NFL Film Breakdown: How Stefanski is Using Zone and Counter to Power the Cleveland Browns Run Game

The Cleveland Browns might finally have things headed in the right direction and in large part that’s due to the run game that Stefanski has installed. The Browns rank 1st in the NFL with 942 yards rushing with an average of 188 per game. While Stefanski uses plenty of stretch zone and wide zone, his use of the counter scheme has really powered the Browns run game. With strong and athletic linemen and some very talented backs, Stefanski has helped establish a power, tough nosed, identity in the run game for the Browns. He’ll dress counter up in an infinite number of ways which helps create creases for Chubb and Hunt to attack and allows his linemen to drive block and wall off defenders on the inside. Counter is somewhat of a rarity in the NFL – at least as a bread and butter run play. Defenders are so fast and good at penetrating, they can often disrupt the play if the timing isn’t there. That’s why Stefanski is using his fullbacks, H-backs, and any other personnel he can find to make counter hit faster and more cleanly open up space.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

We’ll start off with their pure counter look before we dive into how Stefanski likes to add wrinkles and make his counter look slightly different from play to play. When they’re running their generic guard and tackle counter, they like to run counter strong so that they know that they’re going to typically be running at the 3-technique that is lined up on the outside shoulder of the guard which in turn, makes the down-block for the center easier because he’s now facing a 1-technique that is shaded on his backside shoulder.

In counter, the guard kicks out and the tackle is the one that wraps through and up-field. Usually if there’s an end, that’s the guy that’s left for the kickout but since the Browns here are in 12 personnel with two tight ends and the end is in a 6 technique head up with the first tight end, the guard has to be able to sift through and kick out the first outside man that appears that is trying to pinch down on the hole. That ends up being #58 at the Mike linebacker position. The guard wants to kick him up and out and then the tackle coming behind him, is meant to wrap up and through that kickout block and block the first enemy color. It can depend on the scheme and leverage of the end man on the line of scrimmage, but the tackle will usually look inside out as they wrap through.

Everyone else is down-blocking. The rest of the line trying to create a wall that prevents penetration and pursuit to the play-side. So, the two tight ends are down-blocking on a combo to the Will linebacker – meaning they’re leaving the Mike for the guard or tackle to pick up. The play-side guard and tackle are also double teaming and trying to climb but the defensive tackle here does a good job anchoring and preventing that. The center walls off, and the receiver in the tight split just tries to get in front of any backside pursuit and slow it down. Chubb does a good job of being patient here and riding his blocks up-field.

So, that’s counter at its core. A guard kick, with a blocker wrapping behind with down-blocks and double teams from the play-side. Let’s now take a look at the variations that Stefanski runs with the Browns – because there are quite a few. The simplest next variation is a guard and H-back pull. The Browns block it slightly differently on this snap than your conventional counter though. The kickout is now designed to be on the linebacker because the play-side tackle is hinging and blocking the defensive end. With no end man on the line of scrimmage to kick out, the pulling guard is now responsible for kicking out the play side linebacker. The H, who is replacing the role of the tackle, is looking inside to block the flowing backside linebacker. As a result, the counter hits a lot more vertically and tighter to the center of the field.

You can see comparatively how this is a harder block now for the center because they’re running counter weak, away from the H back. They’re doing this though because they want that open B gap on the play side. So, the play side block for the guard is much easier on their down-block on a 1 technique which helps prevent penetration. If that player was in a 3-technique, as we’ll see soon, the play would be run like a normal counter because they wouldn’t be able to down-block a potential 3 tech there and still be able to block the end. Because the guard isn’t kicking out the end, he has to know he has to be really tight to the line of scrimmage here because he can’t over run that linebacker that’s going to fill the B gap. It’s not perfect because he gets the up-field shoulder of the linebacker, but it’s effective enough to create movement and space. The H wraps around looking inside for the flowing linebacker, and Chubb again does a good job running tight to the wrap block and bursting up-field off of it.

As a comparison, you can now see that same concept run against the Bengals when they have a 3 tech to the play side. The left tackle now down blocks on the 3 technique, and the guard wraps around him. The Browns in both these cases used a jet motion – which, to be honest, they could stand to do a lot more of.

