The Cleveland Browns biggest need this off-season is the offensive tackle position. Anybody who follows the Browns will tell you that. Which is good – means folks are paying attention.
The offense of any football team only goes as far as the offensive line will take them. When the O-Line is bad and ineffective, the running game suffers, there are fewer pass completions, sacks allowed increase, quarterback pressures and hurries go up, total passing yards decrease, first downs suffer, quarterback scrambles increase, and the game plan becomes a thing of the past as the offensive play caller is eventually let go as the scapegoat - or part of the problem.
We here at DBN want to review what is out there on the offensive tackle front in the upcoming 2020 NFL draft and see which OT’s should be available in the first-round; and more specifically the 10th overall slot which the Browns own.
For your reading pleasure, we have taken four offensive tackle candidates, analyzed their abilities, each player’s pros and cons, what type of men they are, where they could be drafted, and which other clubs are also in need of an offensive tackle infusion. Then, we make our most educated guess at who the Browns will take – assuming Cleveland takes an offensive tackle in the first-round and also being presumptuous the Browns retain the pick.
One very obsessive, talented offensive tackle can change the offense. Taking two at this position could alter the makeup of the entire team.
Next, we want to know what you think about our research and analogy with a comment. We realize this is all being done before free agency. We get that. You get that. But isn’t it fun talking about it? Take our poll. We like polls, and basically, who can resist one when it comes to your fav team?
Offensive tackles (listed alphabetically): First-round
Browns pick: Number 10
LT/RT Mekhi Becton – 6’, 7” 369 pounds
College: Louisville (junior)
40 time: 5.58
Red flags: None
College starts: 38 (12 at RT)
Awards: First Team All-ACC (2019)
Chris Pokorny: I’m sure everyone will mention this, but Becton’s size jumps off the chart at 6-7, 369 lbs. His length gives him an advantage for rushers coming off the edge; call it more margin for error to make up for times when someone else might have been beaten. His power in run blocking is probably the best in his class. His technique overall should be polished a bit, but if I’m looking for a left tackle, Becton is one of my top guys.
Barry Shuck: Strength is an understatement with this prospect with awesome power, but he has good feet and is not slow on that crucial first step. Able to be aware on his angles and his reach is incredible. Positive hand techniques with good hand punches. His greatest feature is his point-of-contact. Three-year starter in college - played his freshman and junior years at left tackle whereas his sophomore year he was inserted at RT. Solid prospect and Day 1 starter.
Thomas Moore: Finally, someone who actually plays left tackle! Becton has size and strength, and thedraftnetwork.com describes him as a “brawler in the run game” - which would go over very nicely in Cleveland - and a player that uses his size to overwhelm opposing pass rushers. There are some concerns about his weight - at 369 pounds he might need to be careful as he ages - and he won’t be able to get by on just size and strength in the NFL. He may have the most upside of anyone in this group.
LT/RT Andrew Thomas – 6’, 5” 320 pounds
College: Georgia (junior)
40 time: 5.22
Red flags: None
College starts: 42 (15 at RT)
Awards: Freshman All-American (2017), NCAA Elite Football Symposium invitee (2018), Unanimous All-American (2019), Two-Time All-SEC (2018-2019)
Barry Shuck: Thomas has been linked as the best tackle in the draft – or the third best. Was a three-year starter in a difficult conference and saw some of college football’s best defensive ends. A true left tackle but started every game at right tackle in his freshman year and was voted as an All-American for that year. He has size and athleticism and quick feet. Would become an instant starter on either side as he is versatile which is a plus.
Thomas Moore: Thomas brings experience after starting for three years at Georgia and holding his own against SEC defenses is a huge bonus. He is very good in the run game, which would go over well in the AFC North, but needs to improve his footwork in the passing game; which would not make life easy at first for quarterback Baker Mayfield. However, if new head coach Kevin Stefanksi is looking to speed up the offense, the Browns may be able to live with Thomas’ growing pains as long as he proves to be a fast learner.
Chris Pokorny: Thomas brings the experience edge, as he started three years at left tackle and could start in any offense as a run blocker. He has some footwork issues in pass protection, which makes me a bit nervous when I think about how far back Baker Mayfield would drop last year (but hopefully the new coaching staff fixes that). Thomas is a player who I see being a bit of a safe pick — he will be a good starter, but maybe not as much upside as the others.
