CLEVELAND, Ohio — I know Browns fans quickly grew sick of safety Andrew Sendejo. It’s probably the Minnesota in me, but he wasn’t as awful as his 44.4 Pro Football Focus grade suggests.
I’m relying on the eye test to defend that contention. The fact I’m opening a story with the headline you see above with a thought about Sendejo is exactly why I’m confident the Browns select at least one safety in the 2021 draft.
In fact, I’d bet the money I’m going to win via my Brooklyn Nets 2021 NBA champion futures ticket on the Browns drafting two defensive backs in the top 101 picks. For me to cash out, GM Andrew Berry would have to target a safety between Rounds 2 and 4 and pair him with a cornerback.
While messing around with The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine on Friday, that’s exactly what I did, landing Oregon’s Jevon Holland at No. 58 and Stanford corner Paulson Adebo at 89. Fun side note, Miami edge rusher Greg Rousseau fell to the Browns at No. 26.
Considering my above mock draft, it’s clear projecting where these safeties land will be difficult. I suspect as we get closer to late April there will be a few names that slide up boards as we gain fresh intel.
Let’s start there, with a prospect who fits that exact theory.
Trevon Moehrig, 6 foot 1, 190 pounds, senior, TCU (1st round, early second)
A year ago, It took 36 picks before a team selected a safety. Then a run on them began, including the Browns picking Grant Delpit and Tampa Bay nabbing Antoine Winfield Jr. a pick later. The 2021 draft could very well fall the same way. If this safety class does produce a first-rounder, it’ll be TCU’s Moehrig.
At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Moehrig’s size is ideal. Winfield Jr. proved stature is probably a bit overrated. Regardless, having long arms and a height advantage always helps. Moehrig combines better than average measurables with blue-chip speed, vision and instincts.
An accurate indicator of excellent defensive back play comes via pass breakups. No one broke up more throws than Moehrig over the past two seasons. Which signals Moehrig has the physical traits to win and film study habits that put him around the ball.
He played a lot of split safety (Cover 2 or 4) at TCU. Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods should like that. All year Moehrig blanketed twitchy slot receivers and became a brilliant route reader. There are plenty of examples on his film where it looks like he’s running receivers’ routes for them.
I’d be surprised if he isn’t a first-round selection. Cleveland likely prioritizes edge rushers and a stud linebacker over a safety. But perhaps GM Andrew Berry trades up if he’s lingering early in the second round.
Richie Grant, 6 foot, 194 pounds, senior, UCF (2nd round or 3rd round)
When my colleague (our draft guy) Tim Bielik agrees with me about a prospect, my already optimistic opinion on said player skyrockets. I’ve been watching Richie Grant’s tape and highlights for about a month and each week I grow more impressed.
Like Moehrig, Grant wins reps. He’s powerful at the point of attack. Meaning, when it comes time for a receiver to break open, Grant doesn’t allow it. However, unlike Moehrig and other longer safeties in this class, his physical traits aren’t impressive.
But Grant makes up for his unimpressive size and speed by relying on quick processing skills and route recognition. On tape, I noticed plays where he’ll break on balls without ever peeking into the backfield. Safeties who don’t have to watch the quarterback’s eyes to find the ball tend to live on a safe floor.
Grant may never be a Pro Bowler, but he could start Day 1 for the Browns and earn a second contract four years later.
Jevon Holland, 6 foot 1, 196 pounds, senior, Oregon (2nd round)
The above clip highlights Holland’s superb ball skills. In two seasons, he had 20-plus combined interceptions and pass breakups. Moehrig is the No. 1 safety in this class but Holland is the best ball hawk.