The Cleveland Browns do not hold a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft -- or either of the following two drafts for that matter -- after acquiring quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. Cleveland still has three picks inside the top 100 and holes to fill on the roster. Here is one scenario as to how things could play out over three days in Las Vegas:
No. 44 overall: Travis Jones, DT, UCONN
Cleveland signed Taven Bryan in free agency to compete with Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai, but none have produced consistently in the NFL. The Browns have Myles Garrett to rush the passer, but they need to upgrade the run defense. Jones was one of the best performers, pound for pound, at the NFL combine but his collegiate tape was up and down. If it were more consistent, there would be little doubt that he was under first-round consideration.
Jones has strong hands, which allows him to get off blocks and play down the line. He is a traditional space eater that sacrifices little neutral ground. Houston defensive tackle Logan Hall and North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson are a few others who might be intriguing should they be available.
One scenario that can not be accounted for has been general manager Andrew Berry's opportunistic nature. The Browns jumped at the chance to end LSU safety Grant Delpit's slide in 2020 and traded up to nab Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the second round a year ago. If a perceived first-round talent is attainable, Cleveland would likely try and move up to draft that prospect.
No. 78 overall: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
Metchie was probably a victim of playing with first-round pick after first-round pick at the wide receiver position in Tuscaloosa. When it became his time for extended exposure, he did not carry the same weight as Devonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy and others before him. However, Metchie is still a good prospect and is battling back from injury. The Canada-born receiver does not turn 22 years old until July, so he hurdles that guardrail commonly set by the Browns.
Metchie has some natural misdirection to create separation at the route stem. His 6.3% drop rate in 2021 is a concern and so is the injury, but he is arguably the most-talented wide receiver that could be available in this position.
No. 99 overall: Josh Paschal, EDGE, Kentucky
As of writing this April 6, Jadeveon Clowney has not determined whether he will return to the Browns for the upcoming season. Clowney was a tremendous complement to Garrett last season because he added more in run defense. Paschal is on the shorter side for an edge prospect, but no one in the Kentucky program has a bad word to say about the Maryland native. He gives everything he has on the field and has already overcome a lot off the field. Early in his SEC career, Paschal battled and overcame skin cancer. Although not as bendy as others in this class, the Wildcat does a good job of making plays in the run game.
No. 118 overall: Cade Otton, TE, Washington
It was reported that the team initially intended to keep veteran tight end Austin Hooper after placing the franchise tag on David Njoku, but he was later released. Cleveland has some options at the position beyond Harrison Bryant and Njoku, but that is a position that will constantly require attention. It is critical to the success of the offense and needs to maintain quality depth. Otton is a well-balanced tight end who should fit in nicely.
No. 202 overall: E.J. Perry, QB, Brown
Cleveland has made a significant financial commitment to Watson and that is going to create some difficult salary cap choices down the road. It is hard to justify paying a veteran backup quarterback long term. By drafting and developing a rookie to play out his deal, the Browns could create some financial flexibility down the road.
No. 223 overall: Damone Clark, LB, LSU
Clark is a lottery ticket in this draft class. Prior to undergoing spinal fusion surgery, the LSU linebacker was regarded as a top-30 prospect in my personal rankings. He is a rangy hammer looking for its nail. Clark could miss the entire season but -- without a first-round pick -- Cleveland may be willing to gamble on adding a high-caliber player later in the draft. The franchise has drafted a lot of Tigers in recent years.
No. 246 overall: Chris Hinton, DT, Michigan
Hinton is at a position of need and does not turn 21 years old until September. The Browns are drawn to those young talents who could have another level of their game yet to be reached.