97f8f8038
Rufio: This guy impressed me. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is smaller than his listed 6’ 4” 305lbs at the combine, but I’m not sure that matters. What does matter is that Blacklock is extremely explosive off the snap, has great quickness, and understands how to play with leverage and torque. He plays fast, he stays low, and he is disruptive. He flashes the ability to hold the point of attack vs bigger players, and does so even more effectively than bigger/stronger guys. I like his game a lot, enough that I’d draft him and worry about having too many 3-techniques later.
Barry Shuck: His stats are misleading. Blacklock suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during a practice prior to his sophomore season which put him out for the year. This came off the heals of an incredible freshman campaign. Rebounded nicely his junior year. Very fast player as evidenced by his 40 time. An elite athlete, he is a former high school basketball player whose father played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Very good power with size. A bit slow in reading blocks, but has all the tools.
Thomas Moore: Ross Blacklock missed the 2018 season with a torn Achilles, but used that time off to lose weight and come back quicker in 2019. That helped him post 40 tackles and 3.5 sacks, while earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. While he does not give up as a pass rusher, Blacklock struggles to defend the run as he is “inconsistent holding the point and keeping his feet,” according to his draft profile at nfl.com. Blacklock has all the tools needed to be successful at the NFL level – The Draft Network comps him to Gerald McCoy – he will just need some time to see if he can put it all together.
Raekwon Davis – 6’, 7” 306 pounds
College: Alabama (senior)
40 time: 5.12
Career tackles: 175
Career sacks: 10.5
College starts: 43
Awards: National Champion (2017), First Team All-SEC (2017), Second Team All-SEC (2018), Second Team All-SEC (2019)
Projected round: 2
NFL.com prospect link: https://www.nfl.com/prospects/raekwon-davis?id=32194441-5662-6617-82da-e7d203db8ce8
Barry Shuck: Was shot in the right leg in 2017 and a week later played in Alabama’s season opener, so his determination and grit are present. Plays big in big games. Well-balanced for stopping the run and is a serious pass rusher. Decent speed, good hand combat and has excellent upper body strength. Able to fend off blockers and can be impossible to move out of his gap. Davis will become nothing but an impact player in the NFL and is a huge man.
Thomas Moore: Raekwon Davis was a first-team All-SEC selection as a sophomore, but his production has declined since then as he has gone from 69 tackles (10 for loss) and 8.5 sacks in 2017 to 47 tackles (three for loss) and just a half-sack in 2019. Despite that, his nfl.com draft profile still describes him as a “rugged and powerful (player) with elite physical traits, (one who) has the ability to impose his will on opponents and dominate at the point of attack.” He is still stout against the run, which is nice, and should be able to claim a spot in a defensive line’s rotation. But unless he develops as a pass rusher, he may only see the field as part of a team’s run defense.
Rufio: Davis looks like he would best fit as a 5-tech DE in a 3-4 defense, which is how Alabama used him. He flashes the ability to stack and shed his blocker, but too often his size and length were used against him in the film I watched. He got mauled by double teams and didn’t flash often enough one on one when he got chances. It looks like his game relies on being bigger and stronger than everyone, and when he isn’t he struggles.
Third-round pick #74
Rashard Lawrence – 6’, 2” 308 pounds
College: LSU (senior)
40 time: 5.08
Career tackles: 120
Career sacks: 9
College starts: 39
Awards: National Champion (2019), Second Team All-SEC (2019)
Projected round: 3
thedraftnetwork.com prospect link: https://thedraftnetwork.com/player/rashard-lawrence/jyvNNjNaoO
Thomas Moore: Rashard Lawrence has dealt with some injuries during his time at LSU – he missed time with an ankle injury as a sophomore, had knee surgery following the 2018 season and another ankle injury last season – but still played well enough last year to earn a second team All-SEC selection. He is tough and does not back down on the field, but is still considered by some draft experts as nothing more than a rotational player along the defensive line. The Draft Network dings him for not being an “overly dynamic” pass rusher, but gives him solid marks for his work against the run.
Rufio: A former 5-star recruit who is physically imposing but seems to lack skill. Lawrence can make some splashy plays in the backfield, but he gets knocked off balance as much as he knocks the OL. He needs to get better at shielding his legs from cut blocks, as he ended up on the ground and out of the play too often against Texas. I think his best position is at the 3-technique, which means I don’t like his fit for the Browns. Lawrence isn’t the kind of talent that would make me ignore positional value, and I just don’t think he’s a good value for us because of our current roster.
Barry Shuck: One word: tough. Is a scraper but has issues holding his ground on running plays. A good space eater but just as disruptive as you would like from the inside middle. Decent tackler with strong upper body strength and can stay with bigger offensive linemen. Arms are not as long as most guys in the trenches which does create some mismatched situations of trying to shed blockers. Not the best pass rusher but productive in the run game.
