It's a special Monday edition of the Browns Mailbag. [
We're tackling six questions, double the number of days that separate us from the 2017 NFL Draft.
I understand the want for more picks. But don't you think it's time for quality over quantity in the draft? -- Shaun D., Cleveland
Whether it be executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown or chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, the Browns have made it clear over the past few months that this upcoming draft is about just that: adding quality, talented players to a young and promising roster.
To illustrate that point, DePodesta, at last month's owners meetings, told a story about a conversation he had with another team's executive about the bounty of picks -- 11 total, five in the top 65 -- Cleveland possessed entering a big, big draft. Maybe the logic about acquiring quantity was true at this time last year, but not now.
"A handful of people at the meetings in the last couple of days have mentioned that they are really envious of all of our picks and I think our response has been we're envious of some of your players. At some point we need to turn those assets into players and that's been the goal all along," DePodesta said. "I think we're just in a different phase of our organization development, our organization timetable than we were a year ago. I wouldn't say it's a change in philosophy so much as we're just further along the curve now than we were a year ago. I think last year was 'hey, we need to do everything we can to completely rebuild the foundation of this organization' and almost all the decisions we made last offseason contributed to that. This year, even going back into the season, I think we were already shifting into a different phase."
Brown, at last week's pre-draft press conference, said the need to acquire high picks the way Cleveland did over the past year is "less intense" this time around.
"We feel really good about having effectively two draft classes through the first two rounds and sitting at No. 65, as well," Brown said. "There will be a lot of good Cleveland Browns players coming off the board on Thursday and Friday night."
Historically the Browns dominated the AFC with a solid running game. Any consideration for trading the No. 12 pick down to acquire Leonard Fournette. He is the best offensive player in the draft and will be a huge asset in the AFC North matchups. -- Jerry M., Carmel, Indiana
It's hard to predict what the Browns will do with the No. 12 pick at this stage. A lot may depend on what happens between No. 2 and No. 11, and there's a better chance than not Fournette is off the board by No. 12. The Panthers have been linked to the former LSU star in most mock drafts, and he was the pick for Carolina in last week's Cleveland Browns Daily team insider mock draft.
Do you think the Browns will address the the cornerback position. I really like the corner from Colorado. That kid is special, but with second rounders, if I'm the Browns I'll draft all defense with five picks in the top 100. What do you think? -- Harold J., Garfield Heights
A lot will depend on the players available at the time and where they match with the Browns' draft board, but the defensive back group, in general, is one that's expected to be hit hard this weekend. Berry said this year's class is "one of the deeper" ones in this year's draft, and that jives with what many analysts have said over the past few months. It's so deep, in fact, that many see teams passing on prospects in the first round largely because they know they can get a really good defensive back in the second round and beyond.
As for Chidobe Awuzie, the cornerback from Colorado, he's being perceived as a riser by draft analysts in the buildup to Thursday's first round. NFL.com describes Awuzie as a "fluid" defensive back who can play on both the outside and in the slot. That kind of versatility could make him an intriguing option at 33 if he's still available.
Taking impact players at 1 and 12, I'm opposed to taking a tight end. I want guys at positions that see the most plays/reps like safety, cornerback, quarterback, etc. per game. Tight ends play only a handful. Do you agree? -- Todd T., Willoughby
I don't agree. That logic may have applied 10-15 years ago, but tight ends have become more and more of a vital cog in modern-day offenses. Browns tight end Gary Barnidge was one of the offense's leaders in snaps played last season.
We are always discussing impact picks 1, 12, 33. Why don't we discuss taking an impact kickoff/ punt returner in the later rounds? This guy can give our quarterbacks better field position and score touchdowns that could win us a game or two. Is there a Josh Cribbs out there? -- Buck P., Zanesville
Ourlads.com ranks the following five players as the top return specialist prospects in this year's draft: DB Adoree Jackson (USC), DB Jabrill Peppers (Michigan), DB Desmond King (Iowa), RB T.J. Logan (North Carolina) and DB Justin Evans (Texas A&M). Of the five, Peppers is the likeliest to be drafted in the first round with Jackson nipping on his heels. King could be had Day 2 while Evans and Logan are projected to be available Day 3.
Is the Browns George Atkinson III related to the George Atkinson that played in the NFL several years ago? -- Ronald T., Rochester, Michigan
Atkinson III landed with the Browns via waivers before the start of the 2016 season. The running back/returner appeared in all 16 games and recently signed his exclusive rights free agent contract. Atkinson's twin brother, Josh, also played college football and is currently a free agent.