RT Jedrick Wills, Jr. – 6’, 5” 320 pounds
College: Alabama (junior)
40 time: 5.34
Red flags: None
College starts: 29 (all at RT)
Awards: National Champion (2017), First Team All-SEC (2019)
Thomas Moore: Wills checks all the boxes you want in a tackle, as he has been described by thedraftnetwork.com as a player who is “a refined pass blocker with exceptional technique, mobility, power and body control that makes him a dominant performer in pass protection.” He can also more than hold his own as a run blocker. There are areas that are concerning. The first is that he played at Alabama, which is a meat grinder that tends to age players rather quickly. His medicals need to check out all across the board. The second is that he has played on the right side. If the Browns are looking at him as a right tackle - no worries. But if they are considering investing a high pick in the hope that Wills can seamlessly move to the left side, that might be an issue.
Chris Pokorny: He is very good all around, but superb pass protection is where he has really made his mark. The solid technique he’s consistently had is one that won’t break down at the NFL level. The part that makes me nervous compared to other prospects is that he only played right tackle, and I hate experimenting with a draft pick at left tackle.
Barry Shuck: Wills is another tackle who a lot of folks believe is the best in this year’s draft. He has a massive upper body and is extremely athletic. Able to maintain and sustain blocks. Excellent run blocker, but pass blocking is his best feature. A true right tackle. If a left tackle can be obtained in free agency, this is a guy you simply plug-and-play. Cannot be bull-rushed and basically frames his opponent. Two-year starter in a tough conference.
LT/RT Tristan Wirfs – 6’, 5” 322 pounds
College: Iowa (junior)
40 time: 4.98
Red flags: One-game suspension OWI (2018)
College starts: 21 (7 at RT)
Awards: First Team All-Big 10 (2019), Big 10 Offensive Lineman-of-the-Year (2019)
Chris Pokorny: The thing that stands out for Wirfs is his power and strength; whether it’s pass protection or run blocking, he can really drive on his guy upon contact. The downside is that he is sometimes slow to adapting to a good pass-rusher’s second move, or engaging defenders at the second level. Wirfs is another prospect who has seen a lot of his action at right tackle, though.
Barry Shuck: Is quick for a man his size – can we say “graceful” about a tackle? Very rare specimen of size plus strength. Every year, Bruce Feldman puts out a “College Football Freaks List” and had Wirfs at number one in 2019 (Myles Garrett is a former number one). Can play either side which is a plus, but is better on the right side. Strong? Broke Iowa’s hang clean weightlifting record at 450 pounds.
Thomas Moore: Wirfs is powerful - very powerful - and good luck to the defender if Wirfs gets his hands on him. He is also a three-year starter in the Big 10, which is always a good sign if you are looking for an offensive lineman. He does not get beat very often in pass blocking, although he can struggle when facing a speed rusher or when having to deal with a pass rusher’s counter move. He is another player who has played predominantly on the right side, so if the Browns are looking at right tackle, no worries. But if they want someone to take over Baker’s blindside, that could be a problem. Plus there are some draft experts that “project” Wirfs moving to guard at the NFL level. The Browns need a new right guard, but we’ve had enough of projecting position changes for a while after the Austin Corbett experience.
Okay, there are the descriptions of what each of us here at DBN see and feel at each player. But how does that compute to the Browns and the 10th overall pick in the first-round?
Which player is the best one? Who fits the Browns’ offense better? Does Cleveland draft strictly a left tackle or a right tackle? Or is the advantage the athlete that plays either? Do we need a virile run blocker than one that is prevalent in pass protection? If three tackles are already taken before the Browns’ pick, is the fourth guy worthy?
As far as which player, or whether he can play which side, let’s just say for argument-sake that by the time the draft has rolled along, the Browns have already signed a free agent offensive tackle to take care of one side or the other. This means with the draft, they will then target the other side with their focus. And this is not to say the Browns may take a second offensive tackle later in the draft like Josh Jones of Houston or USC’s Austin Jackson in Round 2.
