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2020 NFL Draft

Best player available? National analysts agree with Browns long-held draft mindset

CHICAGO —For the last three months, the Browns have been clear about using their NFL Draft picks on the best players available, regardless of position.

It's been a constant theme of first-year coach Hue Jackson and executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown since the pair joined Cleveland's leadership group in January.

And with the draft set to begin Thursday night, national analysts are shaking their heads in agreement.

"At the end of the day, you gotta pick the right players," NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks said Wednesday at an NFL Network luncheon previewing the draft.

"There are guys that are rated as top 10 players for a reason because those are guys designated to be impact players. So when you're looking at the Browns roster and you're trying to count the number of impact players, I'd say that you fall short on what it takes to be a championship team. Most championship teams have 8-10 guys who are impact players. If I'm the Browns and the right guy's there at No. 8, I'm taking him instead of accumulating picks down the line."

The Browns — who hold 12 draft picks, including the No. 8 and No. 32 selections after a blockbuster trade with the Eagles last week — might have also gained something of an upper hand this weekend. NFL network analyst Mike Mayock said Cleveland has the flexibility to take the best player available because it's "dealing from strength" with so many selections in the draft.

"The whole thing about all the picks they have, it gives them a freedom that not every team has. They have a ton of picks and they have a ton of needs," Mayock said.

"So you don't have to sit there and say we have to get this guy at No. 8 and this guy at No. 32. You can sit there and say, 'How does the board fall, and how does that match up with our priorities as an organization' and then pull the trigger."

This comes after Brown said Monday that Cleveland would strike and essentially strike a balance between taking elite talent and addressing immediate roster needs, such as a lack of depth at wide receiver and the secondary.

"We don't want to get to a place where we're thinking of the current needs of the roster and pass over better football players. So you take the guy you feel like can best impact you winning and we certainly feel like that's kind of our mantra and our central theme," he said.

"Sometimes position does play into that decision, and we're not blind to what the roster is. But at the same time, we're not going to take a worse player because we're already set or we have less of a need."

Indeed, this a long-held mindset by members of Cleveland's front office, who have responded to speculation they would use the No. 2 pick on a franchise quarterback with a measured approach.

"With all the offseason moves," analyst Curtis Conway said, "I think you have to pick the best available player, and I know that sounds cliche."

But in some ways, it might be cliche because it's true.

"See what the board does," Brooks said, "and just follow the board."

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