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Cleveland Browns 2020 NFL Draft Preview Roundtable

We put on our analyst caps to discuss every draft-related topic related to the Cleveland Browns.

Erik Drost on Flickr

To help preview the Cleveland BrownsNFL Draft every year, the staff here at Dawgs By Nature puts together a roundtable discussion covering as many draft-related topics as possible within a short period of time.

The participants include myself, Matt Wood, rufio, Thomas Moore, Josh Finney, Dan Lalich, and Barry Shuck. I also doubled as the moderator for the majority of the questions, so the tone of most questions are coming from my perspective.

Q (Chris): “Let’s start with the obvious one: the Browns have the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Who are the top one or two players you are hoping the Browns land with that pick, within reasonable expectations?”

NFL Combine - Day 3
OT Jedrick Wills is one of the Browns’ considerations at No. 10.

Barry Shuck: “This pick will bring a bonanza to the Browns regardless or which offensive tackle they select. And yes, it should be an offensive tackle. Cleveland’s offense is set-up to become one of the league’s best with overflowing talent. I firmly believe that if the offensive line had done its job last year, the franchise would not only produced a winning season, but would had made the playoffs. Too many senseless penalties (ranked 4th), limited time to throw, second most interceptions thrown (21), QB hits (67) and sacks (41), and how many times was Mayfield flushed from the pocket?

I believe there will be two premier choices for OT when the Browns pick AND THEY SHOULD TAKE EITHER, but my personal prediction is Jedrick Wills out of Alabama. This year is rich in exceptionally talented OT prospects and the left tackle position is currently wide open. Wills played four years at right tackle in college and Jack Conklin was just signed in free agency, who played 57 games in four years at RT for the Tennessee Titans. So, why would they draft another RT? I get that. You just don’t pass on talent. One of these two men will have to learn the other side, it’s as simple as that. Are the positions different? You bet. The stance is opposite, placement of the hands is different, first-step, angles, muscle memory, dropback positioning, pulling and add the fact that the right defensive end is usually that opponent’s best pass rusher.

Conklin played both tackle positions in his freshman year. As a sophomore, he started all 13 games at left tackle and was named First Team All-Big 10 at that position. In fact, during his stint at Michigan State he started 35 games at left tackle and just three on the rightside. In his junior year, he gave up only two sacks and had a mere two penalties.

Oddly enough, when he was taken eighth overall in the 2016 draft, the Titans traded up with the Browns to take him - so Conklin could have been with Cleveland all this time. The Titans already had Taylor Lewan, a two-time All-American and another first-round pick, entrenched at left tackle. So as a rookie in training camp, right off Conklin was thrust into the right tackle slot.

Now, whether Conklin goes back to left tackle or the Browns force Wills to play that side is a training camp decision that offensive line coach Bill Callahan will have to make.”

rufio: “The top player I’d like is Jedrick Wills. He can easily play the left side and has the best pass protection ability of any lineman in the draft. He’s so smooth and under control in his set, and he’s a great athlete to boot. The fact that he’s so polished already leads me to think he cares about his craft and understands that he can’t just bully his way to winning in the NFL.

I think that Wirfs and Becton are more freakish athletes than Wills, who is “merely” a very good athlete. I’d be happy with them as well. But Wirfs is the kind of boring, technically skilled, and quick-for-being-a-huge-offensive-lineman pick that is going to be a rock for some franchise for years. I think he’d be up there with Alex Mack in terms of linemen the Browns have drafted.

I’m generally in the “switching from left to right on the OL is harder than people think it is” camp. But Wills has the feet and the quickness to easily play on the left. And if a player is going to make the switch, he should switch once and switch early in his career. With Wills, Bitonio, Tretter, X, and Conklin, we’d be looking great on the OL headed in to 2020.”

Josh Finney: “I’ll be comfortable with any of the premium tackles, with the least favorite being Wills, and the premium pick for me being Thomas. This is a deep tackle draft, and addressing the position here goes a long way to shoring up the Browns trenches. I think the other trench is probably best served with a trade or BRING HOME THE BIG FISH YANNNNNNNNICK COME HOME BABY PLZ

One of the worst kept secrets in sports is the Browns potentially trading down here and adding Ezra Cleveland, a move that would also be totally cool if orchestrated correctly.”

