The Cleveland Browns came into the 2018 NFL Draft with four of the top 35 picks, and two of the top four. It was widely expected that they’d take a quarterback at No. 1, and that is indeed what they did: they selected Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield to be their QB of the future.
It was at No. 4 where the Browns made their first surprising selection of the weekend. Most people considered NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb to be the top defensive player in the draft, and when he was still available at No. 4, figured the ability to pair Chubb with last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Myles Garrett, along the defensive line would be too enticing to pass up.
“The reason is our need for a press cover cornerback,” Williams told Peter King of The MMQB. “Denzel probably plays that position as well as anyone I’ve seen in college football in some time. We probably play the most press of any team in the league.”
The Browns certainly came into the weekend with a need for a top corner on the outside, and with Ward, they’ve got someone who can lock down that position for the foreseeable future. But Williams said there was another reason the team felt comfortable picking Ward rather than another defensive lineman.
“There’s another reason. I’ve got a video of 28 snaps of Myles Garrett pass-rushes last year where he gets within two steps or less of the quarterback when the ball comes out,” Williams said. “Basically, we aren’t covering long enough to let him get to the quarterback. Myles and others — especially [defensive end] Emmanuel Ogbah — will get more chances because of Denzel.”
Garrett had a strong rookie campaign after returning from an early-season injury, recording 31 tackles and seven sacks in 11 games. Ogbah, who Williams called a rising star, had four sacks of his own in a ten-game stint. It’s entirely possible that he becomes a valuable pass-rusher, but his ceiling (and floor) is not as high as that of Chubb. Only time will tell whether the Browns made the correct choice, but at least there’s a guiding philosophy behind the pick, which is more than could be said for the team in some previous seasons.