Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for 850 ESPN Cleveland.
The 2019 Browns draft wasn’t nearly as anticipated as previous ones.
Instead of their customary two picks in the first round, the Browns had none. Their No. 1 in the middle of the round was used in the trade for Odell Beckham Jr. Fans were still hung over with that trade and had blunted enthusiasm for GM John Dorsey second Browns draft on April 25-27.
But as training camp nears the halfway point, it appears Dorsey’s second draft class could have more impact on the 2019 season than anticipated.
Here’s an update on the Browns’ rookie draft picks as camp completes its third week.
Cornerback Greedy Williams
He showed in the first two weeks on the practice field that reports of his coverage ability were not exaggerated. Nobody covered Beckham better. And then he added an interception in his first preseason game against the Redskins.
But what pleased the coaches was Williams’ determination to erase the stigma that he wouldn’t tackle.
“I think he showed everybody that he will tackle,” said DeWayne Walker, defensive backs coach. “I’m sure that’s the main thing everybody wants to see.
“That’s something I know he wanted to prove and he continues to want to prove that’s not a weakness to his game.”
Williams is locked in a competition with Terrance Mitchell for the second starting cornerback spot opposite Denzel Ward. It’s becoming intense. Mitchell is fighting hard for the spot he earned last year.
And because neither player is a candidate to be moved inside in nickel defenses, a platoon situation between Williams and Mitchell could be a possibility early on.
Linebacker Sione Takitaki
The wild man from Brigham Young is raw, but displays the energy, emotion and, frankly, the violence the Browns want in the middle of their defense.
Right now, he looks the complete opposite of savvy Joe Schobert, the veteran middle linebacker playing ahead of him.
Takitaki plays the game at one speed. He over-ran a few plays against the Redskins and would be an easy target of screen plays if he were pressed into duty against good quarterbacks. His capacity to improve and temper his instincts will dictate how soon he plays with the first team. It’ll come.
Free safety Sheldrick Redwine
For now, Redwine’s value will be on special teams. He got a good taste of work in the Redskins’ game and also co-led the team with four tackles playing on the third team defense.
Linebacker Mack Wilson
If Williams was the “most valuable rookie draft pick” of the first two weeks, Wilson has surged past him since. What a week he had – five interceptions in five practices, including two in the Redskins game and a 40-yard return for touchdown.
His knack for interceptions was his calling card at Alabama. That ability may get him on the field sooner than Takitaki, who was taken two rounds earlier.
Coach Freddie Kitchen is tempering praise of Wilson, but that could be Kitchens’ way of pulling more out of Wilson.
“The game of football is about one-on-one matchups in a strategy situation. He needs to show that he can win his one-on-one battles and then maybe he gets that right,” coach Freddie Kitchens said.
“Just because he makes two splash plays, you did not see the busted assignments. I am not saying he has busted assignments, but he has busted assignments out here on the practice field. It is how you come back and play the next play.”
Kicker Austin Seibert
The fifth-round pick from Oklahoma is under the microscope more than any rookie because he’s competing for a prominent starting spot that has enormous impact on wins and losses.
Seibert’s travails early on have been documented almost daily. He has made a lower percentage of field goals in camp than incumbent Greg Joseph, but he could be on the upward trend after nailing a 52-yard field goal with the clock ticking under 10 seconds in a simulated game-winning situation on Saturday.
Offensive lineman Drew Forbes
The left tackle from Southeast Missouri State is spending his first training camp mostly at left guard on the third team. That doesn’t mean he won’t get a look-see at tackle in the future, but for now he is considered a developmental lineman.
Cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr.
He had surgery on a foot after an injury in the East-West Shrine Game and missed all of the OTA and minicamp season. All of that put him at the back of a pack of 10 cornerbacks in training camp. He is healthy now and competing on the field – but a setback like he had in the offseason is tough for a rookie to overcome in his first season.