Thomas Moore: “If I had to go with just one player, it would be Andrew Thomas from Georgia. The more you read about him and watch his film, the more he just comes across as a perfect fit for this Browns team and the offensive line. Broadening the view on the pick, if Thomas is gone then I would like to see the Browns select whichever remaining offensive tackle they have ranked the highest on their draft board. Unless those available players are ranked significantly lower and someone like Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons is still on the board, then you direct message that pick as quickly as possible.”

rufio: “I honestly think Andrew Thomas might be best suited to playing guard in our scheme. He’s got some length but he is not the most fleet of foot. I personally think he is a much better fit for a gap scheme where his power is more of an asset and his feet are potentially less of a liability. I also have questions about how he’ll do pass protecting the edge in the NFL. I know he did this job fairly well at Georgia, but there are times that pass rushers are able to kind of bend the edge on him with quickness, and you have to wonder how that will translate to the NFL with everyone being an incredible athlete.

I think Thomas is a very good technician–he’s probably got the best run blocking technique of anyone I’ve watched in the draft. But I don’t think he’d use any of that technique on our team. Especially when you factor in our current line (we aren’t really able to flip the 10th pick to the right side and consider it a success) I think he’s simply more valuable to someone else.”

Matt Wood: “I am much more open to this draft, mainly because the Browns have fixed the biggest problem (QB). I’m honestly open to any of the top OT’s. Wirfs, Wills, Bekton, Thomas or Jones. My only issue will be if the Browns drop down too far and miss out on the Tackles. Protecting Baker is/was Jobe number one this offseason and the signing of Conklin was a huge start, but they need to finish here. I am even open to drafting two OT’s this year with the second one being a later “lottery” pick. I don’t see how going defense early in this draft helps the Browns, even with Simmons on the board. I think Simmons is a luxury pick, and that is something the Browns can’t afford right now.”

Chris Pokorny: “I’m in agreement with everyone else. Unless the Browns land Trent Williams in some type of trade, then I would be pretty surprised if Cleveland comes away from Thursday without a first-round offensive tackle. My eyes are still on Becton, but it’s honestly just a bit of fascination with his size and potential. If any of those top offensive linemen have their names called when Cleveland is on the clock at No. 10 overall, I’ll sit back and be a happy camper.”

Q (rufio): “What do you all think is the most interesting storyline in the first round that isn’t Browns-related?”

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU
Is there a chance that LB Isaiah Simmons falls to the Browns?
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

rufio: “Personally, I am very curious to see what the NFL thinks of Isaiah Simmons. His athleticism is obviously there, but I wonder what the NFL will value (or not value) his lack of a defined position. Clemson played him as almost a hybrid LB/S/DE, where he would do everything from rushing the passer like a DE to playing a deep centerfield role like a free safety, to covering slot receivers and TEs man to man. If he’s used like that in the NFL he’d be a nightmare, but is there a coach out there who would adapt to that? Is Simmons good enough to continue to do those things when he’s no longer beating up on the ACC?”

Matt Wood: “I see Simmons as a fun tool on defense, but he isn’t a pass rusher and he isn’t a cornerback. I have a hard time taking an off the ball LB or a safety at 10. I think he COULD be a great defensive player, but he is going to need a lot of things to line up in order for him to hit that potential. I’m not sure the Browns can unlock that to be honest. I think the Browns would be better served with grabbing a handful of guys later in the draft that can play ff the ball LB and see what happens. It isn’t a perfect solution by any means, but I think Simmons is a rare guy that will need a good situation with the right coaching.”

Chris Pokorny: “Our linebacker situation is pretty damn ugly, so Simmons would be a defensive guy who I would forego my wishes for an offensive tackle for. It’s one of those situations where I could see why Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey were let go vs. paying them, but now we kind of have that seldom-talked-about void at the position. If Simmons is there, take him.”

Dan Lalich: “I know I’m not really going out on a limb here but I think Tua is one of the more interesting storylines. He’s a guy that might have been hurt particularly hard by the truncated pre-draft process. It will be interesting to see if teams are scared off by his medicals/lack thereof. It’s also just hard for me to not focus in on where each QB will go in general, since those tend to be the franchise-defining decisions for better or worse. The Patriots can’t seriously be going into next season with Stidham and Hoyer as their main options, right?”