With this in mind, the only obstacles are the teams ahead of Cleveland that may need an offensive tackle. Let’s look at the first-round and try to predict who needs what.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Primary needs: QB, WR, DT - Pick: QB Joe Burrow
- Washington Redskins – Primary needs: OT, EDGE, WR, CB - Pick: EDGE Chase Young. The Redskins could take a tackle here, but a player like Young is being labeled “generational.” Nobody wants to be remembered for being the GM to have passed on THAT guy.
- Detroit Lions – Primary needs: LB, CB, WR, EDGE - They need lots of help on the defense with emphasis in the defensive backfield right away. Defensive coaches take defensive players predominately. Pick: CB Jeffrey Okudah of Ohio State
- New York Football Giants – Primary needs: EDGE, LB, CB, WR, OT - More than likely the Giants will take the best defender on the board, probably Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. Their defense is horrible and need a top-shelf guy to come in right away and help out but they also need a RT right now. Pick: OT or LB Isaiah Simmons
- Miami Dolphins - Primary needs: QB, EDGE, OT, CB, RB - What are the Dolphins needs? Offensive tackle is one of them. So is quarterback with Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert sitting there. Pick: OT or QB Tua Tagovailoa
- San Diego Chargers – Primary needs: QB, OG, OT, CB - Whichever QB the Dolphins don’t pick, San Diego should take the other.
- Carolina Panthers – Primary needs: DT, CB, OG, OT, S - Can see an offensive tackle here and might be a certainty. Can also see a receiver such as Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma. Pick: WR, OT or DT Derrick Brown of Auburn
- Arizona Cardinals – Primary needs: OT, OG, DT - The Cards have a new quarterback and need more protection for him. Drafting an OT is a good possibility here and is a probability unless Auburn’s Brown is still on the board. Pick: OT
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Primary needs: WR, LB, CB, S - This much we know: the Jags always take a defender in the first-round. Always. Pick: Either Auburn’s DT Brown or if the Giants don’t take LB Simmons
What does all this mean?
Chris Pokomy: If the Browns want an offensive tackle in the Top 4 of that position, I think they are in good shape. While a lot of higher teams like the Giants and Dolphins need a tackle, I think they are going to go in different directions. And if the Chargers don’t retain Philip Rivers, they may seek a quarterback with their pick. The main team I am looking at in front of Cleveland are the Cardinals, to get Kyler Murray some more protection. Ideally, the Cardinals would go with the stable pick in Thomas, while Cleveland grabs Becton and all of his potential. Predicted pick: Becton
Barry Shuck: With this information in mind, if the Giants, Panthers and Cardinals all take a tackle, the Browns’ choice of one of the premium OT’s will end up with whichever one is left over. And even then, all four are stellar players who will change the landscape of the offensive line for the Browns in 2020 and the Browns will be much better off. Or if only a single tackle has been taken, this will allow Cleveland several choices of which to pick. Offensive linemen usually can learn any spot on the line and all but Wills has played both tackle positions during their college careers in tough conferences. But make no mistake, Cleveland should focus on this position in the first-round. Predicted pick: Thomas
Thomas Moore: We can rule out a tackle going in the first two picks because quarterback Joe Burrow is going to someone at No. 1 and the Washington Redskins will most likely select defensive end Chase Young at No. 2. The Miami Dolphins at No. 5 should be selecting a quarterback, and the Los Angeles Chargers may grab one as well as a replacement for Philip Rivers. So that potentially takes four of the teams selecting before the Browns off the table. The Arizona Cardinals could be a team to watch as they need to protect quarterback Kyle Murray, so let’s give the Cardinals an offensive tackle in Jedrick Wills. That gives the Browns their pick of the rest of the top prospects at No. 10. People will be pounding the table for Tristan Wirfs. We’ll go with the Browns selecting the one true left tackle in Mekhi Becton, and then sit back and watch people lose their minds screaming about “analytics.” Predicted pick: Becton
What say you? If all four offensive tackles were available when the Browns pick at number 10 in the first-round, which would you draft?
This poll is closed
Mekhi Becton - Louisville
Andrew Thomas - Georgia
Jedrick Wills, Jr. - Alabama
Tristan Wirfs - Iowa
Player not listed