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When the Cleveland Browns traded for their new franchise quarterback in March, they parted with some significant draft capital. They acquired Deshaun Watson, but they sent back a hefty package of picks to the Houston Texans, including their first-round selection in the 2022 NFL draft.
That means Cleveland won’t be on the clock during the opening night of this year’s draft unless it trades up. If the Browns don’t do that, their first pick will come in the second round at the No. 44 overall selection.
Even though Cleveland will have to wait before getting in on the draft action, it still owns seven picks this year, so it will get opportunities to add young players who could develop into key players for the franchise.
Many mock-drafters are projecting the Browns to add a defensive lineman with their first pick because they need to strengthen that unit alongside Myles Garrett. But not everyone agrees on which player Cleveland will select at No. 44.
Here’s what some experts are predicting the Browns will do with their second-round pick this year.
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The B/R Scouting Department and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. are both predicting that the Browns will take UConn defensive tackle Travis Jones with their top draft pick. Jones, who is 6’5″ and 333 pounds, could help fill one of the big voids Cleveland has on its defensive line.
Jones played three seasons for the Huskies and was a consistent presence on their defensive front. He played 11 games each of those years and had between 40 and 48 tackles per season. In 2021, he set career highs in tackles (48), tackles for a loss (7.5) and sacks (4.5).
While Jones has tremendous size and strength, there’s a reason why he will likely still be on the board in the middle of the second round.
“He might end up as only a two-down defender; I’d feel better about taking him in Round 2 than in the top 32,” Kiper wrote.
But Jones could be one of the best available options for the Browns, who could use somebody with his skill set, even if he may not develop into an All-Pro player.
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Darron Cummings/Associated Press
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has the Browns taking a different type of defensive lineman than Jones with the No. 44 overall pick. Brugler is projecting that Houston defensive end Logan Hall will go to Cleveland, where he could use his pass-rushing skills to strengthen the interior of its front.
Hall had only one sack in 22 games over his first three years with the Cougars, but he broke out in 2021. In 13 games, he had 48 tackles and 6.5 sacks while leading the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss and earning first-team All AAC honors.
“He’s segmented and a little gradual in his attack but flashes violent hands and forward charge as an interior rusher,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote in a scouting report. “Improvement lies ahead for Hall, but he needs a scheme fit and extended runway as a rotational lineman.”
With a ton of potential, Hall could develop into a key long-term contributor for the Browns. It may take a little time for him to get there, but if Cleveland drafts him, the selection could pay dividends down the line.
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There are a lot of strong pass-rushers in this year’s draft class. And because of that, it’s possible that Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto may be getting overlooked. That could end up being a mistake for teams that select other players over him, and it could be a good thing for the Browns, whom Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus has taking Bonitto in the second round.
Bonitto spent four years with the Sooners and made his biggest impact over his final two seasons. He collected 71 tackles and 15 sacks in 32 games over that span, and he was named to the All-Big 12 second team in 2021. He was also a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award.
“Bonitto has become an afterthought in this deep edge class,” Treash wrote. “And while his lack of a strength element and underwhelming size/length are rightful concerns, the 6’3”, 248-pound edge defender has put up some of the best pass-rush numbers in the country over the last couple of years. “
If Cleveland adds Bonitto, then he could provide a strong presence opposite Garrett. Whether or not the Browns bring back Jadeveon Clowney in free agency, Bonitto would be a strong addition to the team’s rotation of pass-rushers.