XXL draft: Browns get bigger with super-sized selections
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Along with the usual depth, talent and youth, the Cleveland Browns added something unique during this year's NFL draft.
“The biggest human I’ve ever seen,” said Dan Saganey, the team's director of player personnel.
Behold Dawand Jones.
With the first of two fourth-round picks on Saturday, the Browns selected Jones, a 6-foot-8, 375-pound offensive tackle with an 88-inch wingspan, 37-inch arms and a high school highlight tape filled with dunks and other impressive moves on the court a super-sized person like him shouldn't be making.
“A modern-day Goliath,” said Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who is eager to have Jones under the tutelage of renowned offensive line coach Bill Callahan. "You just don’t see humans that are that big. There just really aren't many people on earth that are his size.
"Even in the NFL, he’s a giant among giants.”
The jumbo-sized Jones almost dwarfs 340-pound-plus defensive tackle Siaki Ika, a third-round pick and run-stopper from Baylor who was surprised to learn he isn't the biggest member of Cleveland's 2023 draft class.
“I didn't think it got too much bigger,” Ika said. “Good for him.”
Getting bigger wasn't necessarily a goal, but it became a theme atop the Browns' board. They followed Jones' selection by taking Missouri edge rusher Isaiah McGuire, a 6-foot-4, 275-pounder who led the Tigers in sacks the past two seasons against tough SEC competition.
McGuire knows what he wants to do as a pro.
“Dominate,” he said. "Simple as that.”
Berry said Cleveland's search for size mattered.
“Even though we drafted some bigger bodies, it’s not just like they’re big guys that can’t move,” he said. "That’s something that we will always prioritize, because I do think the NFL is becoming more and more of a space game.
"If you have big, athletic players at any position group, you’ll take them.”
There was another common thread linking Cleveland's seven selections — plenty of past and present connections.
Northwestern cornerback Cam Mitchell, one of the team's two fifth-round picks, has been friends with Browns cornerback Greg Newsome since he was a kid. They were teammates in college and will be reunited in Cleveland.
“It seems like I can’t get away from him,” Mitchell said with a laugh.
Before going to UCLA, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, taken by the Browns in the fifth round, was high school teammates with Cedric Tillman, the rangy Tennessee wide receiver taken in the third round.
Tillman was on his way to Cleveland when the Browns grabbed Thompson-Robinson, one of college football's most accurate passers last season.
“I was very excited," Tillman said. "I was on the plane and my mom just showed it to me. I was just talking about how it would be cool if Dorian came, too. Kind of just throwing it out there. Life is funny sometimes, but it’s great.”
While Thompson-Robinson will undoubtedly feel some nerves when he reports to Cleveland's facility, he'll be comforted in already having a relationship with Browns' QB Deshaun Watson. The two have trained together in LA.
“Him allowing me to work out with him has been very beneficial for me throughout my college career,” Thompson-Robinson said on a conference call. “So now to finally be able to join up with him will be really special for me and my development. I think it’ll go a long way."
Ika comes to Cleveland with some team ties as well. Before transferring to Baylor, he was teammates at LSU with Browns linebackers Grant Delpit, Jacob Phillips and kicker Cade York on the Tigers' 2019 national title team.
Now that he's in Cleveland, Ika can't wait to play alongside All-Pro end Myles Garett. They haven't met yet, but Ika's looking forward to making that connection.
“He doesn’t know this, but he’s going to be my best friend,” Ika said. "That’s my goal, as of right now, to be best friends with Myles. I’m really excited to play with him.”
And if all those connections weren't enough, the Browns closed out the draft — Berry traded a seventh-round pick to Baltimore for a 2024 sixth-rounder — with yet another link by selecting Ohio State center Luke Wypler. He played with Jones and anchored the Buckeyes' strong line.
Berry said the connections weren't deliberate, but are nonetheless beneficial.
“Really, it's happenstance,” Berry said. “Call it a side effect of how the board fell and who we selected, but I can’t say that we intentionally went about it that way. It’s certainly nice to have these guys coming into the building with some familiarity.”
Jones will fit into the building, though it could be a squeeze.
“He not just big, he’s human orca big,” Berry said. "I just don’t think you really see people with that size and that movement ability.”
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Tom Withers, The Associated Press