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Browns Mailbag: Could the Browns add a TE in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Spring has sprung, and the 2022 NFL Draft just keeps getting closer.

Understandably, that's the main focus of today's batch of questions. We're tackling four of them to get you rolling into the weekend.

The Browns lost six close games to contending teams by a total of six points or less. Will the problem of an explosive receiver and an excellent field goal kicker be solved in the draft or free agency? — Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia

The Browns have made moves to address both of these areas during the past month, and there's no reason to believe they're done. Though Jarvis Landry was released, the Browns added an explosive, Pro Bowl wide receiver in Amari Cooper, who was acquired in a trade with the Cowboys. The team also added Pro Bowl returner Jakeem Grant, who has caught 100 passes over the past six seasons and can give the Browns some burst on offense. Tack on the expected growth and development of Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz, and the Browns have solid reasons to believe they'll be better in this area in 2022.

Free agency remains ongoing, and there are a number of talented and accomplished players still on the market. And then there's the draft, where the Browns no longer hold a first-round pick but carry enough assets to land a talented pass-catcher or two who can make an immediate impact for the offense. If they utilize their first pick on a wide receiver, players such as Christian Watson (North Dakota State), George Pickens (Georgia), Alec Pierce (Cincinnati), Skyy Moore (Western Michigan) and Jahan Dotson (Penn State) could be available and ready to give the Browns passing game a boost in 2022. There are also a number of talented wide receivers who could be available when the Browns are on the clock with one of their two third-round selections. That group could include the likes of Calvin Austin III (Memphis), David Bell (Purdue), Wan'Dale Robinson (Kentucky) and Jalen Tolbert (South Alabama).

At kicker, the Browns have Chris Blewitt and Chase McLaughlin, the latter of whom re-signed with the team earlier this week. McLaughlin was the team's top option last season, but his performance wasn't consistent. He was dynamite early in the season but posted the majority of his six misses during the second half of the year. This year's draft includes a number of potential options at kicker, including LSU's Cade York and Oklahoma's Gabe Brkic, who grew up in nearby Chardon. The majority of kickers, of course, enter the league via undrafted free agency, so that's another avenue the Browns can explore as they look to acquire the best possible option at an incredibly important position.

Seemingly an under-publicized deal of Mack Wilson for Chase Winovich could create big plays for the defense? — Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia

That's always the goal when you're adding a new player to the roster. Winovich gets a big opportunity for a fresh start in Cleveland after three seasons with the Patriots. He was productive during his first two seasons, recording 5.5 sacks apiece in 2019 and 2020 before seeing his role reduced in 2021. With the Browns, Winovich has an opportunity to get back on the field and thrive on the opposite side of the line from the likes of All-Pro Myles Garrett.

"We're excited about adding Chase Winovich to our defense," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said last month. "He's a high-energy football player with relentless pass-rush ability and we think he will fit in well with our defensive scheme."   

Will the Browns be interested in drafting Jeremy Ruckert, the tight end from Ohio State in the second or third round? — Denny W., Salem

I can't provide much insight into the players the Browns may or may not be targeting at different portions of the draft, but I can reiterate how important the tight end position is to the team and how the room is currently a bit thin following last month's release of veteran Austin Hooper.

Free agency, of course, remains an option to address the position, but the draft is mostly what we're talking about today. Ruckert, in particular, is an intriguing option after a senior season in which he caught 26 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns. ranks Ruckert as the second-best tight end prospect in the draft while Pro Football Focus slots him at No. 5. Either ranking would put him as a prime Day 2 or early Day 3 candidate at a position that's not expected to produce any first-rounders, but should provide plenty of volume in the middle and later rounds.

Some other names to know: Colorado State's Trey McBride caught a whopping 91 passes for 1,125 yards in 2021. UCLA's Greg Dulcich caught a combined 72 passes for 1,242 yards and 10 TDs over his final two seasons. Virginia's Jelani Woods stands at 6-foot-7, weighs 259 pounds and caught eight touchdowns in 2021.

With Jack Conklin's contract expiring at the end of this year and with limited cap space in 2023, do you see tackle as a position they could target at 44? — Phillip D., Munich, Germany

I can't rule anything out at this point because the Browns will target the best player available when they're on the clock with their first of seven picks in the draft. As it stands, the Browns have some solid depth at the position after re-signing Chris Hubbard and returning all of their other players, including 2021 fourth-round pick James Hudson III. They also got a solid year out of Blake Hance, who entered last season as an interior lineman but gained valuable experience as a left and right tackle.

If the Browns were to target a tackle on Day 2, some of the options include Abraham Lucas (Washington State), Darian Kinnard (Kentucky), Jamaree Salyer (Georgia) and Bernhard Raimann (Central Michigan).

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