By this time next week, the first round will be over, and we'll be counting down the hours until the Browns are back on the clock for the first of their three Day 2 selections.
Hard to believe we're THAT close to the 2020 NFL Draft.
We're tackling three of your draft-related queries today before our SPECIAL EDITION version of the Browns Mailbag on Wednesday.
Are there any small school prospects with the skill set of Josh Cribbs to be found? -- Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia
There aren't many like Cribbs, especially when it comes to the special things he did as a return man during his decorated NFL career. Still, there always seems to be a former college quarterback or two whom the league views as a possible option elsewhere on the field. Our favorite candidate for that distinction this year is a local product who didn't quite play at a school as small as Kent State.
Lynn Bowden Jr., the former Warren Harding High School star, did a little bit of everything at the University of Kentucky, where he excelled as a wide receiver, return man and quarterback. Sound familiar? He won the Paul Hornung Award in 2019 because of this versatility after starting eight games at quarterback (leading the team to a 6-2 record during that stretch), rushing for 1,468 yards, catching 30 passes for 348 yards and returning kicks and punts whenever he had the time. When he wasn't filling in at quarterback earlier in his career, Bowden piled up many more yards as a receiver and thrived in the return game, taking back two punts for touchdowns in 2018.
Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer wrote a fascinating story about Bowden that comes with our highest recommendation. Projected as a mid-round pick, Bowden could bring a little bit of everything to whomever drafts him.
How are the Browns able to evaluate potential picks with injury histories such as Lucas Niang? -- Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia
It's certainly added a hurdle to the process, though it should be noted that the Browns and everyone else in the NFL was able to participate in full capacity at the Combine in February. That's where the vast majority of the most important medical checks happen. It's just the follow-ups on players that maybe had some question marks at the Combine that aren't happening in typical fashion. Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry gave some good insight into this on a recent conference call.
"The league has done a really nice job of coming up with some protocols where essentially each team doctor is responsible for a check-in with some of the guys who were not healthy in Indianapolis," Berry said. "We are going to get some pretty good updated medical information on prospects who were not healthy earlier in February. I think the bigger challenge is for players who were non-combine invitees and medical information there. Again, that is a challenge we face every year. Fortunately, (Senior Vice President of Player Health and Development) Joe Sheehan and our medical staff, every year they have done a good job of leveraging their relationships to really get the information we need from the different campuses on prospects who are not combine eligible."
Do you think the Browns should add another receiver, and if so what round would be suitable? -- Michael W., Twinsburg
Wide receiver is a position that could probably go either way when it comes to the 2020 draft. The Browns are obviously in great shape at the top with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and there's some young, promising talent in the room, such as Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor and D.J. Montgomery. There are also two players who are poised to be big contributors on special teams -- KhaDarel Hodge and JoJo Natson -- who can also play the position.
Still, this wide receivers class is considered to be one of the best in recent memory. It may be hard to bypass a wide receiver because the odds are strong a player or three could be viewed as the "best player available" when the Browns are on the clock on Days 2 and 3.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently said he has 18 wide receivers ranked in his top 100 players in the draft. That doesn't mean 18 wide receivers will be taken in the first 100 picks. Last year, the 18th wide receiver selected (Darius Slayton) went in the fifth round with the 171st pick. So, in theory, that means highly ranked players will be available at great value positions in the draft. The third and fourth rounds, where the Browns hold three selections, could be great spots for Cleveland to acquire this kind of value. A player like Bowden, for example, is ranked by CBSSports.com as the 21st-best wide receiver prospect but 130th among all prospects. The 21st wide receiver was selected in the sixth round (No. 187) in last year's draft.
Players like Bowden, Ohio State's K.J. Hill, Van Jefferson (Florida), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan) or even wide receivers as highly ranked as Baylor's Denzel Mims could call farther than they would in typical years because of the overall depth of the class. No matter what point it is, if the Browns opt to take a wide receiver in this year's draft, they're likely getting some value because of how deep and talented the group is.