The Browns are 30 days away from the first time they'll be on the clock in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The draft itself starts in 29 days, but the Browns don't currently own a pick until the second round at 44th overall. That means — for now — they'll be a little less busy on the evening of Day 1 as commissioner Roger Goodell announces the first-round picks.
Cleveland sent its 13th overall pick and first-round selections in 2023 and 2024 to the Texans in their trade for QB Deshaun Watson on March 18. The Browns can always trade back in, but they won't have a first-round pick for the first time since 2019 if the current order stands.
The front office, however, still plans on conducting its usual scouting procedures and due diligence on all prospects for a myriad of reasons.
"I think we can have an educated guess on whether some of the players won't be available to us by 44," Executive Vice President of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry said Tuesday at the NFL Owners Meetings. "But by the same token, we want to make sure that we complete the work on all the prospects who are on our front board."
The Browns believe they can still draft a player capable of delivering an immediate impact at 44th overall, the same spot Berry drafted S Grant Delpit in 2020 and eight spots lower from when they selected LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in 2021. Both players are two of the Browns' top defensive prospects and highlight the value of a pick in that range.
It's also worth noting that Owusu-Koramoah wasn't expected to slide back to 52nd overall. He was perhaps the biggest example from last year's draft class of how some talented players with first-round grades can slip later than expected and still deliver the production of a first-round pick.
"We didn't necessarily expect him to be there in 52," Berry said. "You don't all of a sudden abort the work that you're going to do on a player just because you think they may not be there. There are surprises every year."
Coach Kevin Stefanski sees more than just draft value assessment as a reason to continue to meet with top prospects and stick with the plan.
By conducting full reports on players who might be drafted before the Browns, the coaching staff can garner an early scouting report on possible players they'll face next season and beyond. They can learn about how they see certain plays unfold and, well, exploit it if they play against each other.
"We want to get to know these players really, really well because we may be competing against them," Stefanski said. "They may be in free agency in four years. We want to stick to our process and make sure we know these guys."
The Browns currently have seven total picks in 2022 but are entering this draft with arguably the least amount of glaring holes on the roster than any previous year under Berry's regime. With the possible exception of the D-line and WR, top-level starters and depth are abundant across most of the other positions, and the front office could envision seven rookies being too much to carry in 2022.
That would make a trade up more likely and is another reason why the Browns are finishing their homework on the top prospects.
As Berry mentioned, surprises happen every year, which is why he chuckled when he was asked if the Browns could consider trading up.
"You never know."