Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Justin Layne wasn’t exactly surprised when the Cleveland Browns made a cornerback their first selection of the 2019 NFL Draft. That pick came in the second round since they traded their first-round pick to the New York Giants (among other resource) when they acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and Layne—selected by Pittsburgh in the third round—believed that he could go in round two.
Of course, Cleveland did not take him, but instead Greedy Williams out of LSU, a cornerback whom many believed could potentially go in the first round. Only one cornerback ended up being selected in the first 32 picks, so the second round saw a lot of action there. The Browns traded up a few spots once Williams, arguably the best pure cover corner in the draft, became available.
And he is already working with the team’s first-team defense alongside 2018 first-round cornerback, and Pro Bowl selection, Denzel Ward, according to Scott Patsko of Cleveland.com. T.J. Carrie worked in the slot, while Terrance Mitchell played with the second-team defense. The latter two were free agent signings in 2018. 2018 starter Brien Boddy-Calhoun was not retained.
It’s worth noting that the first-team defense was not exactly facing the best that the offense had to offer. Not only did Beckham skipped the entire slate of OTA practices, Jarvis Landry was also sidelined with a minor injury, as was Antonio Callaway. So instead, they were working against the likes of Rashard Higgins and Jaelen Strong.
An above average number two cornerback was arguably the biggest hole on the Browns’ defense entering the draft, assuming that Morgan Burnett could actually pan out working at strong safety. Burnett, of course, was with the Steelers last season and was supposed to start but spent too much time injured, and was passed over by then-rookie first-round pick Terrell Edmunds.
Burnett will pair up with former Green Bay Packers teammate Damarious Randall, who was a starting cornerback for the AFC North contender before being acquired by the Browns via trade last season and moved to safety, where he had a fairly seamless transition. Randall had experience at safety in college.
If Cleveland can count on Williams to deliver what they expect him to right away, then their defense is going to be really hard to throw against. Pairing up two quality cover corners with pass rushers like Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon is less than ideal, which would make secondary targets in the slot and out of the backfield all the more important.