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Browns rookie minicamp: Why Perrion Winfrey is a beast and Cade York didn’t kick

BEREA, Ohio — Nine thoughts, notes and observations from the Cleveland Browns’ rookie minicamp Friday, one for each of the team’s nine draft picks …

1. The first rule of watching a rookie minicamp practice is to remember there’s rarely going to be much to see at a rookie minicamp practice.

The Browns had 27 players in uniform, most of whom had never met and had never been inside the team’s facility before Thursday. With just four offensive linemen and two quarterbacks (both tryout players) in camp, there are no full-team drills. There’s little conducted at full speed, either, as the focus is on instruction.

For the personnel staff, it’s a time for an up-close evaluation of fringe players who might be in the team’s long-term plans. For the coaches, it’s a chance to teach the basics and get the draft picks ready for much faster practices down the road.

2. Defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey is a big dude. Winfrey is already becoming a fan favorite for his “juiced-up” post-draft Zoom call and his subsequent vows to bring that energy to every team activity.

But there’s also an opportunity for Winfrey to immediately play significant snaps — and he looks ready to do so. Especially in his upper body, Winfrey looks like a starting defensive tackle and believes Joe Woods’ defensive system will allow him to show off his athleticism.

Winfrey isn’t as big as one of the players he’s trying to replace, Malik McDowell, but few are. Mass matters, and Winfrey (listed at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds) has it.

3. We didn’t get to see Cade York kick because he went to FirstEnergy Stadium on Friday morning to go through his standard kicking routine. The weather was perfect today and won’t be late in the season, and York knows that.

The Browns made a big investment in York and will be counting on him right away. Of the nine draft picks, he’s the only one who’s going to be a day-one starter. It’s likely that all three third-rounders — Martin Emerson, Alex Wright and David Bell — will play right away and that Winfrey will, too. But considering where the Browns have been with the kicking game over the last decade and where the offseason moves indicate the team is ready to go, York has to be ready for lots of high-pressure situations.

4. Emerson is listed at 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, and those measurements seem legit. He’s here to (eventually) match up with the league’s best and biggest wide receivers, and his arm length and natural strength should help him as he works toward reaching his potential.

Said head coach Kevin Stefanski after practice: “Were you guys paying attention to the first drill? Emerson put one of our coaches on his butt — and probably should not have. Length with corners, especially, it allows you at the line of scrimmage to really deter the release of the receiver.”

The Browns traded Troy Hill the day after selecting Emerson, and Stefanski said the Browns now have “multiple guys” who can move inside and play slot cornerback.

5. Stefanski was asked about Thursday night’s schedule release and said the Browns will soon get to work on studying their first opponents, the Carolina Panthers.

Stefanski said he looks at the date of the team’s bye week, the number of back-to-back road games and the placement of the divisional games but otherwise doesn’t get too caught up in the schedule. He did say he sees “value” in the team having its bye in Week 9, just short of the midpoint of the season. Last season, the Browns didn’t have their week off until the first weekend of December.

6. Sixth-round rookie wide receiver Michael Woods did not participate in practice due to what Stefanski called a lower-leg injury. Stefanski suggested it was nothing major, something probably affirmed by receivers coach Chad O’Shea waving Woods out of the background and up to the front of the line during an early-practice walk-through period.

The Browns list Woods at 6-foot-1, and from the sideline, he appears to fall into the “big” receiver category.

7. An undrafted wide receiver who’s going to get noticed — if only because it’s easy to notice receivers in practice environments — is Isaiah Weston out of Northern Iowa. Weston is 6-foot-4 and has long arms. And headlining the list of things that really mean nothing is that the first pass in what was the closest to a full-team drill went to Weston.

Maybe Weston can have a big summer. Maybe Woods can. Maybe smaller but potentially explosive undrafted rookie Mike Harley Jr. can, too. That position group is far from settled.

8. The Browns aren’t the only team searching high and low for tight ends. It’s hard to find players big enough to block and athletic enough to run routes. And going back almost two decades, teams have been trying to find the next Antonio Gates, a college basketball star who became a game-changing tight end.

In camp this weekend are two undrafted rookie tight ends: Marcus Santos-Silva, a former Texas Tech basketball player, and Zaire Mitchell-Paden, who finished his college career last fall at Florida Atlantic but previously played at Div. II Notre Dame College in Cleveland. Mitchell-Paden certainly looks the part and is listed at 6-foot-5, 257 pounds. He’s probably a long way from being a contributor, but he’s going to be given every chance to progress.

The Browns also have another former college basketball player in as a tryout tight end this week: Cleveland native Malik Smith.

9. The nine drafted players are here to stay and will join the team’s veterans for the formal offseason workout program this coming week. The Browns have 13 undrafted signees, and they’ll be a part of the program, too, though there’s almost always some bottom-of-the-roster turnover in the days after rookie minicamp. The Browns are about 10 days from starting their 10 organized team activity practices, so sometimes there’s roster movement just to have enough available players at different positions for those practices.

Though the Browns seem certain to eventually explore veteran help on the defensive line and at wide receiver, they’ll probably let the young players work through the OTAs before making any veteran additions. Stefanski believes there’s value in this offseason work, and maybe he’ll be right.

Two roster players are participating in minicamp: guard David Moore Jr. and tight end Nick Guggemos. The primary quarterback for minicamp is tryout player Jake Fromm, a fifth-round pick of the Bills in 2020 who finished last year with the Giants but was not tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent in March.

(Photo of Perrion Winfrey: Nick Cammett / Getty Images)

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