10 IN 10: CLEVELAND BROWNS
There are ten days left until the NFL Draft. This new ‘10 in 10’ series will look at each team picking in the top ten, starting with the Cleveland Browns today and finishing with the Cincinnati Bengals next Thursday. For a more considered, in-depth look at the perfect picks for each team check out the good work of my fellow contributors at The Touchdown here:
For the purposes of simplicity, no trades will be considered in this countdown unless they occur in the days leading up to the draft itself. Each article will look at individual team needs before deciding on the right pick for each franchise, whilst also considering some alternatives at that spot.
#10: CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Cleveland Browns need to take an offensive tackle with their first round pick. Anything else will be a dereliction of duty to the team, and particularly to third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns offensive line ranked 23rd in the league in 2019, and performed particularly poorly in run blocking.
The Browns last invested a first round pick in their trenches when whey drafted centre Cameron Erving in 2015, a player who spent just two seasons in Ohio. Another first round pick – Joe Thomas – who went to 10 Pro Bowls as a Brown, is yet to be convincingly replaced at left tackle after his retirement from the game in 2018. Bringing Jack Conklin has shored up right tackle, but the smart choice here is to protect Mayfield’s blind side.
THE 'DANCING BEAR'
Therefore, with three of the four top offensive linemen left on the board at pick #10, the smartest pick for Cleveland is Mekhi Becton, LT, Louisville. Of the four leading linemen in this year’s draft class, Becton is the most exciting (and risky) prospect. His sheer size (6’ 7” and 369 lbs) combined with his incredible 1.77 second 10 yard split at the Combine means that Becton’s ceiling in the NFL is exciting.
A player of that size and agility should prove to be a nightmare for opposing defenders to get past, and boost the team both in pass protection and run support. His size may leave some franchises worrying about how he can deal with the more athletic edge rushers in the league. And his decision not to run the 3 cone drill at the Combine leaves a cloud over his potential.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
In the last two drafts, Cleveland have surprised their fans with their early picks. In 2018, many expected Sam Darnold of USC to go #1. But the Browns took a risk on the talented Baker Mayfield, despite some questioning his height and character. Few expected cornerback Denzel Ward to go as early as #4 in the same year with defensive end Bradley Chubb and guard Quenton Nelson yet to be taken.
Lacking a first round pick in last year’s draft as a result of trading for Odell Beckham Jr, the recent activity of the Browns in the first round of the draft tells us to expect the unexpected. They overlook supposedly safer prospects in Jedrick Wills Jnr and Tristan Wirfs, who have predominantly played at right tackle, in order to take a punt on Becton and his potential to replace the legendary Joe Thomas.
If the Browns were to do the unthinkable and not select a tackle here, they could look to improve their pass rush. However, this prediction has the top two edge rushers off the board by the time Cleveland come to hand their card in. And to select a player like Yetur Gross-Matos or AJ Epenesa here would be a reach. With Conklin on the right and Becton on the left, Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb should be delighted with the protection in front of them.
TOM WATCHED HIS FIRST EVER NFL GAME AT AN EX’S HOME IN NORTH CAROLINA IN 2013 AND “ENCOURAGED” TO SUPPORT THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS. ONE BREAK-UP AND FOUR YEARS LATER, HE SWITCHED ALLEGIANCE TO THE JETS AND HAS BEEN OBSESSED WITH THE GAME EVER SINCE. TOM CAN BE FOUND ON TWITTER AT @DOWNTHEMANNYRD