Third-round pick #90
Jason Strowbridge – 6’, 4” 267 pounds
College: North Carolina (senior)
40 time: 4.86
Career tackles: 123
Career sacks: 10.5
College starts: 42
Awards: First Team All-ACC (2019)
Projected round: 3
NFL.com prospect link: https://www.nfl.com/prospects/jason-strowbridge?id=32195354-5273-0244-9d30-603b05a32381
Rufio: Strowbridge looks really raw. He’s quick and plays with great effort, but he just looks like a bull in a china shop out there. He seems to bend well and gets off the ball well, and when he lands his hands in the right spots he can turn his speed into a powerful punch. But too often he is washed out of the play, taken out by his own aggression. He lacks polish in his technique. North Carolina played him inside and out, and he shows some versatility to play along the line in any one-gapping position, but I think he’ll fit best inside at a 3-tech. Looks like a guy with a lot of upside but also a low floor to me.
Barry Shuck: Not as stout as you would like for a defensive tackle and will need to add some weight at the next level, but is excellent at shedding blockers though. Is a good pass rusher and able to be disruptive in the backfield. Can be dominated by double-team blocks. Has versatility to play defensive end and can create constant chaos. Had a productive final college season and was the darling at the Senior Bowl. Very fast athlete.
Thomas Moore: Jason Strowbridge had a positive trajectory during his time at North Carolina, and the past two seasons he had a combined 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. According to nfl.com, he has the length, toughness and hand technique to challenge blockers at the point of attack, but struggles to accomplish that on a consistent basis. The Draft Network considers him a developmental player who might be able to offer a team something his second year in the league, which makes it sound like Chad Thomas 2.0.
Fourth-round pick #105
Jordan Elliott – 6’, 4” 315 pounds
College: Missouri (junior)
40 time: 4.84
Career tackles: 76
Career sacks: 5.5
College starts: 26
Awards: First Team All-SEC (2019)
Projected round: 4
NFL.com prospect link: https://www.nfl.com/prospects/jordan-elliott?id=3219454c-4c32-3955-163f-c80cea1e03d4
Barry Shuck: Played originally at Texas. Quick for a 300-plus man, but slow off the jump. Remarkably good chase speed. Great strength and able to shed blockers. Needs to process the play better which can often place him in recovery mode instead of attack. Will be good depth right off and will need some coaching before he is a finished athlete. Ended his college career on high notes and was named First Team in a tough conference that had a load of talent on the defensive front.
Rufio: He looks the part and flashed some ball awareness and awareness of how the offense was trying to attack him. But he was often the slowest off the snap, which is not what you want to see. His game seemed to be a fit for the 3 technique position, but everything he did seemed fairly average. Solid power, solid technique including a few spins off of blocks, solid quickness once he got going. But nothing really pops off the screen.
Thomas Moore: Jordan Elliott found his stride after transferring from Texas to Missouri. He had eight tackles for loss and three sacks his first season with the Tigers and built on that in 2019 by earning second team All-American honors after leading Missouri with 10 tackles for loss. According to nfl.com, Elliott is a “skilled hand-fighter with explosive upper body strength … and has experience in a variety of alignments, allowing teams to move him up and down the line depending on matchups.” However, The Draft Network counters that with a belief that “Elliott’s lack of length and hand power poses a significant problem to playing an every down role at the NFL … as a result he’s most suited to serve as a rotational pass rusher and use his quickness to win.”
Thomas Moore: While Derrick Brown is far and away the top pick among the defensive tackles, the Browns have bigger issues to deal with in the first round, so he more than likely not part of the discussion. But they do need to build up the depth along the defensive line and it would not be a bad idea to get a player who can work into the rotation this year and then replace Sheldon Richardson if the Browns decide to move on from him after this season. That would put Ross Blacklock or Raekwon Davis in the mix, but the needs at linebacker and safety could take priority on Day 2. If they have to pick someone, then let’s go with Rashard Lawrence from LSU. Pick: Lawrence
Rufio: I knew about Derrick Brown coming into this, but the guy who surprised me the most in a positive way was Ross Blacklock. He was skilled, quick, and powerful for his size. Brown was a wrecking ball on tape against everyone except Alabama, and I’d expect him to make a similar impact in the NFL. Raekwon Davis was the prospect I viewed as the worst value, as a 2nd round pick seemed too high for him. A 3rd round might be too big of a risk for a guy like Jason Strowbridge, as the Browns need a lot of help at other positions, but I liked the potential and motor he showed. In the end I’d really like to draft Jedrick Wills out of Alabama in the first round, and I think Brown will be gone by 10. So my pick is Blacklock. Pick: Blacklock
Barry Shuck: Maybe it was the fact that former DC Steve Wilks played a 4-2-5 predominately that enabled most offenses the luxury of being able to run up the middle against the Browns last season. Maybe. Or maybe it was the inabilities of Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi to stop the barrage of yardage. Maybe. ILB Joe Schobert had 133 tackles last year while the other inside linebacker, Mack Wilson, accumulated 82 total tackles. Doesn’t that mean that running backs are getting to the second level while by-passing the first line of defense in the middle? Maybe. Richardson was 137th in the league in total tackles. Ogunjobi followed at 218th. Are those decent numbers? Maybe. Perhaps, Cleveland needs to invest in one more big body to plug into the middle of that defense – if nothing else than to help rest the starters while learning how the big boys play in the trenches. The Browns ideal draft would be to be able to land one of the blue-chip offensive tackles in the first-round, a sure-tackling safety in Round 2, and then a defensive tackle with either of their two third-round picks. However, if Derrick Brown was to somehow fall to the Browns with the 10th pick (he won’t), I would not hesitate to snag him and then land an OT in Round 2. Pick: Strowbridge