Why Browns could take a receiver in 2024 NFL draft

Amari Cooper has put together consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the Browns. AP Photo/David Richard

BEREA, Ohio -- Early in the 2022 offseason, Andrew Berry made arguably the best move of his tenure as Cleveland Browns general manager.

Sending a mere fifth-round pick to Dallas, Berry swiped away No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper from the cap-strapped Cowboys. That savvy move preceded the blockbuster trades for All-Pro receivers Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, who both went for a multitude of picks days later.

Cooper has since become the first Cleveland player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Last year, he also broke a franchise single-game record with 265 receiving yards in a win against the Houston Texans on the way to a fifth Pro Bowl appearance.

Yet as successful as the Cooper trade has been, Berry and the Browns have otherwise struggled in targeting receivers. That has left them without an obvious No. 1 heir apparent to Cooper, who turns 30 this summer and has ended the past two seasons battling nagging injuries. And that is why, once again, receiver could be one of the positions to watch Friday night on Day 2 of the draft when the Browns make their first two picks, coming in at No. 54 and No. 85 overall.

Since taking over as GM in 2020, Berry has expended precious draft and financial capital attempting to bolster the receiver room. In the last three drafts, he's used a third-round pick on a receiver (Cedric Tillman, David Bell and Anthony Schwartz). Before that, in his first draft, Berry took Donovan Peoples-Jones in the sixth round.

DPJ won a starting job in but was eventually jettisoned to the Detroit Lions before last year's trade deadline for another sixth-round pick. Schwartz started Cleveland's opener in 2021 but was cut during training camp last year. Bell has settled in a reserve role in the rotation. Tillman caught only 21 passes last year as a rookie, even after starting three games following the DPJ trade.

The Browns also traded for Elijah Moore last offseason, sending the Jets a second-round pick, while getting back a third (that was used on Tillman). But Moore had more than 61 receiving yards in a game only once last season (83 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in quarterback Joe Flacco's first Cleveland start).

Earlier this offseason, the Browns took a shot on another buy-low receiver in Jerry Jeudy, a former first-round pick who had fallen out of favor with the Denver Broncos. Though Jeudy has never delivered a 1,000-yard season with the Broncos, the Browns gave him a three-year, $58 million extension after the trade. As it stands, Jeudy could be Cleveland's No. 1 receiver going into the 2025 season, especially if the Browns don't extend Cooper, who is entering the final year of his deal (Cleveland is already projected to be the most expensive team in the NFL in 2024).

The jury is out on whether Jeudy, who turns 25 this week, can still develop into that caliber of receiver. The jury is also out on whether any of Cleveland's other receivers, notably Moore or Tillman, can develop into reliable complementary starters.

Using another pick on a receiver would cost Cleveland an opportunity to add a promising prospect at another position. The Browns, after all, have suffered from not having a first- or second-round pick the last two drafts, due in large part to the 2022 trade that landed quarterback Deshaun Watson. But this also appears to be another loaded receiver draft, which could entice the Browns to roll the dice on yet another receiver on Day 2.

Cleveland has no shot at landing any of the top three receivers in this class in Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU's Malik Nabers and Washington's Rome Odunze, who all appear locks to go in the top 10. But several talented pass-catchers could be available in Round 2, including Georgia's Ladd McConkey, who is a premier route runner, Texas' Xavier Worthy, who shattered combine records with a 40-yard dash time of 4.21 seconds, and Oregon's Troy Franklin, who has shown he can make contested catches. Florida State's Keon Coleman, Florida's Ricky Pearsall and Michigan's Roman Wilson, among others, all appear to have the potential to be starting NFL receivers, as well.

Thanks to ownership's spending and other shrewd moves Cleveland's front office has made, the Browns don't have many obvious short-term needs. Receiver, however, remains a glaring question mark, both this year and beyond.

The Browns could bank on the players they already have at the position. Or, on Friday, they could take another much-needed swing.