2021 NFL Draft: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah says Browns trading up for him in Round 2 'monumental feeling'
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fell farther than expected, and the Browns pounced.
General Manager Andrew Berry added another promising piece to the defense Friday night in the second round of the NFL Draft, choosing the Notre Dame linebacker 52nd overall after trading up seven spots.
The Browns moved from No. 59 overall to No. 52 in a deal with the Carolina Panthers to take Owusu-Koramoah.
"It's a monumental feeling," Owusu-Koramoah said via Zoom. "I'm so glad that the coaches gave me an opportunity to be able to show why I was supposed to be where I'm supposed to be. It's all love. It's a genuine feeling that the coaches would take a chance on me, and I'm appreciative to that."
The Browns sent the 59th overall pick and one of their two third-round choices (No. 89) to the Panthers for the 52nd selection and a fourth-round choice (No. 113). The Panthers drafted Louisiana State wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. at No. 59.
Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta said the Browns didn't think Owusu-Koramoah would slide as far as he did. He had widely been projected as a first-round pick.
"It has been a patient one," Owusu-Koramoah said of waiting until the 20th pick of the second round to be chosen. "My spirituality is extremely strong for me. It was a point where I had to take a stance of faith to be able to just lock in on my responsibilities and to be able to lock in on controlling the controllable. It's just a matter of controlling what you can control, and the things that you can’t control, you have to let those stand by.
"There has to be something that will motivate you, but my motivation lies strictly within the game of football and my appreciation for football. I'm not going to use something that is external in terms of a draft and people not picking me. I see those linebackers that were going in front of me, and I see those defenders that have gone before me, but you have to take certain things and add energy to certain things. What you put your thoughts to, that's what you give your energy to. If I rely on that and I think as much on that, I'll be [focusing] on the past. Right now, we're in the future and in the present. There are things that I have to get done right now."
Berry added Owusu-Koramoah after drafting Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round (No. 26 overall) on Thursday night.
As Owusu-Koramoah spoke to reporters, he said he simultaneously received a text from Newsome.
Owusu-Koramoah is the eighth major addition to the defense Berry has made this offseason. Since free agency began in mid-March, Berry has signed defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley, safety John Johnson III, cornerback Troy Hill, linebacker Anthony Walker and defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Then Berry drafted Newsome during the opening round of the draft.
"I'm glad that they got [Newsome] because I actually called that pick out," Owusu-Koramoah said. "I was like, 'Yo, they need to get my boy Greg off of there.' I didn't know him, but I was familiar with some of his stuff.
"Nevertheless, I did get a message specifically from my agent and I was getting these messages from different GMs as to why I wasn't getting picked and things like that. One of them from Cleveland was like, ‘We had no issues with him. We just didn't expect him to be on the board, so we were planning to just get a corner.’ Cleveland was pretty sound already, and they were expecting to get a corner [in Round 1]."
Owusu-Koramoah, 21, had virtual meetings with the Browns during the pre-draft process and thought he would be a good fit for them.
"The culture — I repeat it all of the time — smart, tough and accountable. Those are the three pillars, and those are things I'm looking to harp on," Owusu-Koramoah said.
"I love football. I love the game. I love the process. I love what it has taught me. It's almost a father figure to me."
Owusu-Koramoah, 6-foot-1½ and 221 pounds, also liked hearing the "no bark, all bite" catchphrase when he talked to defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
"This is an all-action type of defense, an all-action type of team," Owusu-Koramoah said.
Players selected earlier in the second round who had been considered options for the Browns include Mississippi receiver Elijah Moore (New York Jets, No. 34 overall), Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore (New England Patriots, No. 38), Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike (Detroit Lions, No. 41), Purdue receiver Rondale Moore (Arizona Cardinals, No. 49) and Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari (New York Giants, No. 50).
But it was Owusu-Koramoah who the Browns really coveted. DePodesta said the franchise could have drafted Owusu-Koramoah in the first round if Newsome hadn't been available at No. 26.
Owusu-Koramoah started all 25 games the past two seasons at Notre Dame and appeared as a backup in two more games in 2018. In those 27 games, he had 142 tackles, with 24½ for loss and seven sacks, five forced fumbles, eight passes defensed and an intercep.
"Tackling is what makes the money," he said. "Tackling is what gets the defense off of the field and gets the offense off of the field. Tackling is something I love to do. Whether it's a hard hit, whether it's a wrap-and-roll hit or whether it's a certain technical hit, I like tackling. That's what the game is about and that's what I'm here for."
Last season as a redshirt junior, Owusu-Koramoah had 62 tackles, with 11 for loss and 1½ sacks, three forced fumbles, four passes defensed and an interception in 12 games. He was a unanimous first-team All-American, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-ACC selection and the winner of the Butkus Award as the nation's top collegiate linebacker.
"I'm a versatile guy," Owusu-Koramoah said. "I can be in the box, I can be on the edge and I can be in the APEX as you would call the alley player. I think that's the reason why the Cleveland Browns chose me because I can do all those things.
"I would describe myself as being talented. I would describe myself as being hardworking and a guy that's versatile in everything that he does. I'm looking forward to getting to work, and I'm looking forward to these guys taking me in. I'm looking forward to adapting to the culture."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.