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Draft Day Fall Won’t Stick In Owusu-Koramoah’s Mind: ‘We’re In The Present’

The annual draft-day tumble as motivation storyline won’t be stopping in Cleveland this year, at least not as it relates to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

There’s no entire Pringles can on the former Notre Dame linebacker’s shoulder as a result of his slide from projected first-round pick all the way down to No. 52, where the Cleveland Browns traded up to snag him in the second round of this year’s draft. No printed tweets of scouts’ takes on his fall or the names of linebackers taken ahead of him hung on a corkboard.

Rather, Owusu-Koramoah just wants to be where his feet are.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Owusu-Koramoah fell to the No. 52 pick in this year's draft. (AP Photo/Tony Tribble)

“What you put your thoughts to, that’s what you give your energy to,” Owusu-Koramoah told reporters after he was drafted. “If I rely on that and think on that, I’ll be prompting on the past. We’re in the present. There are things we have to get done right now.”

If Browns fans or media were hoping for a public call-out of the reasons he fell and promise to make them pay, they’re still waiting. Just as he was for four years at Notre Dame, Owusu-Koramoah’s personality was thoughtful, his mind free of clutter, his tone upbeat.

The way he sees it, his path led him to a situation where both parties are the other’s ideal fit. While most of the NFL scurried away for myriad predetermined reasons, the Cleveland draft room’s collective brows became sweatier as Friday’s second round unfolded. The Browns hoped he could actually make it to their spot at 59th overall and grew anxious with each passing pick.

Not wanting to leave it to chance, they took the plunge and moved up seven spots, parting with pick No. 59 and a third-round pick (while getting back a fourth-rounder) to make it happen.

“There was a lot of pacing going on once we got to pick 42, 43, 44, just trying to figure out if there was a way we could make it happen,” Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta said. “We were pretty aggressive about trying to get him.”

Cleveland heavily considered Owusu-Koramoah in the first round at No. 26 before choosing Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II. That pick was a common projected spot for him in most mock drafts. Those that didn’t have him there usually had him off the board earlier.

A post-draft report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter cited a heart issue that came up late in the draft process as reason for Owusu-Koramoah’s fall. He was eventually cleared, but it was a factor, per Schefter. Browns general manager Andrew Berry, when asked about it, said the Browns were “very comfortable” with Owusu-Koramoah’s medicals.

Other theories behind his fall bounded around Twitter as the first round drew to a close. A few of them, as noted by TheDraftScout.com’s Matt Miller after polling some scouts:

“Tape is fun, doesn’t translate.”

“He’s 214 pounds.”

“Mental lapses, not fast.”

“Scheme fit is hard.”

Berry especially disagrees on the last one, calling him “a perfect schematic fit for us at the linebacker position.” The plan is to play him at Will linebacker in defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ 4-2-5 scheme. The Browns understood Owusu-Koramoah had a less conventional linebacker profile, but looked at it as a reason to take him instead of a reason to shy away.

“I do think Jeremiah is a little unique in the manner in which he produces,” Berry said. “He’s not going to be everybody’s flavor or fit. You are talking about a player who’s a little undersized for a classic linebacker. You’re talking about a guy who was used in a variety of roles at Notre Dame, and that’s not always going to be the right fit or as highly valued a skill set depending on the defensive system.

“For us, in Joe’s scheme, everything he does well marries with what we want our linebackers to do.”

Added Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly: “At the end of the day, he finds the football. This game, we can make it as complicated as we want, but some have a knack of getting to the football, and Jeremiah is a guy who closes, gets to the football. And when he gets there, he’s pretty disruptive.”

Owusu-Koramoah’s pre-draft meetings with teams yielded a number of positional possibilities. Hybrid linebacker/safety. Traditional linebacker. Outside linebacker who moves to safety, slot or blitzes when the defense shifts to its third-down packages.

At Notre Dame, he was all of those. He played slot corner and in-the-box linebacker. On passing down, he sometimes lined up on the defensive front and rushed or dropped into a zone.

All of them seemed to bring out a strength. Any one of them sounds OK to him in the NFL.

“I’m happy with whatever position they put me in,” Owusu-Koramoah said. “It just goes back to loving these things. I love football, I love the game, I love the process and what it has taught me.”

The draft process certainly tested his patience. It also yielded a fit he considered long before the Browns picked him.

“I was actually picturing myself in this scheme as I was watching [the Browns] play last year, sitting down with one of my coaches from Notre Dame,” Owusu-Koramoah said. “It has been a blessing to see everything come to fruition.”

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