It's asking a lot for No. 44 overall pick Grant Delpit to be great, but his coach at LSU likens him to Class of 2020 Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. A perspective on the Browns' intriguing new safety.
Browns fans have been waiting for the better part of three decades for a safety like Eric Turner.
One reason they haven't seen one is that it cost Bill Belichick a No. 2 overall pick to secure Turner in 1991. It was Belichick's first selection as head coach of the Browns.
The Belichick era disappointed. Turner did not.
The highest picks the Browns have spent on a safety since then were spent on Jabrill Peppers (No. 25 in 2017), Brodney Pool (No. 34 in 2005), T.J. Ward (No. 38 in 2010), Sean Jones (No. 59 in 2004) and Marquis Smith (No. 76 in 1999).
It's asking a bit much for a No. 44 overall pick to replicate Turner's impact. LSU's Grant Delpit, however, might be of greater service than the others named here.
Before the Browns traded down three spots and picked Delpit at No. 44 Friday night, Hall of Fame GM Gil Brandt pegged him as the 25th-best player in the draft. NFL Network sleuth Daniel Jeremiah ranks Delpit lower (40th) but sees Pro Bowl potential at free safety.
Analyst Dane Brugler took it to another level, saying LSU head coach Ed Orgeron likens Delpit to ex-Steeler Troy Polamalu, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2020.
The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Delpit, who grew up in Houston, played for LSU as a true freshman in 2017 and was a unanimous first-team All-American the next year. He fought through a high ankle sprain in 2019 to help the Tigers win a national championship.
NFL.com analyst Lance Zeirlein's overview of Delpit:
"Aggressive, urgent striker ... His evaluation requires a full load of 2018 tape, where his coverage potential was better illustrated ... Instinctive eyes and plays physically against tight ends ... Willingness to rush in and hit has never been a problem, but tackle inconsistencies have plagued him due to angles and technique and could be challenging to fix ... LSU sources say NFL teams won't be getting the alpha leadership Jamal Adams provided for the Tigers."
Jeremiah's scouting notes:
"Tall, fast free safety who can play in the slot ... From the deep middle, he trusts his eyes and explodes to the ball, whether run or pass ... Outstanding range and ball skills ... Fluid and smooth in the slot.
"Aggressive as a force defender but has too many fly-by missed tackles ... Everyone at LSU raves about his leadership and intangibles."
@realgrantdelpit#BrownsDraft pic.twitter.com/YeVSngIHKZ— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 25, 2020
Browns General Manager Andrew Berry said Delpit isn't a free safety, a strong safety or a nickel. He's all of them. The versatility Delpit applies to his electric talent was THE big sell.
Delpit showed a chippy side in a conference call Thursday night.
Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal asked about the tackling issues, to which Delpit replied, "I'm so tired of hearing i can't tackle I might tackle you for asking."
Delpit then laughed.
He later smiled about quarterback Joe Burrow, the MVP of the national championship team, getting drafted by AFC North rival Cincinnati.
"I'll be excited to pick him twice a year," Delpit said.
Delpit and former LSU teammate Greedy Williams were the Browns' top pick on defense in the last two drafts and will be paired with 2018 No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward in the secondary.
Someone asked Delpit to clarify what sounded like him saying the Browns will have the NFL's best secondary.
"THE BEST," he said. "Headline it. All caps."
He seems fired up about joining a team whose top two wideouts, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, were high draft picks out of LSU.
"I think we bring a great locker room presence in addition to being dogs on the field," he said of LSU Tigers in general.
During his healthier 2018, Delpit made nine tackles for loss, five sacks and five interceptions. He had 10-tackle games against Auburn, Florida and Mississippi State. His production fell in 2019, but his team rose.
Burrow and the offense stole headlines, but the defense had a great year and some signature games, including a 38-10 rout of Georgia in the SEC championship game. LSU overwhelmed Clemson 42-25 in the national title game.
Delpit admits he could barely walk in the days after he suffered a high ankle sprain.
"I wasn't going to let a sprained ankle keep me off the field going for a national championship," he said.
He also admitted dropping to No. 44 was "a humbling experience."
Berry seemed humbled to have acquired him that late.
"Everyone at LSU talked about how bright Grant is, how quickly he can he can process and understand anything football-related," Berry said. "He was certainly one of the more impressive interviews we had at the combine from a football intelligence standpoint."
Browns fans are hoping they find him to be more exciting than any of the other safeties they have drafted since Turner.
Orgeron's comparison between Delpit and Polamalu comes from a man who was a defensive coach at USC when Polamalu played for the Trojans.
Orgeron's highest praise of Delpin might have come last summer at SEC media day.
"Grant is the best defensive player coming back in college football this year, no question about it," Orgeron said. "He can do everything. We needed him in the post against Ole Miss, he got that interception for us. We needed him to get pressure against Ole Miss, he got sacks. He is tall, smart ... a great young man.
"I do believe he is one of the best defensive players I’ve ever been around."
The ankle that caused him problems in the autumn, incidentally, is healed.
Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP