Cleveland Browns could trade back and still find offensive line help
The Cleveland Browns are expected to select an offensive tackle at No. 10 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they could trade down and still find success.
If you want to start a bar fight, go to your local Browns Backers bar and say that you think that the Cleveland Browns will trade back this year. Fans hate that, because it sounds cowardly to not step up to the challenge immediately.
But the Browns did exactly that in 2017, sending the No. 12 overall pick to the Houston Texans and getting the No. 25 pick (Jabrill Peppers) and a first round pick in 2018, which turned out to be Denzel Ward. The Browns also connived to get the Texans’ second round pick via a separate salary cap deal, and that pick turned out to be Nick Chubb.
So the analytics guys were able to create a favorable draft situation, and it could happen again. John Dorsey’s sharp eye for talent deserves great credit also, and it remains to be seen whether the new front office will match Dorsey’s player evaluation skills.
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The Browns find themselves with an untenable situation at tackle, with the departure of starting left tackle Greg Robinson and the substandard play of right tackle Chris Hubbard. Virtually every mock draft has the Browns going offensive tackle, with four players really standing out this year: Andrew Thomas of the Georgia Bulldogs (6-foot-5, 320 pounds), Mekhi Becton of the Louisville Cardinals (6-foot-7, 369 pounds), Jedrick Wills (6-foot-4, 312 pounds) of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and Tristan Wirfs of the Iowa Hawkeyes. This seems to be a no-brainer that the Browns need to stand their ground and select one of these talented players. They will also target a tackle in free agency, possibly Jack Conklin of the Tennessee Titans.
But hold on just a minute! First of all, if you take the view that the top four tackles are ranked very close to one another, it is unlikely that they will all be gone by No. 10 overall, where the Browns draft. In 2019, there were four tackles taken in the first round, but none in the top-10. So the Browns might be able to drop back a few spots and still get one of the top four tackles.
Or, if the Browns miss out in free agency, it is not crazy to think that they could find two starting tackles in the same draft. The 2020 tackle class is not only talented, but it is very deep. Many mock drafts have five, or even six offensive tackles being selected in the first round.
There may be several offensive tackles who would grade out as first round draft picks in a normal year, but who may slide into round two or three because of the talent level at this position. The Browns may be able to trade back and still draft a very good player–or perhaps draft two starting tackles in the same draft.
Some of the later first round tackles could include Josh Jones (6-foot-5, 311 pounds) of the Houston Cougars, Austin Jackson of the USC Trojans (6-foot-6, 310 pounds), and Isaiah Wilson from Georgia (6-foot-7, 334 pounds). In addition, Pro Football Focus has identified an intriguing longshot player from Division III in Ben Bartch of St John’s (6-foot-6, 309 pounds). He had the highest win rate in one-on-one contests of any tackle at the Combine. These players will be able to start on an NFL offensive line, even if they are not quite the threat for the Pro Bowl posed by the top four.
The Browns could also use help elsewhere on the line. Right guard was not settled last season, but the Browns have several candidates, including incumbent starter Wyatt Teller, second-year man Drew Forbes, and perhaps Chris Hubbard if he is not cut for salary cap purposes. He needs to be moved to guard.
In summary, this fan believes that the Browns will probably draft an offensive tackle in the first round unless there is some other prospect who is just so talented that they can’t resist biting. However, they may be able to drop back a few places and still come away with a good player. Between free agency and the draft, they will probably come away with two new starters for the offensive line. Drafting starters on Day 2 is an option, though not necessarily the ideal choice.