A lot of data is indicating that plays run with pre-snap motion have a higher expected point value on them than plays that don’t. Stefanski was notoriously bad with that with the Vikings last year and ran motion on only 5% of plays and it’s not much better this year. You can see though how impactful that motion is, because it forces the end man on the line of scrimmage out of the play. The guard is now able to wrap up to the linebacker, the H follows behind looking inside first, and while that player that the motion originally moved ends up making the play, it’s not until they’re already 10 yards downfield.

The Browns will also really change it up and mess with linebacker reads by pulling the play side guard instead of the backside guard and run counter with a fullback. It’s almost like a wide trap that can hit very fast with the kickout from the guard and then a more athletic pulling fullback coming across the formation to wrap through. All the staples of counter are there though. You have the down-blocks and climbs to linebackers creating a wall, you have the kickout, and you have the wrap through. Because they’re running at a 3-technique, the the fullback knows that the guard is going to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOLS) and that the tight end is going to be able to easily climb to the linebacker based off of alignment. So, the fullback is now looking outside in and picks up the corner that’s walked down into the box. Everything works as schemed and Kareem Hunt is able to get a really nice gain off of it.

They’ll even occasionally have their fullback kick out the EMOLS and have the guard wrap through. Yet another small wrinkle to get to counter but make it look a little different.

Before going into the Browns last couple forms of counter, it’s important to look at their wide zone, because they work off of each other. Wide zone and stretch zone are essentially the same play and it’s largely semantics, but the Browns like to run them both. It gets linebackers flowing and creates cutback lanes for their running backs. They’ll run naked boots off of it and play action and it can be a super effective play for them.

This is an example of stretch zone. Really the defining characteristic for me, and the difference between this and wide zone, is the play side tackle and the size of horizontal steps by the rest of the line. If the tackle is trying to lead with and wrap his hips to seal the outside, I call it stretch. It’s a slight philosophical difference in how the play is run. You can see the tackle is working to seal the outside and allow the running back to turn the corner, which he does successfully. The rest of the linemen are taking hard horizontal steps and working to overtake and climb to linebackers to create hard flow and cutback lanes for the running back when linebackers over pursue.

The ball might not always go outside, but that’s the goal of stretch zone. They really want to create hard flow and stress the edges and are willing to be a little more vulnerable to some inside penetration to do so.

Compare this now to wide zone, where you have a similar alignment from the end man on the line of scrimmage, but now the tackle is just drive blocking him out of the way. He’s not as concerned with sealing the end and is okay with the play cutting up underneath him. The rest of the line takes slightly less aggressive horizontal steps but otherwise stay on the same tracks as the stretch zone.

The main reason I wanted to show some of their wide and stretch zone is to show how the flow works on the offensive line and what that causes in the defense. They’ll often throw in a fullback and have him lead block on their zone plays as well. He just takes the same track as if he was a running back, reading outside-in on the defensive linemen and then attacks the first linebacker to appear and acts as a lead blocker.

Now that we’ve seen how the Browns use their wide and stretch zone and even incorporate lead blocks with the fullback into it, we can go back to our counter. The Browns will run that same look with the outside zone lead, and now they’ll pull that fullback around on a counter action and wrap just like we were seeing before with the H. He takes steps forwards like he’s lead blocking, the down-blocks from the line look an awful lot like wide zone steps and reach steps, but now the guard and fullback are coming around on counter. The guard kicks out and the fullback wraps through.

This is the same concept but a great illustration of how this looks similar to wide zone and gets the linebackers out of position. Again, we have the fullback fake lead to counter wrap and the guard kicking out but take a look at all the linebackers taking a step the wrong way. Because they establish the wide zone and wide zone fullback lead, the linebackers react to it and are out of position. They get caught in traffic trying to scrape across, you have two lead blockers going the other way and there’s one poor corner who’s supposed to take on a kickout block from a guard. Not a recipe for success for the defense.

The Browns also have a guard center counter that they’ll run that can really force defenses to flow hard to the wide zone look and can also be read similarly from the running back perspective. It’s really the same concept we’ve been going over. Just now we have the play side guard and center working the counter action. Guard kicks out, center wraps through. It does make for some incredibly tough blocks on the backside though. It’s a big ask to  cut or wall off pursuing defenders so it’s been a little hit or miss for them but when it hits, it can hit big.

What’s cool is that when they don’t go for the cut blocks backside to prevent pursuit, the play can turn essentially into wide zone. If the defense over flows to the two pullers and the stretch and cutoff blocks, the running back can cutback to the backside just like we see in wide zone. Some really interesting little wrinkles and shows how the run scheme is all tying together for the Browns. The plays build off each other to look similar and keep similar concepts, they’re just designed with slight tweaks and differences.

