Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Talking draft strategy, top returners with 1 month to go before free agency

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

One month separates the Browns and the rest of the NFL from the start of the new league year.

The time is going by fast, and we're fielding your questions in the meantime as we ramp up for the start of another jam-packed offseason.

We're knocking out three of your questions in the latest installment of the Browns Mailbag.

There are three or four wide receivers that are linked to the Browns in the first round of the draft. Are there any generational players that may be available when the Browns pick? — Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia

"Generational" is a heavy word. It's also a term that can't really be applied to a player even after a season or two. Look at last year's draft, which was loaded with talented, instant-impact players at multiple positions. Are we ready to call any of them "generational?" I'm not trying to be THAT guy, but it's a tough word to use on prospective players when you hold the No. 1 pick, let alone the No. 13 selection like the Browns.

All that being said … there's an opportunity to get a very good player who can help the team right away at No. 13. Aaron Donald and Tony Gonzalez were No. 13 picks. Last year's No. 13 pick, Chargers T Rashawn Slater, was named a second-team All-Pro and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

There's always the opportunity to get a player at your spot in the draft who turns out to be much better than the previous ones selected. While almost every team says it's not drafting for need, it's unavoidable in certain situations. So the Browns certainly have a good chance to land a player at No. 13 whom they consider to be a top-10 or even top-five talent. That's just the nature of the draft.

You're also right about analysts being divided on wide receivers, especially the ones they're linking to the Browns at No. 13. In the majority of mock drafts we've surveyed, the Browns have an opportunity to pick the first wide receiver in the draft. In others, they're second. Two wide receivers from Ohio State — Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave — Arkansas' Treylon Burks and USC's Drake London have all, at some point, been labeled as the first WR off the board in this year's draft. And there's also this to consider: The Browns could very well address a different position at No. 13 even if they have a shot at taking the first WR in the draft.

Buckle up. There's a lot of time between now and April 28.

Check out photos of G Joel Bitonio, DE Myles Garrett, RB Nick Chubb, G Wyatt Teller and CB Denzel Ward at the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, Nevada

Things have changed since the Josh Cribbs days (taken away the KO return) but do you think the Browns should still find a great returner for at least punt returns? I think this could help the special teams a lot. — Kenyon H., Jamestown, New York

The Browns are always looking to improve at every position, and returner is certainly among them. Cleveland has had a bit of a revolving door at punt returner over the past few seasons thanks to a mix of injuries and inconsistency. This past year, rookie Demetric Felton started the year with a bang on punt returns — he landed on the PFWA's All-Rookie Team as a returner — but ultimately ceded the duties to other players as the year unfolded.

There's a ranking for everything at this time of year, of course, and we found some good ones for returners entering this year's draft. Marcus Jones (Houston) is at the top of ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s list after a highlight-filled career that included a combined nine touchdowns on kick and punt returns. Utah's Britain Covey had a whopping 427 punt return yards and two touchdowns as a senior. None of the returners in Kiper's top 10 are also in the top 10 at their regular position, but Sam Houston State's Jequez Ezzard ranks fourth as a returner and 20th among WRs on CBSSports.com.

It's a fair question, and it's the kind of question general managers around the league consider in the months, days, hours and seconds leading up to their time on the clock. The calculation, of course, comes with weighing the risk of bypassing a talented player at a particular position and also the chances of the new player or players you want to take being available when you're back on the clock. It's why general managers have the jobs they do, and this is one of many hypotheticals they analyze before making their picks.

Following your course of thinking, some defensive tackles that could potentially fit into this kind of maneuver are Jordan Davis (Georgia), DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M), Logan Hall (Houston) and Devonte Wyatt (Georgia). In his most recent mock draft, ESPN's Todd McShay has the first DT (Davis) coming off the board at No. 20 and just one other (Wyatt) going in the first round. The Browns have just two defensive tackles — Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai — under contract for the 2022 season.

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