Cleveland Browns NFL Draft picks 2024: Grades, fits and scouting reports

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The Cleveland Browns entered the 2024 NFL Draft with six picks but just two in the top 150.

This draft marks the end of the 2022 Deshaun Watson trade. Of the six picks the Browns sent to Houston, the final two are this year’s first- and fourth-round selections. Cleveland kicked off its 2024 on Friday night with the selection of Ohio State defensive lineman Mike Hall Jr., then dipped into the other side of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry to take offensive lineman Zak Zinter. They addressed their receiver depth in Round 5 with the selection of Jamari Thrash, Louisville’s leading receiver last year whose electric speed could give him a chance to make an NFL impact.

NFL Draft 2024 tracker: Live blog, picks and analysis
Big board best available: Who’s left from Dane Brugler’s Top 300?
Draft pick grades: Round 1 | Rounds 2-3
Full draft order: Team picks for all 257 selections

Keep coming back here throughout the draft for analysis and grades for each Browns pick.

Round 2

No. 54: Mike Hall Jr., DT, Ohio State

How he fits

The fastest defensive tackle in the class, Hall ran a 4.75 at 290 pounds during Ohio State’s pro day and has one of the best first-step bursts in the class. As an interior pass rusher, Hall has major upside. As a run defender, Hall has a long way to go and needs to be more consistent and gap sound if he’s going to be more than a flash player in the NFL. This is solid value, as Hall is good enough to contribute, but Cleveland doesn’t have many picks and could’ve used more OL help.

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A two-year starter at Ohio State, Hall was interchangeable at one- and three-technique in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ four-man front. His college stat sheet is underwhelming, especially from his final season in Columbus (2.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), but his pass rush win rate (18.3 percent) was second best among FBS defensive tackles in 2023 (behind only Byron Murphy II).

With his first-step burst and lateral agility, Hall quickly gets vertical and is a tough player to handle one-on-one. He uses his long arms and natural leverage to work underneath blocks, although his lack of size and anchor put him in compromised positions, especially versus the run.

Overall, Hall was more of a flash player than a consistent force, but his quick-twitch movements and natural energy are the ingredients of a disruptive gap penetrator. If he stays healthy, he will be an immediate rotation player and eventual starting three -technique tackle in a four-man front.

Grade: B-

Round 3

No. 85: Zak Zinter, OL, Michigan

How he fits

A tone setter at Michigan, Zak Zinter was an All-American and a two-time All-Big Ten guard. Zinter missed the last three games at Michigan with a broken leg. That didn’t detract from a stellar career; Zinter (6-6, 309) was considered the Wolverines’ best lineman last year and is a true mauler at the point of attack. The best part is, he won’t have to start right away.

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A four-year starter at Michigan, Zinter was entrenched as the starting right guard in former head coach Jim Harbaugh’s power-spread offense. A three-time All-Big Ten honoree, he played well as a senior (zero sacks allowed, zero penalties) until his broken leg against Ohio State, which unfortunately sidelined him for the entire draft process. An assignment-sound run blocker, Zinter uses body strength and proper positioning to lean on defenders and drive them with churning legs. While he is strong at the point of attack to stand up rushers in pass protection, he struggles to recover versus quickness in one-on-one matchups.

Overall, Zinter won’t impress with explosion or leverage, but he is big, smart and physical, which allows him to control defenders, especially in closed quarters. He can have a Mark Glowinski type of NFL career, although his leg injury puts a discount sticker on his draft projection.

Grade: A-

Round 5

No. 156 (from Eagles, via Cardinals): Jamari Thrash, WR, Louisville

How he fits

Thrash, who spent the first four years of his career at Georgia State before transferring to Louisville, led his team in receiving in each of his last three years. With Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore are entering the final year of their contracts, the Browns used their first pick of Day 3 to take a shot at finding receiver help.

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A one-year starter at Louisville, Thrash was used primarily as an outside receiver in head coach Jeff Brohm’s spread scheme. After leading the Sun Belt in receiving in 2022 at Georgia State, he transferred to Louisville in 2023 and quickly announced himself as the Cardinals’ No. 1 pass catcher (led the team in receiving in seven of the first eight games, before a broken hand hindered him over the final month).

Quicker than fast, Thrash is an agile route runner with natural ball-tracking skills. However, he struggles to finish catches through contact, and his lack of play strength will be more pronounced at the next level.

Overall, Thrash doesn’t have a true distinguishing trait as a receiver, but his separation quickness and receiving savvy will be lifelines to an NFL career. His inexperience on special teams will need to change quickly once in an NFL camp.

Round 6

No. 206 (via Ravens): Nathaniel Watson, LB, Mississippi State

How he fits

Andrew Berry said the Browns might want bigger players on kickoff coverage with the new rules. Watson is 6 foot 2, 233 pounds and played a lot of special teams over his six years in college. An athletic prospect who was Dane Brugler’s No. 17 linebacker in this class, he tied for the SEC lead with 10 sacks last fall.

Dane Brugler’s analysis

A three-year starter at Mississippi State, Watson was the Mike linebacker in former head coach Zach Arnett’s 3-3-5 base scheme. After finishing No. 2 in the SEC in tackles in 2022, he led the SEC with 137 tackles in 2023 and his 11.4 tackles per game ranked sixth-best in the FBS, earning him SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Associated Press.

With his first-step burst and tracking skills, “Bookie” Watson was a tackling machine in college, including a 21-tackle performance vs. Southern Miss in 2023 (most by an SEC player in a game over the last five years). His versatility as a blitzer is a plus, although he can struggle opening up and making plays in coverage.

Overall, Watson’s average agility and erratic instincts lead to inconsistencies, but he has size, quick reaction speed and tackling skills to fill up the stat sheet. He will need to shine on special teams to lock up a backup role for an NFL defense.

Round 7

No. 227 (via Titans): Myles Harden, CB, South Dakota

How he fits

Harden, a four-year starter at South Dakota, will try to make the team as a slot corner and special teamer.

Dane Brugler’s analysis

Harden was an outside cornerback in defensive coordinator Travis Johansen’s zone-heavy scheme. Although his college career was marred by back-to-back season-ending injuries in 2021 and 2022, he was a starter the moment he arrived and was consistently productive when on the field (forced eight turnovers in his final 19 games). Harden is a smooth athlete with the physical mentality that shows at the catch point and in run support. He has the mentality for press man, but NFL athletes will present a substantial leap in what he saw over his career in the FCS.

Overall, Harden doesn’t offer ideal length or long speed, but he plays quick, confident and is a roughneck competitor in both coverage and run support. With NFL-quality fluidity and ball skills, he can handle coverage duties from multiple techniques (inside or outside) and has the traits to earn a starting nickel job as a rookie.

No. 243

(Photo: Scott Utterback / Courier Journal / USA Today)

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