Thomas Moore: “I agree on Tua. He was the presumed No. 1 pick heading into last season and his play did nothing to alter that up until he got hurt. If you need a QB and you are comfortable with whatever medical info you have on him, don’t see how you can pass on selecting Tua.”

rufio: “Dan, the Pats’ QB situation is interesting to me for sure. For years (decades?) they have epitomized belief in a system and no player being above the Patriot Way. But the entire time they have had a hall of fame QB (quite possibly the best QB ever) as the cornerstone of their franchise. Now that he’s gone, how does all of that play out?”

Dan Lalich: “With the departure of Kirksey and Schobert I’m not sure Simmons would be a luxury pick. Our linebacker situation is kind of terrifying right now, probably worse off than our offensive line. That said, I don’t see Simmons falling that far and there isn’t another linebacker worth taking at 10, so this is mostly academic.”

Q (Chris): “What are your expectations for how smoothly this digital NFL draft is going to go, and are you going to be watching the entire first round of coverage?”

At least we know 49ers GM John Lynch should be ready to go with his draft setup!

Matt Wood: “As much as I think a train wreck draft would be funny, it will be fine. Teams will have everything figured out. This is a billion dollar business that probably needed a nudge into the new world of technology (anyone remember Elvis Dumervill becoming a FA because of a fax issue?!). So I think this will be fine but it still may provide a few funny visual moments (like Elway looking like a hologram in the test run)”

Dan Lalich: “I’m sure there will be a few hiccups but I expect things to run more or less smoothly. I’m really excited to look back on this draft in 4-5 years and see if teams were really all that affected by the whole situation.”

Matt Wood: “I have seen some people lay out the idea that NO ONE has an idea of what other teams are doing and I buy that. I mean think of how the Gronk deal came out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone is plugged in this year and I think we will see some guys taken with people scratching their heads. It is the main reason I am really worried about trading way down, you could really misread the room if you will and be left out in the cold if you go too far. Of course that is always a worry, but this year more than normal.”

Barry Shuck: “I believe that the amount of trades will be way down, and some trades would have been made prior to the draft even starting to alleviate the issues of communication. What is interesting, is what if the draft is hacked? Hackers usually do the ransomware to collect large amounts of money from cities and other large companies, but they also hack sites just to show they can. Would hate for a Steelers’ hacker to make our first pick as a kicker! But if a hacker didn’t originate from Russia or Africa or China, it would be from Pittsburgh.”

Thomas Moore: “It will go fine. There was some noise earlier in the week when the league did the test run of the draft, but that comes across as mostly GMs looking for a ‘cover your ass moment’ if the draft does not go the way they hope this weekend. ‘Wasn’t my fault we picked Chaun Thompson in the second round - the stupid computer did not work!’”

Chris Pokorny: “It’s pretty near how teams are sharing their coach or GM’s home draft setup. Our Rams affiliate aggregated each team’s setup here; at the moment, there isn’t a picture of Andrew Berry’s setup, though.

I think there will be some hiccups in the draft for a few reasons. On the flip side, considering there will be 32 teams worth of different IT solutions being implemented across the country, I think it’ll be more stable than one might expect. Barry brings up a good point about negotiating trade parameters. I think things are going to move faster because instead of having a whole room to bounce ideas off of at once, it’s just one person (i.e. the GM) doing remote communication with others. There is much more potential for a communication breakdown. Hopefully the Browns’ process is as streamlined as possible. Who knows; maybe Paul DePodesta’s experience of working remotely will be an asset in terms of his advice in remote operations and efficiency.”

rufio: “The digital draft seems to pit the NFL resisting change against the NFL not wanting to embarrass itself in public fashion. I think they will sort it out and avoid public embarrassment, they typically do when their bottom line is at stake.

Also adding to the world situation: Now I have to teach during the draft, which is crushing. I hope to surreptitiously get an alert on my phone about our pick and not get too distracted as we have class over Zoom. This will be the first one in a long while that I’ve missed.”

Chris Pokorny: “I’m not kidding; between all of my full-time work (being done remotely), then the Browns writing and preparation, and the other side work I’m doing remotely, I am spending more time than ever working. It’s both refreshing (to take my mind off the depressing world situation) and exhausting at the same time. That is definitely not a complaint at all — I feel terrible about everyone who isn’t able or allowed to work during these times.

That’s too bad you can’t record your Zoom session ahead of time and tell the class to watch it. I’m assuming there is an interactive element to it, though.”

Q (Chris): “Let’s talk about the Browns’ second-round pick at No. 41. Taking a safety at that pick seems to be a common opinion — is that the boat we’re all in? Which players would you love to score in the second round?”