To finish things off quickly, we’ll talk about that game winning end around to OBJ that the Browns called to beat Dallas because it works off these same concepts. It’s a gotcha play two rungs up the ladder. The Browns run wide zone, they run wide zone fullback lead, then they have the wide zone FB counter wrap play, and now here they are running the counter H-back look except the H-back is now wheeling back around and lead blocking for the end around to Odell Bekham Jr. They still pull the guard and give the Cowboys every indication it’s another one of their power looks and the linebackers buy it and get out of position. They ran it earlier in the game and got a good chunk out of it.

The Browns are grinding people out right now in the run game. Even though Nick Chubb is down for a few weeks, Cleveland just keeps on running it down people’s throats. They are pretty versatile in their game plan and will be heavy zone one week and heavy power and counter the next but the beautiful thing is that it all ties in together. Stefanski has found a way to mesh them into one identity. An identity of aggressive, powerful, and tough football. A team that can grind away your will on the ground and make things easy for Baker Mayfield and some absolute top tier weapons in Odell Bekham Jr, Jarvis Landry, and even Austin Hooper. If you can’t stop the run of the Browns, it’s going to be a long day. The Browns won’t stop running until you make them and if things continue like this, they may keep running all the way to the playoffs.

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NFL Film Breakdown: Why Stefanski Could Save Baker Mayfield’s Career

When the Cleveland Browns took Baker Mayfield #1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft he gave Cleveland fans reason to hope that this quarterback would finally be the one to take the Browns back to the playoffs. Three seasons later, he’s on his 4th head coach and has had stretches of play that look like he deserves that #1 selection but he’s also paired that with times where you wonder if he’s just another guy in the long line of failed Browns quarterbacks.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

On play action, Baker’s completion percentage jumped up 5% versus normal drop-backs, he had a positive touchdown to interception ratio, and his passer rating was a whole 24.7 points higher. Despite Baker’s success on play-action, Freddie Kitchens only called it 23.4% of the time. When he throws in rhythm in the short game and on RPOs he has a 67.24% completion percentage, he has good mechanics, can fit balls in small windows, and shows great decisiveness.

David Richard/AP

When he’s not throwing the ball in rhythm, well… he shows none of that. His mechanics and footwork go out the window, he has trouble with getting consistent hip rotation, he panics in the pocket and quickly pulls his eyes from looking downfield. When plays are 2.5+ seconds, his completion percentage drops all the way to 50.7%. His pure arm talent is great but his fundamentals are desperately lacking. The scheme and receivers did him no favors either. Despite having maybe one of the best skill groups on paper with Jarvis Landry, O’dell Bekham, David Njoku, and Nick Chubb, the Browns ranked 20th in separation gained on routes. Guys were rarely schemed open and there was a distinct lack of play-calls that let Baker do what he does best – rollout on play-action or run RPO concepts in the quick pass game – concepts the Browns only ran a combined 34% of the time in 2019. Without those concepts, the Browns struggled to get separation downfield and Baker experienced a sophomore slump. We’ll touch on it more later but with a more experienced offensive mind and play-caller in Stefanski, Baker should be primed for a bounce-back year.

Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

The Browns have the skill players to attack horizontally and still be an explosive and effective offense. Baker did a ton of damage with RPOs at Oklahoma and is just as much at home doing it in the NFL as he was in college. They give simple and quick reads for Baker and help him align his feet and base to give him good mechanics.

Most RPOs read the outside linebacker or apex defender. If they come in to fit into the run game, the ball goes outside to the pass concept. If the defender stays outside to guard the pass, then Baker will hand the ball off. The mesh with the running back also has the added benefit of helping Baker align his feet to the throw. He consistently brings his hips all the way through, has a quick release, a solid base just outside of his shoulders, and delivers accurate balls.

When you simplify reads for Mayfield, it’s like night and day with his accuracy. Here all he has to do is locate the strong safety who should be passing the dig off to the middle linebacker. When he diagnoses that that safety isn’t passing it off and has vacated his deep zone, he throws the post for a touchdown.  While heel clicks are a constant issue, you can see the accuracy downfield here as Baker comes out of the run fake, hitches, and delivers a perfect ball downfield.

He can read the leverage of defenders quickly and deliver decisive balls to really small windows like here on a back-shoulder off play action.

