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Browns trade up, select a linebacker

Cleveland Browns Macho Fan gestures to the crowd during the 2nd round of the NFL football draft, Friday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

CLEVELAND — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah watched the Browns play last season, and during their games he visualized himself in their defensive system.

He no longer has to pretend.

Afraid the do-everything Notre Dame linebacker would be gone when they were on the clock in the second round, the Browns traded with Carolina and moved up seven spots to select Osuwu-Koramoah with the No. 52 overall pick in the NFL draft Friday night.

Cleveland dealt the No. 59 pick and one of its two third-round selections (No. 89) to the Panthers to get Owusu-Koramoah, who had been projected to go in the first round and may have been bypassed because he’s undersized.

“We weren’t really expecting him to get quite that far,” said Paul DePodesta, the Browns’ chief strategy officer. “There was a couple of players we were definitely interested in going into today that we thought it might be worth moving to around 50 or thereabouts to try and go get if they were there.

“Once we saw him get there, we were pretty aggressive in trying to get up there and get him.”

DePodesta said the Browns considered taking Osuwu-Koramoah at No. 26 before selecting Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II.

As the second round unfolded, the Browns were stunned Owusu-Koramoah was falling to them.

“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.”

He may be only 6-foot-1, but Owusu-Koramoah made plays all over the field for the Fighting Irish. He can rush the passer, cover receivers and make tackles from sideline to sideline. Owusu-Koramoah had 142 tackles and seven sacks in two seasons.

“Our scheme is perfect for him,” DePodesta said. “He plays like his hair is on fire.”

Owusu-Koramoah was thrilled when he got the call from the Browns, knowing they wanted him badly and how he can impact the defense.

“I told my mom I am about to go outside and run on the beach, maybe run a mile or two,” he said on a Zoom call from Virginia. “The coaches have a great system, a system that is not based off of perfection and guys that need to just be all structure.

“The system is really a structured system that allows you to fly around and make plays.”

The 21-year-old is the latest addition to Cleveland’s defense, which has been almost completely remade this offseason through free agency and this draft.

The Browns also received the No. 113 pick in the deal with Carolina.

Owusu-Koramoah’s speed should allow the Browns to line him up at several positions, but the team envisions him primarily as a linebacker.

“He’s certainly very versatile,” DePodesta said. “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.”

On Thursday night, with Cleveland at center stage as host of this year’s draft, the Browns drafted Newsome, an ultra-confident 20-year-old who is expected to compete for a starting job with Greedy Williams this summer.

After he was picked, Newsome was contacted by Williams, who continues to recover from a nerve injury in his shoulder that kept him out last season.

“That just tells you who Greedy is as a person,” Newsome said on a Zoom call. “I don’t know him, but he’s a guy who just wants the best for the team. He’ll do whatever he can do for the team to win and that’s definitely somebody I want to connect to.”

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