The Cleveland Browns used only one selection in the first round this year. But they got two players on whom they had first-round grades. After taking cornerback Greg Newsome in the first, they were still able to land linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the 52nd overall pick in the second round, a player whom many projected to go in the first.
“Greg and JOK, those guys are very smart players, and they are very competitive players”, Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods said of two of his newest defenders, speaking to reporters during minicamp last week. “They come out there and they just go hard all the time. They are trying to learn as much football as they can”. He added, “to me, it felt like we got two first-rounders, for sure”.
Neither of them are guaranteed to be starters as rookies, but both have clear opportunities if they earn it. With former starting cornerback Greedy Williams returning, and having added Troy Hill in free agency, Newsome will certainly have some competition for his job.
“During the offseason is when you really want to put guys in those positions to see what they are capable of doing in terms of playing inside and outside”, Woods said, referring to Newsome. “When we come back in training camp, we will see how he progressed and for him to keep moving in that direction or just focus some more outside at corner. Right now, I believe he is capable of playing both positions”.
At linebacker, they have a couple of third-year players in Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki. They also signed veteran Malcolm Smith in free agency, among a few other possibilities that they will be exploring. But Owusu-Koramoah’s versatility gives him an opportunity to play even if he doesn’t earn a clear starting role.
Woods called the second-round pick “a very smart player” and, of course, very athletic as well. “You can see the speed, the quickness and the change of direction. He will be able to match up well against tight ends”.
Though largely due to injury, both cornerback and linebacker were weak points for the Browns’ defense last year. They’ve gotten some injured parties back since then, and made other additions in free agency to inject some reinforcements. But both rookies will have a chance to claim a starting role in August.