Whether it’s an intermediate throw, a deep shot, or a touch pass, his mechanics are way better on play-action and these half field reads. He is aware of defenders zones and responsibilities and can fit the balls into the weak areas of the defense.

He excels at throwing off his last step of his drop or off one hitch. Look at his footwork here and see how consistent and clean it is. You can see he has a solid base, his feet are apart, he’s following through on all of his throws – and that leads to more consistent and accurate passing.

Where he struggles though, is when things get off schedule or his first read or two are taken away. He can get frazzled in the pocket, bring his eyes down and look to run, and struggles a lot with consistent mechanics. He lacks trust in the protection and quickly tries to bail at any sign of pressure. This causes him to lock onto one receiver or abandon passing all together. He tends to make big movements in the pocket that end up getting him into more trouble and as a result he misses potential huge gains on busted coverages downfield.

Outside of the pocket issues, my biggest concerns are his heel click and his hips. He has a huge issue of opening his leg and hips horizontally rather than leading with his off leg towards the receiver. When he opens his hips parallel to the line of scrimmage he loses all consistency throwing the ball. It’s hard to get consistent hip rotation and accuracy out of this throwing position and forces him to rely purely on arm strength and talent rather than sound and consistent fundamentals at his base.

He also has a big issue with heel click on his hitch steps. When the feet come together as a quarterback you get some vertical bounce which is one more thing for your arm to compensate for and makes you less consistent over time. In both these scenarios he has huge heel click and then sky mails the balls way over the receivers head.

The mechanical issues can all easily be fixed with Stefanski coming in who helped make Case Keenum look like a viable starting quarterback and has helped Kirk Cousins rack up the stats and yards. More concerning for me is Baker’s lack of understanding of defender location combined with those poor mechanics. Earlier, we saw that he’s definitely capable of reading zones but a few times he completely left his receivers out to dry and got them hurt by throwing them into a defender, being inaccurate with his ball placement, and setting them up for big collisions.

Baker isn’t as polished as you might hope for a number 1 overall pick going into his 3rd year, but there’s reason for optimism with Stefanski’s system coming to Cleveland. While the Vikings didn’t blow the Browns out of the water with how much more play-action they ran, they did run play-action 4% more. The Vikings also ran a lot more under-center action and while Baker didn’t get a ton of that in Cleveland last year, he had a 104.3 QB rating when they did.

Some of the stuff the Baker does best, the Vikings do a lot of. They attacked the seams with their tight ends and slot receivers, created a lot of rhythm passes, schemed guys open, and ran efficient play-action that stressed defenses vertically and horizontally. Baker thrives when he’s on rhythm and can drive the ball which is the type of throws asked for in Stefanski’s system.

Slants and sit routes are a staple of the Stefanski offense and are something the Browns just didn’t do enough of especially with weapons that can take a short pass to the house. These give Baker those clear, simple reads that he can read and hit by the top of his drop.

The power of that play-action also opened up huge holes in the run game despite Minnesota’s struggles on the offensive line.

Stefanski also likes to take shots in rhythm outside and stretch the field vertically when they get a matchup they like and those top-of-drop deep throws are when Baker is most accurate.

Baker Mayfield definitely has some things to work on with his footwork and lower body mechanics but he clearly has the ability to play at an elite level when those things are clean. The lack of field awareness and keeping his receivers clean gives concern and he had trouble with adjusting beyond his first or second read. With Stefanski’s system coming in that emphasizes throwing in rhythm, play-action shots, and quick reads, Baker’s skillset should be reaching its full potential. As he becomes more familiar, the whole offense should open up. There are too many weapons in the backfield, outside, and at tight end for defenses to be able to shut everything down. If Baker can operate within the system and clean up some mechanical issues, the Browns will give the Ravens all they can handle on offense and could finally get what looks like a top 10 roster to perform on the field and steal away the AFC North.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on YouTube for video breakdowns and Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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2020 Browns Draft Review: The Joke Is Over In Cleveland

For decades the Cleveland Browns were the laughing stock of the NFL. The 2019 season was supposed to change that, with the addition of Odell Beckham, Jr. and the emergence of Baker Mayfield, they were primed for a playoff appearance. However, like so many great jokes, the set up just helped create laughs when the joke was delivered. Now, with a new GM and head coach, it seems (maybe?) the Browns finally got things figured out. After a strong free agency period, they followed up with one of the best draft classes of the year. Rather than going for the splashy names like the previous regime, they found a middle ground between the best player available and need. They face stiff competition in their division, but Cleveland may soon have a winner, which would be in part to this draft class. 

