2. Martin Emerson Jr.
One Browns defender who seems ready to take the leap is cornerback Martin Emerson Jr.
The 2022 third-round pick showed potential to be a building block in the secondary after his performance as a rookie, playing in all 17 games and making six starts. More impressively, he racked up 15 pass breakups in his first year, regularly frustrating his assignments and opposing QBs.
The advanced stats on Emerson's rookie season are even more flattering. He ranked No. 23 at his position in overall grade at 72.5, according to ProFootballFocus. Emerson also broke up 20% of targets thrown his way, which was ninth best in the league, per PFF.
Emerson's knack for ballhawking is going to earn him even more playing time in 2023 on a revamped defense. The additions of Dalvin Tomlinson, Za'Darius Smith and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will immediately improve this pass rush and generate more pressure on opposing QBs, giving Emerson plenty of chances to capitalize on poorly thrown balls.
The hiring of respected defensive mind Jim Schwartz as this unit's new coordinator is massive for the team as well. He'll be able to put each player in the best position to succeed after some serious struggles in 2022, making this entire defense better. A smart and opportunistic CB like Emerson should thrive in this environment.