This year’s edition of the Reese’s Senior Bowl could see around a half-dozen first round picks, and four of those could be on the Cleveland Browns radar.
The Cleveland Browns have been on a roll with taking players from the Reese’s Senior Bowl recently, headlined by Baker Mayfield. This year’s roster doesn’t include anyone likely to be picked first overall, but it does have a decent amount of players that could find themselves picked in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Four of those stand out as possible fits for the Browns, who control the 17th pick in the draft.
With the Browns picking so low for the first time since they took Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving in 2015, there are a ton of options the Browns could take this year. Based on general manager John Dorsey’s history, it seems likely that it will be an offensive lineman, defensive lineman or cornerback, which might thin the field slightly, but this draft class is loaded along the defensive line and in terms of corners.
Here are four players that could be in the mix at No. 17 and fit what Dorsey has targeted in the past
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Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State – 6’6″, 252 pounds
Sweat is a great example of what makes the Senior Bowl a great event. As meaningless as it may seem, Sweat at least felt like someone who was on the outside the first round looking in, at least from a buzz perspective. Despite a great career, there seemed to be more excitement around other pass rushers in this class, particularly underclassmen that had just declared. He’s also been somewhat overshadowed by teammate Jeffery Simmons.
Sweat goes to Mobile, looks outstanding in the weigh-in and is dominant much of the week. With his frame, he looks like he could easily add more strength and continue to change his body. He showed power against the run, was consistently getting to the quarterback in pass rushing drills and was arguably the top player all week.
Sweat will leave Mobile with a lot of excitement, people going back to see what they’ve missed and questions about how high he will go in the first round rather than whether he’ll make the cut. And his skill set and body type could be very attractive to the Browns as they look to add more pass rushers with upside to be more. He should be the top pick from Mississippi State this year.
Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State – 6’4 7/8″, 310 pounds
Because of the system Mike Leach runs, Washington State offensive linemen always come out with questions about their ability to run block. Additionally, Dillard had questions about his weight. He answered both questions emphatically, looking great at 310 pounds and being a dominant run blocker all week.
He actually had his issues in pass protection trying to deal with some excellent competition. The good news for Dillard is he got better over the course of the week, finishing with his best practice on Thursday and securing more wins in pass protection drills, which favor defenders. Nevertheless, these are the types of players he will see on a weekly basis in the NFL.
Dillard appears to have substantial upside at the position, depending on his athletic testing, and if the Browns love what they see, they could attempt to really build a special offensive line to protect Baker Mayfield.
Zach Allen, DE, Boston College – 6’4 3/8″, 280 pounds
Allen absolutely looks the part of a base end in terms of his size, length and the way he plays. Strong, a good run defender and has the ability to collapse the pocket and get after the quarterback. Allen had a good week, but his style isn’t as tantalizing in the drills as some of the smaller speed rushers. Collapsing the pocket or working angles is effective and works well within a team concept, but it doesn’t have the sizzle factor flying up the field and dipping under a blocker.
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There is a real question about where Allen would be best positioned in the NFL, though it doesn’t seem like there’s a wrong answer. He’s a good base end that could slide inside to rush the passer. Allen is also a player that could easily add some weight and move inside full time. It all depends on where the team that selects him wants to put him.
For the Browns, there’s a compelling argument to play either spot. He might be a Cameron Jordan type player as an end. He could also be a really nice running mate inside for Larry Ogunjobi with quickness off the ball. Allen is likely to be a very good player and a fun problem to have for the team that gets him as to where they want to put him.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE Louisiana Tech – 6’4 3/8″ 256
Ferguson had a pair of absolutely dominant seasons for the Bulldogs and, this past year, he set a number of records. He was often a man amongst boys, often able to impose his will on command. So the big question he had coming to the Senior Bowl was about the level of competition he faced and could he be great against better players.
Ferguson was outstanding all week, facing high end competition and often beating them. Specifically against Dillard, he got the best of him early and often the first two practices. It wasn’t until Thursday that Dillard was able to find a way to stop him. Ferguson’s hands are what separates him from much of the field as he does a great job of avoiding being blocked in the first place, allowing him to use his speed and strength to get pressure.
Ferguson should leave Mobile having effectively shed the small school label. There was little if any drop off in his performance from the regular season to the Senior Bowl. So long as he’s able to test well and he appears more than capable, he should be a first round pick and he could be a another pass rushing option for the Browns.