1.10 Jedrick Wills, OT Alabama

It was no secret that one of the Browns biggest weaknesses on last year’s team was the offensive line, which acted more like swiss cheese than the brick wall it’s supposed to be. So, when one of, if not the best tackle prospect who should have been a top-five pick, dropped to ten it was a sign that the football Gods were smiling on Cleveland. While Wills played on the right side in college, he will more than likely take over the spot vacated by Cheech and Chong Greg Robinson who is no longer with the team and did a poor job last season, forcing Baker to be rushed into many throws or having to take a sack. With established right tackle Jack Conklin on the team, it makes more sense to keep him comfortable there and grow with your tackle of the future on the left side. While you may think it’s an easy transition moving from the right, it’s not as seamless as one would think, particularly in footwork, and with OTA’s not happening, so Wills might show some growing pains early. However, in short order, he will rise to the ranks of best blindside protectors in the league. He’s a physical, no-nonsense tone-setter that has the athletic and technical skills you look for. No other tackle in this year’s class, or the previous year’s class for that matter, has the ability to use his hands and feet better than Wills. Whether he’s exploding off the ball or using his hands to stabilize a bull rush, there’s really nothing he can’t do. Long-term he’s going to become a tackle you can trust in one on ones, no need for a tight end to stay in or help chip. That’s the best quality a team can ask for in a tackle, and the Browns now have that again. The team has quickly turned a weakness into a strength, following the recipe that wins are built in the trenches, and protecting your most valuable asset is of the utmost importance. 

2.44 Grant Delpit, S LSU

Drafting a top-ten player in terms of talent in the second round? That’s an absolute win. I’m a huge Delpit fan and think he’s going to be an impact player for many years. Yes, he wasn’t as good this past season as he was in 2018 but he was still good enough to win the Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s best secondary player. Teams, sometimes rightfully, decide to overanalyze the faults in players rather than the things they do well. Delpit has great size and athleticism that enables him to play either safety spot in most schemes, however, the Browns are likely to play him at free safety which would better utilize his talents. He displays great range and football IQ that allows him to quickly diagnose plays and be in the right position more often than not. The safety position has been the Browns version of a revolving door the past few seasons, having no stability whatsoever. Currently, the team has Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph as presumed starters, but neither has shown any promise of being good NFL starters. Thus, Delpit becomes the new favorite to start. Both of the aforementioned veterans are more thumpers, while that’s Delpit’s weakness. His broken collarbone injury in 2018 had seemingly a physiological impact on his game as in 2019, he seemed to shy away from contact more and missed tackles due to poor tackling mechanics. Delpit’s strength though is his coverage ability and versatility in the back end. I would suspect that Delpit starts week one at safety and becomes a good starter immediately. When/if he can fix his tackling problems, he instantly becomes a secondary chess piece. Line him up at either spot, play center field or in the box, blitz, line him up in man against the tight ends, the possibilities are endless. 

3.88 Jordan Elliot, DL Missouri

After going with two accomplished players, Browns decided to get a lottery ticket with their third pick. Elliot has the look you want in a player, tall and muscular, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of production. Right now he’s as raw as an uncooked steak and needs a lot of coaching up on simple things, all of which are fixable. He’ll get bullied way too often than he should be, which is more than likely because of poor functional strength. A way to improve this would be to keep your pad level lower and be stronger with your hands, both skills that could develop within a few years. The thing that Elliot does well is occupying blockers and keeping gap integrity, a vital quality that a defensive lineman needs. The Browns currently have Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi ahead of him, letting Elliot the ability to develop this season. However, both of the previously mentioned veterans could be gone after the season. Richardson is solid, but expensive, and might not be worth keeping around at eleven million dollars a year. Ogunjobi has been good but is a free agent after the season. Personally, I think Elliot will need more than just one season to become an NFL starter as he’s a project now, but the new regime in Cleveland feels like they can sculpt him into a solid player.

