Cleveland Browns offensive tackle search intensifies 157 percent

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 16: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns drops back to pass during the first half of their game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 16, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 16: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns drops back to pass during the first half of their game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 16, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

Effective NFL offensive tackles are as rare as unicorns and more valuable than gold – now the Cleveland Browns are facing a monumental search for their new blind side specialist.

Offensive tackles in the NFL are like ninjas. You only really notice them when they’re bad at their jobs. And for about the last two and a half seasons, the Cleveland Browns offensive tackles have been that ‘bad-ninja’ kind of noticeable.

New Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt says a lot of quarterback Baker Mayfield’s sophomore slump was due to a condition known as “Metallica Feet,” but obviously a big reason Baker was constantly on the run was due to poor protection from his offensive line.

More specifically, the left tackle.

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Baker’s blind side got blasted. He was sacked 40 times last season, which was T-7th most in the league with the Miami Dolphins – not exactly the kind of statistical company an NFL franchise likes to keep.

And now, without getting into any ongoing investigations (that may or may not involve a multi-millionaire getting busted for cross-country Ubering 157 pounds of ‘medicine’), let’s just say the job of left tackle (and apparently weed dealer) in Berea is once again wide open.

Fortunately for the Browns, it’s a tackle rich draft in 2020. There are five excellent prospects the team could select with the 10th overall pick, especially with so many of the earlier teams needing either a quarterback or OSU’s sack-happy Chase Young (a Bosa brother from another mother).

As of now, these are the top-five offensive tackle prospects in the 2020 NFL draft and what some experts are saying about them:

  1. Andrew Thomas, Georgia (Junior, 6-foot-5, 320 pounds)
    • Reliable pass protector
    • Good contributor in the ground game
  2. Mekhi Becton, Louisville (Junior, 6-foot-7, 369 pounds)
    • Freak show athlete
    • True bull who overpowers defenders
  3. Jedrick Wills, Alabama (Junior, 6-foot-5, 320 pounds)
    • Big, strong, quick and athletic
    • Has the strength to open holes in the ground game
  4. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa (Junior, 6-foot-5, 322 pounds)
    • Good skill set with size, strength and athleticism
    • Plays with good leverage as a run blocker
  5. Josh Jones, Houston (Senior, 6-foot-5, 311 pounds)
    • Light on his feet with the movement skills to reach the second level
    • Athleticism and length to play left tackle in the NFL

Any one of these young giants may (or may not) work for Cleveland in 2020 – that’s up to the Browns new general manager Andrew Berry, new head coach Kevin Stefanski and Van Pelt to figure out with Dorsey-like diligence (while avoiding all Flying J interference).

And it also depends on whether Cleveland can fill their offensive tackle needs using free agency. Also fortunate for the Browns is the current availability of some free agent offensive tackles who could bring some veteran presence to the locker room.

These are the top-five offensive tackle free agent prospects and what’s being said about them:

  1. Anthony Castonzo, age 31, Indianapolis Colts (6-foot-7, 307 pounds)
    • First-round pick in 2011
    • Long been one of the NFL’s more solid and consistent offensive lineman
    • Played 16 games in 2019, two penalties, three sacks allowed
  2. Jack Conklin, age 26, Tennessee Titans (6-foot-6, 308 pounds)
    • All-Pro as a rookie in 2016
    • Injury prone, up-and-down season with Titans in 2019
    • Played 16 games last season, seven penalties and four sacks allowed
  3. Bryan Bulaga, age 31, Green Bay Packers (6-foot-5, 314 pounds)
    • Super Bowl XLV Champion
    • One of the best right tackles in football
    • Though health is an issue, he played 16 games in 2019, six penalties and four sacks allowed
  4. Jason Peters, age 38, Philadelphia Eagles (6-foot-4, 328 pounds)
    • Twice an All-Pro, played in nine Pro Bowls
    • Strong all-around blocker but his age could be a factor
    • Injuries kept him to 13 games in 2019, 10 penalties and three sacks allowed
  5. Kelvin Beachum, age 30, New York Jets (6-foot-3, 308 pounds)
    • Seventh-round draft pick in 2012
    • Was (arguably) most important Jets player besides Sam Darnold last season
    • 13 games played in 2019, nine penalties and four sacks allowed.

So, when it comes down to protecting Baker’s back and creating Chubb-worthy holes in 2020, it comes down to either counting on a kid fresh out of college or trusting that injuries and old age won’t shorten the season of a crusty free agent.

In terms of finding the best blind-side ninja available, either choice is a risk. But what a perfect test for the new front office. Can they find the next needle – a potential Joe Thomas or Cody Risien or Doug Dieken – in that huge haystack of offensive tackles?

Next. Browns double up on tackle, safety in 7-round mock draft. dark

The right choice could make all the difference in Baker Mayfield’s third NFL season. The wrong choice and it’ll take a lot more than 157 pounds of medicine to convince Cleveland Browns fans that this franchise isn’t clueless.