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Rookie minicamp preview: Which Cleveland Browns draftees could help in 2022?

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BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns kick off rookie minicamp at the end of this week, with nine players joining the roster. The Browns didn’t have a first-round pick this year after trading with the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson. Then, Cleveland traded out of the second round, too.

The Browns still selected several intriguing players in this draft class. Below is a ranking of who’s in line to contribute in 2022, from most likely to least:

1. Cade York, K, LSU

Round 4 | Pick 124

Coach Kevin Stefanski said last week that the Browns will not be bringing in another kicker to training camp. With the Browns having already waived 2021 starter Chase McLaughlin, that effectively means York is locked in as the starting kicker. York converted several clutch kicks at LSU, including a school-record, game-winning, 57-yard field goal to defeat then-No. 6 Florida in 2020. Browns general manager Andrew Berry said York’s consistency throughout his college career was appealing, as well. The Browns have been searching for the long-term answer at kicker ever since Phil Dawson’s final Cleveland season in 2012. By spending a fourth-round pick on a kicker, the Browns are banking York will be that guy.

2. David Bell, WR, Purdue

Round 3 | Pick 99

By trading back out of the second round, the Browns passed on a number of compelling receivers who were available. Still, Cleveland might have grabbed a steal at the end of the third round in Bell, who was the 2021 Big Ten receiver of the year. Bell, who produced an FBS-high 67 catches on shallow or crossing routes since 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information, is the exact type of receiver the Browns need to complement downfield threat Amari Cooper. Bell will get every opportunity.

3. Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma

Round 4 | Pick 108

The energetic Winfrey could prove to be another potential steal for the Browns, who entered the draft with major question marks at defensive tackle. Winfrey, who could’ve gone as high as the second round, has the ability to cause disruption up the middle. That should warrant him a spot in the DT rotation and could give him a chance to compete for a starting job.

4. Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State

Round 3 | Pick 68

This initially was a perplexing selection, given Cleveland’s CB depth, until the Browns jettisoned starting nickelback Troy Hill to the Rams a day later. Now, Cleveland’s secondary plan is in focus, with Greg Newsome II set to slide to corner, while Emerson and Greedy Williams (both long, physical press CBs) fight for the starting job opposite Pro Bowler Denzel Ward.

5. Alex Wright, EDGE, UAB

Round 3 | Pick 78

It remains to be seen whether Jadeveon Clowney re-signs in Cleveland. Either way, the Browns needed to add a high-upside pass rusher to its young core. At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, Wright fits that bill.

6. Isaiah Thomas, EDGE, Oklahoma

Round 7 | Pick 223

Underlined by his back-to-back, eight-sack seasons in college, Thomas has the tools to get after the passer. He could become a situational pass-rusher for the Browns if those tools translate.

7. Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati

Round 5 | Pick 156

This was another curious selection given Cleveland’s RB depth. But it also portends some tough decisions ahead on both Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson for the front office, possibly as soon as training camp. The Browns can only pay the position so much. And they have only so many carries to go around after Pro Bowler Nick Chubb. Ford’s combination of speed and power could make him the eventual heir-apparent backup behind Chubb.

8. Dawson Deaton, C, Texas Tech

Round 7 | Pick 246

The Browns have turned over the center position to Nick Harris, who is relatively unproven. Layering this position with depth, even in the seventh round, makes sense, especially if Deaton can make the practice squad.

9. Michael Woods II, WR, Oklahoma

Round 6 | Pick 202

Woods’ bread-and-butter is making catches downfield. But to stick with the Browns in that role, he’ll have to overcome his lack of size (6-foot-1) and speed (4.55-second 40-yard dash).