Browns corner Martin Emerson Jr. is set to take a giant leap in year two

Emerson is expected to have more playing time this season and will play a critical role in strengthening Cleveland’s defense.
Emerson browns dolphins cleveland
MIAMI GARDENS, FL – NOVEMBER 13: Martin Emerson Jr. #23 of the Cleveland Browns lines up before a play during an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 13, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns selected cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. out of Mississippi State University with the 68th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Heading into the draft, team scouts valued Emerson as a late Day 2 or early Day 3 draft pick. He was listed at 6’2″ and 200 lbs and was one of the lengthier corners in the draft. One of Emerson’s standout skills from his college years was his talent for pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage, resulting in a poor release off the line. Andrew Berry and his team recognized this potential in Emerson as a top-tier defensive back for the 2022 draft, and the pick will be an invaluable investment for Cleveland’s secondary.

Pro Football Focus graded Emerson as the twenty-third-best cornerback in the NFL last year with a grade of 72.5, which is impressive for a rookie. He also impressively finished tied for sixth in Passes Defended (15). Top cornerbacks such as Jaire Alexander, Patrick Surtain II and Sauce Gardner allowed a higher completion percentage on fewer targets than Emerson.

As the weeks passed, his coverage skills continued to blossom, especially when the pressure was on. When defending Tampa Bay star Mike Evans, Emerson Jr. allowed two catches on nine targets and 31 receiving yards. Meanwhile, on Cincinnati star supporter Tee Higgins, the Cleveland youngster only allowed 8 yards on two catches.

“He makes plays on the football,” said Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski. “They are going to go after you and you are going to get beat every once in a while, but he keeps coming back and is resolute in that way. I just really, really love that kid’s mentality.”

emerson jr. browns cleveland chicago bears
CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 27: Cleveland Browns cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. (23) on the field during the second quarter of the National Football League preseason game between the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns on August 27, 2022, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In his rookie season, it became clear that Emerson was making a name for himself in Cleveland despite quarterbacks targeting him heavily. Despite this, Emerson played exceptionally well, shutting down some of the NFL’s premier receiving threats. Emerson’s best attribute while at Mississippi State has clearly translated to the NFL without a catch. But what makes the young corner even more exciting is him surpassing his perceived flaws during the pre-draft process.

One of the biggest concerns for Emerson coming out of college was his ability to wrap up and make tackles consistently. In his rookie season, Emerson only missed 11 tackles and had a missed tackle percentage of 15.5%, per Pro Football Focus, making him the NFL’s fifth-seventh-best tackler for his position in 2022. This improved tackling is a big part of why Emerson only allowed 110 yards after the catch on 490 total yards allowed throughout his rookie campaign.

Despite only registering one tackle for loss on the season, Emerson’s proficiency and physical stature make him a valuable asset in reinforcing the team’s run defense. His ability to execute tackles in an open field and prevent plays from forming in the backfield has been proven. In his junior year of college, he had a productive season against the run and was credited with three tackles for loss. Given his exceptional block-shedding skills, he can gain widespread recognition for his ability to disrupt plays in the backfield.

The upcoming 2023 season is a make-it-or-break-it year for many people within the Cleveland Browns organization. The team has made a vital acquisition in the form of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz during the off-season to establish much-needed stability on the defensive front. Emerson is expected to have considerably more playing time this season and will play a critical role in significantly strengthening the defense. Due to his exceptional performance in 2022, he will likely continue to progress and achieve top-tier cornerback production.

Kristopher’s Right Down Euclid’s go-to intern as he begins his sports media career by studying at the University of Mount Union this fall. He’s been a lifelong fan of the Browns, Cavaliers, and Guardians and have dreamed of becoming a sports journalist since he was ten. Some of his recent stops include work with Phenom Media, and he runs @clecentral_ on Instagram.

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