Paul DePodesta: Round 2 pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah could have been Browns' Round 1 choice
The Browns got a player well into the second round who they considered taking in the first round.
After the Browns drafted Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah 52nd overall after trading up seven spots Friday night, Browns Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta revealed the prospect could have been the franchise's choice in the first round if Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II hadn't been available at No. 26 overall.
"He was definitely under consideration. I'll say that," DePodesta said of Owusu-Koramoah via Zoom.
DePodesta said the Browns "were not really expecting him to get quite that far."
So how surprised were they when Owusu-Koramoah remained on the board at No. 52?
"We were pretty happy," DePodesta said with a laugh. "There was a lot of pacing going on upstairs once we got to about pick 42, 43, 44, just trying to figure out if there was a way we could make it happen. So we were very excited about this."
Who was doing the pacing?
"I think we probably had a building of 30 people all pacing together," General Manager Andrew Berry said. "We certainly didn’t expect him to be there when he was, but we’re fortunate that he was, and we think he’s going to add something to our team."
DePodesta said the Browns had reason to believe another team was about to pick Owusu-Koramoah, so Berry traded up from No. 59 overall.
"I won’t go into all the details, but yes, we felt the need to go up and get him," DePodesta said.
The Browns sent No. 59 and a third-round pick (No. 89) to the Carolina Panthers for No. 52 and a fourth-round choice (No. 113).
"Is this a fever dream or did the Browns actually trade up and draft a linebacker," Berry joked because of the perception he doesn't like to move up the board or place a premium on the position.
"Just based on how we viewed Jeremiah as a prospect and as a fit within our defense, we thought if there was a player that we could secure for pricing that we could stomach and feel good about, that was really in our best interest. Really, it was just as simple as that."
DePodesta said Owusu-Koramoah was "a little dinged up" during Notre Dame's pro day and didn't run a 40-yard dash as a result. But DePodesta said there were no major medical concerns that caused Owusu-Koramoah to slide farther down the draft board than the Browns expected.
"I can't begin to speculate in terms of what made him, I guess, allegedly drop, but I can say that we were very comfortable with him from a medical standpoint," Berry added.
Many teams likely didn't see Owusu-Koramoah, 6-foot-1½ and 221 pounds, as a fit because Notre Dame used him as a linebacker-safety hybrid.
"I do think Jeremiah is a little unique in the manner in which he produces, so he's not necessarily going to be everybody's flavor or fit," Berry said. "You are talking about a player who's a little bit undersized for a classic linebacker. You're talking about a guy who was used in a variety of roles at Notre Dame, and that's not necessarily going to be the right fit or maybe quite as highly valued of a skill set depending on the defensive system."
But Berry and DePodesta said Owusu-Koramoah fits the Browns' scheme to a T and they project him as a three-down linebacker because, as DePodesta said, he's "very, very good" against the run and pass.
“We see him as a linebacker,’' DePodesta said. “He’s certainly very versatile. I know there’s been talk that he could play strong safety or do lots of different things. I just think that speaks to his athleticism and his versatility, and I think he fits our scheme perfectly at the linebacker spot, and that’s where we plan to play him.
"He has a great motor. He really does. It's what we're looking for in general. We talk a lot about wanting players who are smart, tough and accountable. He certainly checks all of those boxes. There are times when he plays like his hair is on fire, and that is certainly attractive."
Berry was a little more specific. He said the Browns plan to use Owusu-Koramoah at weakside linebacker.
"We really do see him as the classic fit in this defense at WILL linebacker because of his range, speed and coverage ability," Berry said. "I think the other thing with Jeremiah is his versatility as well. They really walked him out as a nickel or dime, played him at WILL, played him at MIKE, and so that allows us to get creative when we get into some of our different personnel packages. It makes it very difficult for the offense to identify the front."
The Cleveland Browns love Anthony Schwartz's 'world-class Olympic speed'
Later Friday night, the Browns drafted Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz in the third round (No. 91 overall).
"I think probably the theme of day two of the draft with these two players [Owusu-Koramoah and Schwartz] really is speed," Berry said.
The Browns had a need for speed on defense and in their receiving corps, so Berry's pride in adding it isn't a surprise.
Berry said Schwartz "has world-class Olympic speed." A former track star who competed at the international level, Schwartz posted a time of 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Auburn's pro day.
Last season, the Browns didn't have a receiver who could consistently take the top off a defense after Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 25 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“What attracted us to Anthony is his ability to stretch the field," Berry said. "That's something that we felt coming off last year, especially with Odell's injury, is a dimension that wasn't quite as strong as when Odell was healthy throughout the year.
"[Schwartz] was a player who really impressed us throughout the spring process. Very, very smart. A very quick study. I think his best football is in front of him, but he has all of the characteristics we desire for a player to be a real primary vertical presence in our offense."
In addition to speed, the Browns had a need to strengthen their succession plan in their receiving corps.
Beckham is under contract for three more seasons, and Jarvis Landry has two seasons left on his deal. They're pricey, but the Browns can afford them. It won't be as easy after some of their younger teammates sign contract extensions. Beckham and Landry would account for a combined salary cap hit of more than $31 million next year.
"You're really drafting for this year but also for multiple-year horizons. There are needs that are going to come in your organization that you never know when they come about, so you want to be prepared," said Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the Browns' vice president of football operations.
As for Schwartz, he is not a "typical track guy" because he has a run-after-catch mindset, Adofo-Mensah said.
It's among the reasons the Browns believe Schwartz, 6-foot and 186 pounds, will complement Beckham and Landry.
Schwartz started 17 of the 36 games in which he appeared in three seasons at Auburn and had 117 catches for 1,433 yards and six touchdowns.
"You're adding a guy who has the potential to be an elite vertical presence and really good with the ball in his hands," Adofo-Mensah said. "That combination in any room is going to help.
"Obviously, he complements their skill sets greatly, and those guys are so versatile that they all can play off each other. When you add guys who have multiple dimensions and multiple ways to help an offense, they kind of work off of each other."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.