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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: What separated Jedrick Wills Jr. from the rest in talented OT class?

It's a new month and a new mailbag, our first since the Browns added seven players to the roster in the 2020 NFL Draft.

We're going with five of your questions for our first of five Browns Mailbags in the month of May.

Does Donovan Peoples-Jones have a talent level that was overlooked and how was he discovered by the Browns? -- Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

"Discovered" is probably the wrong word. Peoples-Jones has been the opposite of "off-the-radar" since his high school days, when he emerged as one of the best wide receivers in the entire country. He was a five-star prospect and signed to play at Michigan, one of the biggest national brands in college football. If anything, that kind of spotlight put Peoples-Jones in a situation where anything but brilliance would be viewed as not enough. In three seasons, Peoples-Jones accumulated 1,327 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. He added two more scores as a returner. 

The talent level, though, is what appealed to Cleveland, especially as it looked to add a high-character player in the sixth round. Peoples-Jones had a phenomenal performance at the NFL Combine, including a Combine-best vertical leap. Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer recently said Peoples-Jones was one of the best high school receivers he'd ever seen and added "I still think that guy should be a top-10 draft pick."

"With Donovan, his numbers do jump off the page at you, and we all know that," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "It is our job and his job to get everything we can out of him if we want to get the best version of Donovan Peoples-Jones."

Do you think Eli Apple should be a free agent target for the Browns? He is young (24 years old), has a lot of potential and athleticism and he played at Ohio State. He hasn't lived up to being picked in the top 10, but he would not be expected to be a No. 1 corner in Cleveland. -- Joel P., Sandusky

Apple is one of a number of veteran free agents still on the market. The Browns have added players like this at this point of the offseason before but it's unclear if Apple is a player they would be interesting in pursuing. We have no insight on his possibly finding a spot with the Browns, but it's worth noting Cleveland did not draft a cornerback for the first time since 2008. The Browns are solid in that area with young starters Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams leading the group. There's also new addition Kevin Johnson, who is a strong candidate to man the slot, and veteran Terrance Mitchell, who filled in nicely last season when Williams and Ward were injured.


Check out photos of the Browns 2020 Draft Class

Hey Andrew, why did the Browns pass on drafting Triston Wirfs when he was the best in most categories at the combine and has only allowed six sacks in his college career and he was a tackle in the Big 10? What sold them that Wills was better when PFF said Wirfs has a 80 percent chance to be a Pro Bowler? -- Bob P., Erie, Pennsylvania

The Browns' selection of Jedrick Wills Jr. with the No. 10 pick had everything to do with Wills and little to do with his competition for the spot. The Browns viewed Wills as their top tackle on the board for a variety of reasons that came together during the pre-draft process. It was simply good fortune that the Browns didn't have to move an inch to land the player they believe is best suited to fill the void at left tackle. Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry was reluctant to compare Wills to Wirfs of Mekhi Becton, who was selected right after Wills. Instead, he made it clear this selection was all about Wills.

"Here is an individual who came in as a true freshman, was a contributor at perhaps the most competitive program in college football, as a true sophomore and a true junior and was really the blindside protector for the program and consistently matched up against edge rushers in the most competitive conference in college football," Berry said. "What he was able to do at such a young age over an extended period of time was certainly impressive to us, as well as just all of the people that we spoke to around the Alabama program including (Alabama Head) Coach (Nick) Saban. We just felt that he checked all the boxes for us coming into this weekend."

Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta said this year's class of tackles was one of the best in recent memory. He added that any one of Wills, Wirfs, Becton and Andrew Thomas, who went fourth overall, could have been the top tackle in any other class. DePodesta called it a "combination of everything" that drove the Browns toward Wills.

"It is obviously playing at a place like Alabama, the coaching he has already gotten, his athleticism and his smarts," DePodesta said. "This is a very bright guy. I think he is really advanced from a football knowledge standpoint. We think mentally he is advanced, and he is just a mature person. He is a pro I think already. That doesn't mean he is not going to have a lot of things to learn and he is not going to have to grow in different ways, but we just really liked his approach to the game. We have talked a lot about finding players that are smart, tough and accountable, and we felt like he really checked all three of those boxes."

Is Chris Hubbard a candidate to move to OG or is he just providing depth at tackle? He renegotiated his contract with the Browns so they seem intent on keeping him. -- Gates K., Thomasville, Georgia

Berry never specifically mentioned Hubbard when he discussed the situation at right guard last week, but Hubbard is among the team's most versatile offensive linemen. That's why Berry stressed Saturday just how valuable he is to this year's group.

"Chris is another valuable veteran on the offensive line, a guy who has been very versatile over the course of his career," Berry said. "He has played basically every position up and down the line but center. He has done that in games. Obviously, over the past two years here, he has played predominantly right tackle. Versatile, experienced veteran O linemen are valuable. There are 162 starters in the league, and every year, you get to August and teams are calling, 'Hey, do you know where I can find another tackle? Do you know where I can find another O lineman?' Chris is going to be a valuable part of the team."

Well Mr. Gribble, short, sweet and simple - What is your overall grade in the 2020 Draft for Cleveland? Any quick comments?! -- Risa B., Cincinnati

To quote Stefanski, ask me three years from now.

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