Browns Warned to Avoid Champion DT, One of ‘Strongest Players’ in NFL Draft

Kris Jenkins, Michigan

Getty Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins of the Michigan Wolverines.

The Cleveland Browns are used to the pressure that comes with having a minimal number of draft picks that don’t arrive until later rounds.

Such has been the Browns’ lot each of the past two Aprils after what appears to have been a disastrous trade for QB Deshaun Watson that sent six total picks in the top four rounds — including first-rounders in 2022, 23 and 24 — to the Houston Texans. Cleveland owes Houston one more first-rounder next week, as well as a fourth-rounder this year, before that trade tab is finally settled.

As such, there is pressure on the playoff-hopeful team to land a solid contributor with the 54th overall selection in the second round, its first choice of the 2024 draft. Cleveland could use another wide receiver or running back, while linebacker is also a thin position. However, the Browns’ most glaring need is arguably the defensive line, specifically at tackle.

Despite that, Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report on April 20 urged the Browns to avoid champion DT Kris Jenkins of Michigan should he fall to them at No. 54.

The Browns front office has an analytical bent, so it should understand the positional value that comes with finding a wide receiver, edge rusher or cornerback in the second round. Cleveland could target any of those three premium positions.

Jenkins is a good run-stuffing defensive tackle prospect. As B/R scout Matt Holder noted, he has a high ceiling as a pass rusher due to his athleticism, but he hasn’t demonstrated that on the field much.

If the Browns feel like they can’t pay to keep the cornerback trio of Denzel Ward, Martin Emerson and Greg Newsome II together, they might want to target a corner at No. 54. Finding a long-term replacement for edge-rusher Za’Darius Smith could also be an objective.

Kris Jenkins Was Elite Run-Stopper at Michigan

Kris Jenkins, Minnesota Vikings

GettyDefensive lineman Kris Jenkins of Michigan.

Jenkins is 6-feet, 3-inches tall and weighs in at 305 pounds. He played for the University of Michigan’s national title team in 2023 and finished the season as a Second-Team All-American.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) noted Jenkins’ elite run-stopping qualities in a scouting report it published on April 16.

Jenkins is one of the strongest players in the draft. He is a run-stopper at heart who is most comfortable and confident holding the line. His run-stop percentage ranks in the 99th percentile due to how well he can hold up against double teams and control one-on-one run-blocking situations.

Jenkins’ ability to plug gaps is unique in this draft. Only one interior defensive lineman produced a higher run-stop rate than Jenkins’ 13.3% over the last three seasons. Jenkins isn’t the most dominant pass-rusher, but in 2023, he did create 26 pressures on true pass rushes, a respectable mark.

Browns’ Draft Strategy Trends Toward Best Player Available, Regardless of Position

Browns general manager Andrew Berry still has some work to do in free agency.

GettyBrowns general manager Andrew Berry.

If the Browns chose to draft for need at No. 54 and Jenkins was available, the pairing would make considerable sense.

However, as Mary Kay Cabot of recently noted, the Browns don’t draft for need. Instead, general manager Andrew Berry looks to pick the best player available, which is even easier for a team in 2024 that doesn’t have an overwhelming weakness on the roster.

And if the team does take a defensive tackle in the second round, it may look to one who rushes the passer with a little more ease and effectiveness than Jenkins has shown throughout his collegiate career.

“I would still be on the lookout for a pass-rushing defensive lineman who could get six or seven sacks and plenty of pressure,” Cabot wrote on April 15. “The Browns are fortunate that they don’t have any glaring needs and can draft the best available player.”

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