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Browns Mailbag: What would it take for the Browns not to use their 1st-round pick on an offensive tackle?

INDIANAPOLIS -- Even on a business trip, we're finding time to answer your questions on a Friday in Naptown.

We're knocking out three before we make the drive back to Berea.

If the Browns are able to get Jack Conklin in free agency but don't re-sign Joe Schobert, do you think they draft Isaiah Simmons from Clemson if he's available? -- Chris W., Akron

We need a top LB. Would you feel good with the Browns snatching up Clemson's Isaiah Simmons at No. 10? That way they can fill the OT position with Austin Jackson from USC and Trey Adams from Washington and/or Alex Leatherwood out of Alabama. Thoughts? -- Mike P., Hayward, California

There's a lot to unpack with these two questions, which are obviously different but carry one, big similarity. It's been one of the biggest questions surrounding the Browns this week at the Combine.

What would it take for the Browns NOT to take an offensive tackle with the No. 10 pick?

There are about 5,000 mock drafts on the Internet and there will be about 5,000 more after all of this week's activities in Indy. This is just a guess, but I'll go ahead and say 9,900 of them will have the Browns taking an offensive tackle at that point in the draft. There's good reason, of course. Cleveland is looking to improve at both tackle positions after struggling throughout last season. This is also a great draft for left tackles with as many as five projected to be picked in the top half of the first round. Then there's the overall lack of legitimate starting options in free agency because, well, that's the way it always is at the tackle position. And on Tuesday, Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry made it clear just how much the team values the position.

"We've talked a lot about being a QB-centered organization and certainly every year our priority is going to be make sure to build a strong position group that can keep Baker (Mayfield) upright and give him the time ultimately to throw the ball," Berry said. "This class in particular has a lot of talented players across the different positions and we're going to identify guys that fit our profile, fit our organization, that can add competition across both sides of the ball."

So how do the Browns not take a tackle with their highest pick? There are a handful of ways.

If the Browns stick to "best player available" and a player they view as better than any of the remaining tackles on the board is available, they take him. Simple as that. A player like Simmons, if he were to slip, is one of a handful who could qualify for that distinction. Most experts, though, don't expect him to be around at 10. Some others who are projected top-10 picks and would also help at some positions of need for the Browns include DTs Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw and Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah.

Then there's Conklin, who could command major money on the market. Maybe signing a player of his caliber would change the thinking on draft day even if he doesn't fix your hole at left tackle. That remains to be seen, and the Titans still have plenty of time to extend Conklin.

And then there's the players outside of what is perceived to be the "top tier" of offensive tackles. A player like Austin Jackson probably won't be available when the Browns are back on the clock in the second round. Same goes for Houston's Josh Jones, who could be a late first-round selection. But maybe someone like TCU's Lucas Niang or Adams is viewed as a great fit for the Browns' offense (We're speculating, of course).

Again, we're a long way from the draft, and the majority of those in the draft media world seem to think all of the ingredients are in place for the Browns to take an offensive tackle at No. 10. It just won't be written in stone until it actually happens.

With how needy the Browns are at safety, do you think the Browns will take a chance at safety in the later rounds of the draft or go for free agency with veterans like Devin McCourty hitting the open market? -- Jacob M., Orient

We'll have a better idea on this after free agency, and, unlike tackle, there are a handful of quality options the Browns could acquire to upgrade their depth at safety. Even if the Browns don't sign the top of the class, which includes Minnesota's Anthony Harris and Denver's Justin Simmons, there are a number of other quality players with years left ahead of them, including Jimmie Ward, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Adrian Phillips.

This year's safety class is lacking in top-tier talent, but there are a number of names in the second round and beyond who could at least upgrade Cleveland's depth. Cal's Ashtyn Davis, a former track star, has been linked to the Browns in a handful of mock drafts as a potential option in the second round. Lenoir-Rhyne's Kyle Dugger is another name to monitor on Day 2.

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