Minnesota v Northwestern
Taking a safety in the second round, such as Antoine Winfield Jr, is a popular pick among Browns fans.
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Barry Shuck: “Yes, the Browns addressed both safety positions in free agency. But a young stud to groom and insert in the slot or as the nickel and get playing time would be ideal. I have preached Kyle Dugger from Lenior-Rhyne since I spent a week at the Senior Bowl. This kid is a complete player and is the real deal. He is a hitter and more importantly, does not miss tackles.”

Thomas Moore: “He might be a bit on the small side, but everything you read about Antoine Winfield Jr. makes it sound like he is a player that would fit in nicely for the Browns. Could probably be talked into Kyle Dugger as well if Winfield is not available.”

Matt Wood: “Winfield is my dream although I think he goes before that. Honestly I just want someone with some upside. I know that sounds silly when you are talking about a draft where everyone should have upside, but I also would love a WR. So many good ones in this draft, I would love to leave with two of them when it is all said and done. To me that second round is where you can start to be a little adventurous in taking someone. I know his size is not good but KJ Hamler is so much fun to watch. He gave Okudah fits last year and I would LOVE to see him in the slot for the Browns. By far it would not be the biggest need but a boy can dream.”

Chris Pokorny: “I’d also love Antoine Winfield in the second round. He and Grant Delpit seem to be favorites at DBN too.”

rufio: “A safety would be the dream, but I’m less and less hopeful that one of the top 3 will fall to us. I can’t believe Grant Delpit is slipping out of some first round mocks, and McKinney seems a lock to go before we do. Winnefield will probably be gone too. What about that kid from Cal? Can we afford a RB or WR here?

Because those positions both seem pretty deep but it doesn’t seem wise to spend that kind of draft capital on a skill player when we have Jarvis and Odell along with Hunt and Chubb, and we just added another TE to the mix as well. But I really like big, physical WRs as a system fit for us and a guy like Michael Pittman Jr. might make a lot of sense.

Or I could see us trying to evolve to more of a spread team and getting that shifty smaller guy like Hamler, though that is more of maybe a wish than a guess of what Stefanski will want. Since at least the Kubiak/Vick/Warrick Dunn Atlanta Falcons days, big WRs have been the preference in this system. The Shannahans’ stops in Washington and San Francisco has maybe bucked that trend, but I’m not sure if that was intentional or a function of having good WRs who happened to be smaller.”

Q (Chris): “Are there any late-round gems you have your eye on?”

Matt Wood: “Donavan Peoples-Jones. You are talking about a kid who was the highest rated WR coming out of high school and was good in college but wasn’t what many expected. I think of Stefon Diggs here. They both went to places that didn’t set the world on fire offensively, but how much of that was their college team and how much of that was them? He has good size and he ran a 4.48 at the combine. I think if he went to a prolific passing offense in college instead of Jim ‘the fullback dive isn’t dead!’ Harbaugh he would be going MUCH higher than he will this weekend.

The other guy I like, and I don’t know how ‘late’ he will go is Ben Bartch. He attended St. John’s right up the road from me and he has a TON of upside. Playing at a D3 school obviously has some major questions about levels but everyone raves about him and how he can handle moving up in competition. Some think he may be better suited to move inside, but he has great size and can move. I think he goes maybe as early as round 2, but if for some reason he is there in round 3 and the Browns miss on the top OT’s, he could be a real find if developed properly.”

Barry Shuck: “If you read my piece on ‘7 under the radar draft picks,’ I talk about LB Logan Wilson. Again, he was at the Senior Bowl and I was able to spend some time with him. He is also a sure tackler, high character and a three year captain. This defense needs more sure tacklers for a change and he had 409 in college. 409! Why can’t we be the defense known for hard hitting and sure tacklers? It starts with Wilson.”

Q (Chris): “Would you want the Browns to explore trading for Trent Williams still?”

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans
Is there any chance Trent Williams ends up coming to the Browns via a trade during the draft?
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

rufio: “We should explore the trade, but I wouldn’t give up too much. Trent is not especially young, and does not have an especially good injury history, so potentially not being able to have him for 4-5 years while our core matures together wouldn’t be ideal. Still, he’s a very good player and a very good system fit. There’s some value to protecting Baker’s blindside even if it is just for one year. Berry should be exploring every single avenue for improving the team, but the terms of this potential trade that have been discussed publicly would be way too rich for my blood.”

