TWO. MORE. DAYS.
We're getting you ready for the 2021 NFL Draft with TWO Mailbags. Consider this the first with another to follow Wednesday — Draft-mas Eve, if you will.
Should we still draft an edge rusher after the Jadeveon Clowney signing? — Joe A., Loxahatchee, Florida
This is a good one because mock drafts around the Internet seemed to change their course after the Clowney signing. Before, many believed the Browns needed to select an edge rusher at No. 26 because of a lack of depth at the position entering 2021. Now, when you scan what's out there, some still peg edge rushers to the Browns, but more are entertaining the idea of a linebacker, cornerback or even a wide receiver. Such is the nature of mock drafts, especially when you're tasked with coming up with a new one every three days.
That said, if you listened to Executive Vice President of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry's pre-draft press conference last week, you'll realize the decision to sign Clowney likely won't have much of an impact on the team's ultimate decision at No. 26. That's because the first-round pick, and the team's eight other selections, are about more than just filling a perceived hole for the upcoming season. Berry quoted Bill Polian, a mentor of his, while explaining this rationale.
"It is always nice when a particular need aligns with your draft slot," Berry said. "That being said, Bill Polian used to always say, 'Your needs today are not the same as your needs tomorrow.' I have definitely found that to be true throughout my football career. Again, we really do not go into the mindset of 'Hey, we have to fill a certain position or a certain position at this pick.' It really is about maximizing long-term impact on the roster."
The perk of signing Clowney, regardless of where you select a pass rusher to add to the room, is twofold. One, you simply have more competition and depth in the room, increasing your odds of getting the team's best possible pass rushers on the field for the maximum number of snaps. It also opens the ability to draft a player who can develop behind the scenes without having to deal with the pressure to come in right away and play starter-level snaps.
"From my perspective, I think free agency, at least for me, has a lot less of an impact on the draft than it is maybe perceived," Berry said. "I really think of the draft as maximizing long-term sustainable impact on the team. Certainly, need or position of value, all of that can play a role in it, but by no means is it the primary goal and not even close to the primary weighting in terms of the draft decisions. Honestly, that is how teams make mistakes."
There's always talk of trading down in the first round. With the DB & Edge players available, isn't using the extra third- and fourth-round picks to get in the 40-45 or 60-70 range a better deal? Nine draft picks aren't making the team. — Mark R., Star Valley, Arizona
With nine picks at their disposal, the Browns certainly have a lot of flexibility to move up and down the board when they see an opportunity. That's why you acquire those assets in the first place. There's also potential value to package those assets in deals that net future draft picks at a relatively discounted price. That's how the Browns acquired an additional third-rounder for this year's draft.
I'm gonna wrap this question by tackling the final part of it, which is an assumption many have made. The Browns' roster is as full of talent and depth as it's ever been since 1999. Finding spots for nine new players is admittedly difficult. That said, Berry didn't rule it out and denied the assumption the Browns would need to trade away picks because of it.
"I do not really see a problem with that," Berry said. "We want to have competition, and with players earning jobs and showing themselves are ready to contribute, they will be on the roster. I think it is far too early – we are at April 23 – to say with any degree of certainty what the team is going to look like once we come into August."
With the release of Sheldon Richardson, who would be the best DT to draft either first and second round and is there a DT worth moving up for? — Norman B., Sierra Vista
The last part of the question is something Berry and Co. will have to determine when they're on the clock. According to most draft experts, though, the answer is no. It's a light year for talented defensive tackles, and some analysts are projecting a first round in which none are selected. Alabama's Christian Barmore is the most popular DT to come off the board in the first round, and he's been mocked anywhere from the middle of it to the very end. Washington's Levi Onwuzurike is close behind Barmore in most projections and some believe he could slip into the first round.
Asked about the team's situation at defensive tackle after Richardson's release, Berry said he "feels good" about the current group, which includes Andrew Billings, Malik Jackson and last year's third-round selection, Jordan Elliott.
"Like all positions across the draft, there are a number of good, young prospects who are going to come into the league," Berry said. "All of that being said, Sheldon is a big loss. He was a big part of what we did last year. He had a really strong presence in our locker room, and we are very thankful for all of the contributions he had. Those are big shoes to fill for sure."