Joe Woods’ defense made out well in Andrew Berry’s latest free-agent shopping spree.
But the Cleveland Browns rookie draft class is rather impressive, too.
Browns put exclamation point on "defensive lean" offseason with 2021 draft class
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 3, 2021
And two of them could vie for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, according to at least one NFL analyst.
CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso says Gregory Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are DROY candidates.
Cleveland is the only team with two players listed among the 11 players cited by Trapasso.
Odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, per @DKSportsbook
1. Micah Parsons, Cowboys +500
2. Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins +700
3. Jamin Davis, Washington +800
3. J. Owusu-Koramoah, Browns +800
5. Kwity Paye, Colts +1000 pic.twitter.com/Oj8vo7mggX
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 22, 2021
But with the emphasis on offense early in the 2021 NFL Draft, there is no runaway candidate for the award.
Playing their part in Cleveland’s talent-laden defense could hurt or help the rookies’ ambition.
It might be harder to stand out among the Browns’ cast or the veterans can create opportunity for the youngsters.
Here is what Trapasso says and what might help Owusu-Koramoah or Newsome’s case.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the Middle
Trapasso listed Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as his top defensive rookie of 2021.
He suspected JOK could go as high as 10th overall in the draft.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah LB @NDFootball 6 1/2, 221 Exc athlete who can run and cover, blitz and is very instinctive. This play shows his ability to play the run. 1st rd talent. @NFLDraft @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/aVcg8uEJPu
— Charley Casserly (@CharleyCasserly) April 17, 2021
Yet, the author makes the Browns linebacker his third favorite to win the DPOY award.
The writer expects Owusu-Koramoah to be a contributor in the Browns’ defense, as he explains in his article:
“Because of his insane twitch, explosion, sustained speed, and defensive back-like ball skills, Owusu-Koramoah is bound to be a steady three-down producer in Cleveland.”
But Trapasso thinks Joe Woods might play his rookie behind some veterans early in the season.
If Joe Woods takes too much time to figure out JOK’s best role, it might hamper the rookie’s DROY bid.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah describes "monumental feeling" of being drafted by Browns
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 1, 2021
With 3 preseason games and plenty of video, we can hope the coaching staff defines roles by September.
But that doesn’t mean those roles can’t change or expand as the season goes on.
Owusu-Koramoah might have to work his way back into the DROY conversation if he doesn’t break out early.
Gregory Newsome Getting Picked On
Cornerbacks don’t often make good rookie or player of the year candidates.
That is because statistics matter to those who would vote.
And passers tend to avoid good cornerbacks, making stats hard to come by.
But Gregory Newsome has an advantage some skilled rookies don’t get.
Browns CB Greg Newsome II allowed a 0.0 passer rating on 3rd/4th down last season.
Only CB in the Draft class to do so. pic.twitter.com/HrFlbxdD9g
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 30, 2021
He has Denzel Ward covering the other side of the field and Troy Hill shutting down the slot.
Given the choices presented, NFL quarterbacks are likely to go after the rookie in the crowd.
Newsome’s talent will help, as described by Trapasso:
“I thought he was the smoothest cornerback in the draft. He flipped his hips and changed directions like he had no ligaments in his lower half. And it was a joy watching him plant then drive on the football.”
Facing the opponents’ second receivers might further help Newsome pile up interceptions and deflections.
And a healthy dose of those statistics is what it will take to earn the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.