Dan Lalich: “Hard no on trading for Trent Williams. If it was just the trade I would be in on it, but he also wants a contract extension, and I just don’t see that as a smart move for the Browns right now.”

Chris Pokorny: “Probably the most attractive scenario is if somehow, the Browns could work out getting Trent Williams, Isaiah Simmons, and one of the top safeties in this year’s class. The only way that I see that happening, though, is if teams really just want to stay away from Williams, and the Redskins finally decide they’ll just dump the offensive tackle for a third-round pick and some compensation in 2021. I’m not expecting it to happen, but if the door opens in the moment, take it. I wouldn’t give up a first- or second-round pick, though, when this draft is very plentiful in talented offensive tackles.”

Matt Wood: “Depends on the price tag. Williams WAS maybe the best Tackle in football. But he will be 32, he hasn’t played a full season since 2013 and he sat out the entire season last year. Did I mention he wants a new contract? That is A LOT of red flags that could backfire. That being said, if you trade back in round one, send one of those mid round picks to Washington and grab a developmental tackle in the mid rounds as well, then it makes sense. But sending a high pick to Washington makes little sense in a draft were we have plenty of options to grab a tackle.”

Thomas Moore: “Trading for Trent Williams would be OK, in theory, depending on the price. If he is still committed to playing and is healthy he could hold down left tackle for three good seasons, which would be nice.”

Q (Chris): “As the graphic below comically shows, Browns fans know that the team’s biggest draft need is an offensive lineman (specifically a tackle). We’ve talked a bit about offensive tackle, safety, and linebacker already. Is there another position or two you could see the Browns addressing in the first 3 rounds?”

Dan Lalich: “Other than those three positions, it’s hard to see many positions of need. I think it would make sense to take an edge rusher, since Vernon isn’t getting younger or cheaper and Myles is going to get a lot more expensive. Beyond those two, the depth is pretty suspect.”

rufio: “If the Browns are actually open to trading Odell or Jarvis, I could see WR being a position we’d take. I could see edge rusher as well, because you can never have too many pass rushers. And in a vacuum I could see a 1-tech type DT who clogs up the middle as well, but this draft seems to be heavier on the 3-tech guys. DaVon Hamilton out of Ohio State would be a sleeper pick there. CB, RB, and WR are other positions we might want to look at simply because the talent should be there on the board, not necessarily because of our roster.”

Matt Wood: “I mentioned before, but I LOVE the idea of adding a WR. I know that Stefanski wasn’t very heavy on the 3 WR sets, but how much of that was him adapting to his depth chart in Minnesota? There are so many good options at WR, I want some of that action.”

Chris Pokorny: “I agree with you guys — edge rusher and wide receiver would be my other targets. Who knows what happened to Rashard Higgins; but it’s good if this team can add a reliable third receiver who isn’t a first- or second-round pick. The class is deep enough to find one of those guys, but other teams are going to know that too. Accumulating edge rushers should always be a priority, especially so you don’t even have to have a guy like Myles Garrett on the field at the end of the game when it’s already decided.”

Thomas Moore: “The Browns still need to do something about the right guard position. Have zero faith the Wyatt Teller is the answer and Cleveland simply can’t afford to be weak up the middle. Another wide receiver would be nice, although not sure why they simply don’t just sign Rashard Higgins. Of course, no one else is signing him, so maybe there is something there that we don’t know about?”

Chris Pokorny: “I’ll give you right guard, that’s another good fit. I wouldn’t complain about taking a guard in the second or third round. I do think the idea right now is to move Chris Hubbard there and see how he fares.”

Q (Chris): “Last, but not least, a fun one: if the Browns had the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, who would you take? All I need is a name.”

rufio: “Chase Young, and it isn’t even close. If we had the #2 pick and Chase was gone, I’d pick Wills.”

Dan Lalich: “Same here — Chase Young.”

Matt Wood: “Chase Young.”

Chris Pokorny: “Chase Young, no doubt. I probably shouldn’t have even bothered with the question, lol, but I just wanted to see if anyone had an off-the-wall answer for me.”

Thomas Moore: “Probably Isaiah Simmons, although people would lose their minds if the Browns had a chance at Chase Young and did not select him.”

Chris Pokorny: “We have our outlier — Tom goes with someone besides Young! The pitchforks will surely come out for that.”

Thanks to everybody who participated and took the time to read!