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Browns Mailbag: Which defensive position has the most depth in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

Can we bottle up this weather for the draft? Please?

We're less than THREE weeks away from the 2021 NFL Draft — LIVE from the shores of Lake Erie — and we're answering five of your queries on another sunny, mild day in Northeast Ohio.

It seems like we still need some long-term solutions at DT! Malik Jackson, Andrew Billings and Sheldon Richardson are signed for one year, and that leaves Jordan Elliott, our third-round pick from 2020 who has not played many snaps! At Pick No. 26, Christian Barmore and Levi Onwuzurike are the only 2 DTs worthy of a late first or early second-round pick. Are there any other DTs later in the draft we should consider for the long-term with starter type potential? — Philip H., Saint Clairsville

Your analysis of Barmore and Onwuzurike is pretty spot-on, according to what draft analysts are saying. ranks them as the 25th and 27th-best prospects, respectively, while NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah ranks Onwuzurike 30th and Barmore 42nd. He has no other defensive tackles in his Top 50 prospects. Depending on the mock draft you subscribe to, you'll either find both going near the end of the first round or one being picked. It's rare to find none because, well, it's hard to imagine a first round of a NFL Draft without at least one defensive tackle coming off the board. Both players come with some questions — Barmore didn't come on until the tail end of the 2020 season while Onwuzurike opted out of 2020 altogether — but both are safely among the best overall defensive players available in this year's draft.

Some other names to know at the DT position for Rounds 2 and 3:

Alim McNeal (North Carolina State) - A true nose tackle at 320 pounds, Pro Football Focus ranks him as the No. 2 interior defender in the draft.

Marvin Wilson (Florida State) - He's still among the top-rated players at the position despite his 2020 campaign not looking quite as good as the previous year.

Tyler Shelvin (LSU) - One of the best run-stuffers available in this year's draft.

Tommy Togiai (Ohio State) - Pro Football Focus writes he was "the single most impactful defender" in the Buckeyes' College Football Playoff victory over Clemson.

Daviyon Nixon (Iowa) - Though he weighs 313 pounds, Nixon produced one of his best highlights of 2020 when he intercepted a pass and ran it back 71 yards for a touchdown.

What would it cost to move from pick No. 59 to pick No. 40 (give or take) to select Alex Leatherwood out of Alabama? — Roger D., Westlake

The closest comparison to this kind of deal in 2020 occurred with the Jets and Seahawks, though it didn't quite reach the level you're envisioning. To move from No. 59 to No. 48, the Seahawks parted with a late third-round pick. In 2019, the Panthers moved up 10 spots, going from No. 47 to No. 37, and parted with an early third-round pick. And in 2018, the Titans moved up 16 spots, going from No. 57 to No. 41, and parted with a mid-third round pick.

So, in summation, the common thread is a third-round pick. Of note, the Browns have two of them thanks to last year's trade with the Saints.

With the many comments regarding drafting a cornerback early, what's the status on A.J. Green? He was a highly sought after UFA last year and the Browns gave him a generous contract. It didn't seem like he got a chance to show us what he had last year. What gives? — Rick K., Desert Hot Springs, Calif.

Green spent most of his rookie season on the Browns' practice squad and was activated for two games. Though injuries hit the entire secondary hard throughout the year, it never quite reached the level where Green was needed to take significant defensive snaps. Robert Jackson, who carried a little more experience, was instead the player who was summoned for those situations. Green will have a full year under his belt when he returns to training camp and competes for a spot in the Browns' defensive backs room.

Is there a schedule for rookie camp and OTAs this year? How will the preseason be modified with the 17 regular season games? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

The NFL gave clearance for teams to begin their offseason workout program Monday, April 19. That's universal, meaning teams with new head coaches don't get the two-week head start they typically get this time of year. As for OTAs, those remain up in the air as players and owners continue to negotiate how the schedule will look. It was recently announced the preseason would drop from four to three games. Whichever conference gets the extra home game during the regular season will host just one preseason game. That means the Browns will play just once at FirstEnergy Stadium in August before their home opener.

Overall I am hearing mostly these players being mocked to Browns: Zaven Collins, Greg Rousseau, or a CB in Jaycee Horn/Greg Newsome II. Assuming the Browns pass on a CB and get Greedy Williams back healthy, the question that remains is … is it better to draft a linebacker or defensive end with the 26th pick? Which position has more depth in the draft and is better to wait on and draft in 2nd round? — Tim L., Hocking Hills

I'm going to focus on the second part of your question because I don't think the Browns will view their decision at No. 26 as an either/or proposition. They're going to take the best player on their board, regardless of position and regardless of what lies ahead in the future rounds.

That said, upon analyzing the players who may or may not be available on Day 2 of the draft, it appears both positions provide plenty of options.

Let's start with the LBs. Behind Micah Parsons, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Collins — all of whom are presumed to be first-round picks — ranks six LBs among its top 100 overall prospects. This group includes the ascending Jamin Davis from Kentucky, Ohio State's Baron Browning, Missouri's Nick Bolton and Alabama's Dylan Moses. Those are some big names from big programs who could make an immediate impact for whichever team selects them.

Now to the edge rushers. Let's assume, say, five come off the board in the first round. That leaves a handful of players who flashed plenty of potential during their college years and could take another step forward with proper coaching and a quality system fit. Carlos Basham Jr. out of Wake Forest gets pegged as either a late first-round or early second-round selection depending where you look, so he's likely gone if the Browns hold pat at No. 59. Someone like Ronnie Perkins (Oklahoma), Joseph Ossai (Texas), Payton Turner (Houston) and Rashad Weaver (Pittsburgh) could be a solid Day 2 selection that helps fortify the Browns' depth at a position where you can never have too much of it.

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