The Cleveland Browns could be a key player or two from being Super Bowl contenders. With an elite rushing offense and serviceable quarterback, shoring up the defense seems to be the key to Cleveland's future.
The 2021 draft reflected these aspirations as the Browns selected a plethora of talented defenders throughout the draft. Of their eight draft picks, Cleveland went with a defensive player five times, including first-round pick Greg Newsome II, second rounder Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and former Georgia safety Richard LeCounte at pick 169 in the fifth round.
The Browns defense struggled in 2020, falling to the bottom half of the league in many of the important defensive statistics. In the passing game, Cleveland ranked 22nd in passing yards allowed and 19th in interceptions. The entire defense ranked 21st in points allowed per game, making that side of the ball a priority this offseason.
The signing of Jadeveon Clowney and Owusu-Koramoah out of Notre Dame should help to improve the Browns pass rush and run defense come 2021. In the secondary, the signing of young and talented safety Joe Johnson III and return of 2020 second round pick Grant Delpit should help to improve the shaky pass defense. The Browns also return Ronnie Harrison Jr. at safety, giving LeCounte a long road to playing time.
Despite the lines of players above LeCounte on the depth chart, the former Bulldog brings plenty to the table that the Browns need on defense. A former five-star recruit out of high school, LeCounte has the necessary talent to become a key player in this young secondary.
Through his four years at Georgia, the safety started 33 of 44 games played, giving him plenty of experience playing at a high level. LeCounte also caught eight career interceptions as a Bulldog and made 176 total tackles. His eyes and hands give him the ability to see the field well and make him a talented zone coverage corner that can play both sides of the field. Browns area scout Colton Chapple sees Lecounte as a free safety with a lot of talent.
“He’s a guy that plays really well in the post as more of a free safety type,” Chapple said. “Excellent coverage skills, plays really well in the zone, plays with great eyes and anticipation and sees the field really well.”
With multiple talented safeties ahead of the former Bulldog, LeCounte will have a lot of work to do to grab a starting role. Special teams could be the key to him seeing the field early in Cleveland.
At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, LeCounte is small for his position but the talented hitter makes up for that with speed and power. He’s unafraid to come downhill in the run game and has experience on special teams from his time at Georgia. Chapple can see LeCounte making an impact immediately when he arrives at camp.
“We are going to expect Richard to come in and compete both on the defensive side of the ball and in all four phases of our special teams units,” Chapple said.
LeCounte entered the 2021 draft as the 96 overall prospect, according to ESPN’s Draft Player Rankings. His fall to pick 169 can be in part due to a motorcycle accident that sidelined the safety for the back half of the 2020 season.
Poor performances at his pro day showed that the safety had not fully recovered from the accident. However, the Browns expect LeCounte to be 100% as training camp rolls around. Expect the former Bulldog to make an impact wherever he can come the 2021 season.