3.97 Jacob Phillips, LB LSU

The Browns linebacking corp is in a bit of transition with the loss of leading tackler and middle linebacker, Joe Schobert, and don’t have a surefire replacement. Mack Wilson started and performed well for a fifth-round rookie a season ago and are scheduled to roll with Sione Takitaki, a third-round pick from a season ago, at middle linebacker but still need some depth and competition at the position. Enter former LSU tiger, Jacob Phillips. He played a bit in Patrick Queen’s shadow but was the leading tackler on the national championship team. While he does struggle in pass coverage, due to the fact he has trouble reading quarterbacks eyes and processing opponents routes, he is a great run defender. Will be aggressive as he flows to the ball and not afraid of getting physical with blockers. His role early might be at SAM, where his focus will be to engage with tight ends and tackles trying to blow up a run play, but his speed and tackling abilities show he has the chance to be a long-term solution in the middle. In a division now where you have to face Lamar Jackson twice a year, you’re going to need athletic linebackers who will move sideline to sideline. This is an upside pick, but if Phillips can speed up his mental processing and become a better overall football player, he has the chance to carve out a role on this defense. At worst, he becomes a special team standout. 

4.115 Harrison Bryant, TE Florida Atlantic 

On paper, this pick was confusing. Yes, Bryant is a very talented player worthy of a fourth-round selection but the Browns already have a great one-two punch with Austin Hooper and David Njoku. One would figure that the Browns would run more two tight end sets, which perfectly suits their style of play. In a two tight end formation, you can’t focus on the run or pass, so a creative offensive mind will be able to keep the defense on their toes. Last season, with Stefanksi calling the plays, went two tight ends with Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith, and Hooper and Njoku are a major upgrade over that duo. There are rumors that Njoku is on the trade block which inserts Bryant into this scenario. If Njoku is moved, Bryant starts to see a lot more snaps. Bryant would be utilized as a more move tight end/h-back, even lining up at fullback at times. He’s not a great blocker and would struggle against defensive linemen and possibly even stronger linebackers. I would like to see him be used frequently moving in motion and as a field stretcher in the play-action game. Hopefully, the Browns keep Njoku for one more season to see that tight end duo play together, but if not then Bryant will see a good amount of playing time. 

5.160 Nick Harris, C Washington

Versatile? Check. Athletic? Check. Smart? Check. If a player has those three qualities, more likely than not they’ll be a pro in this league for a long time. Harris checks all those boxes and while he might not necessarily see the field right off the bat, he can fill in at any spot across the interior offensive line. The Browns are pretty good in the trenches with J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller, and Joel Bitonio but every team is always one injury away from a completely different outlook. While Harris may never be a consistent starter, he’s never going to be a detriment to his team. He’s quite small for a lineman, maybe one of the smallest in the league at 6-1 295 pounds, but makes up for it in quickness and IQ. At Washington, he was often used as a puller or in double teams before moving to the second level to block a linebacker. In short-yardage situations and it came to power running, he would get overwhelmed with speed and length of defensive tackles. His length and lack of strength will be the thing that holds him back, but that still doesn’t mean he can’t play. He has a high IQ which is displayed in making line changes and in almost always making the right block. At the worst, the Browns have a pretty cheap, high-level depth player at a position where injuries are unfortunately very common. While the plan may not be for Harris to see a lot of playing time, I’d bet over the next four seasons he will make more than a handful of starts and do a good job at it. 

6.187 Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR Michigan

As I mentioned previously, the Browns do not have a legit third receiver at the moment. Guys like Rashard Higgins, Taywan Taylor, KhaDarel Hodge, and Damion Ratley are in the running for it, but none have proven themselves to be consistent producers. Higgins and Taylor have had flashes of being good receivers, but both probably will never strike fear in the opposing team’s eye. Peoples-Jones, on the other hand, has the chance to have a good pro career. Out of high school, he was a highly-touted prospect and then fell flat at Michigan. The offense wasn’t a pass friendly one and struggled with poor quarterback play over his three seasons. Peoples-Jones does have a lot of things you look for in a receiver: size, athleticism, route running, and an alpha male attitude. He’s going to give full effort whether he’s blocking or showing toughness with the ball in his hands. The general consensus would be his future is working in the slot where he’s going to have a free release off the line then use his athletic ability to get open. I think he will have a relatively small role in the offense as a rookie and contribute on special teams, where he has experience as a punt returner. Let him spend some time learning about how to be a receiver and slowly work his way into getting snaps. The question that will soon be answered though is whether it was Michigan that held back Peoples-Jones from reaching his potential or is it that Peoples-Jones just isn’t a good receiver. The NFL seems to think it’s the latter, I believe it’s the former and that the Browns got a steal in the sixth round. 

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.