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Browns Mailbag: Which defensive tackle would be best fit for Browns at No. 26?

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

We're deep into February and less than a month away from the start of free agency.

The offseason sure seems to move at a quicker pace when you play in the playoffs, doesn't it?

We're tackling four of your questions as we inch closer and closer to the start of the new league year.

With two extra draft picks and our 26th pick how far up in the first round do you think the Browns can reach? — Dave H., Parma Heights

We get this kind of question every year, and it's always a fun one. The honest answer: I have no idea, and it largely depends what kind of picks would be accompanying the No. 26 selection in this transaction. For reference: the Browns hold their own picks in Rounds 1-4 and 6. They have extra picks in the 3rd (Saints) and 4th (Eagles) while carrying the Rams' pick in the 5th and the Bills' pick in the 7th. As we always do, we'll let history be our guide for a potential trade up, and we're going to assume no current players are involved in the transaction.

Last year, the Patriots traded out of the No. 23 spot and didn't even need a first-round pick to do it. Instead, they made the deal in exchange for early second- and third-round selections from the Chargers.

The 2019 draft had three first-round trades that could serve as some guidance if the Browns were looking to make a move up this year. The Steelers moved up 10 spots, going from No. 20 to No. 10, by swapping their first-round picks and adding a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 third-rounder. Later in that year's draft, the Packers parted with two fourth-round picks and their first-round pick at No. 30 to move up nine spots to No. 21 in a deal with the Seahawks. That's some pretty significant movement for a relatively small price. And then one more smaller deal took place, as the Eagles sent the No. 25 pick, a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder to move up to No. 22.

So, yes, the Browns have the assets to make this kind of move if that's the path they want to take. The bigger the move, the bigger the price. 

With the possibility of signing DE J.J. Watt, imagine Watt next to Sheldon Richardson, a high draft pick or FA at the other DT, and Myles Garrett as our D-Line! Who would be the DT in the draft or FA that fits best with this group for the 2021 season? It all starts up front! — Phil H., St. Clairsville

With the way this draft class is shaking up, it's not completely out of the realm of possibilities that the Browns could have the opportunity to select the first defensive tackle at No. 26. That's typically not the case, as at least one interior defensive lineman has been selected in the top half of each of the past three drafts. Last year, the Panthers took Derrick Brown with the No. 7 pick and Quinnen Williams went to the Jets at No. 3 in 2019.

Opinions are divided about who is this year's top defensive tackle. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks puts Washington's Levi Onwuzurike at the top of his list — the same Onwuzurike who was projected by a number of draft gurus to be the Browns' selection at No. 26. Alabama's Christian Barmore, who has also been projected to the Browns in some mock drafts, is Brooks' second-ranked defensive tackle.

"Onwuzurike plays defensive tackle like Mr. Myagi, utilizing his extraordinary hand-to-hand combat skills to whip blockers at the point of attack. He combines his great hands with explosive athleticism and a non-stop motor to win against top competition," Brooks writes. "Barmore plays the game like a backyard bully, utilizing his size, strength and power to overwhelm blockers at the line of scrimmage. Although his motor runs a little hot and cold, the Alabama standout takes over games when he is motivated and inspired to bring his A-game."

Both could be great options for the Browns if they look toward the position at No. 26 — no matter what kind of moves the team makes in free agency over the next two months.

Daviyon Nixon, DT for Iowa Hawkeyes, was 1st-Team Big Ten, Defensive Player of Year and 1st-Team Consensus All American, yet I never see his name in any mock drafts. I think he could really help on the defensive line. What do you think? — Mark S., Cedar Falls, Iowa

Nixon is definitely another option for the Browns at the end of the first round if they're looking for a defensive tackle. He's Brooks' third-ranked defensive tackle after making the most of a COVID-shortened season. Among the top-ranked players at his position, he was probably the most productive in 2020, as he recorded 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in just eight games. He also had a memorable 71-yard interception return for a touchdown against Penn State.

"Nixon is a war daddy at the line of scrimmage, with active hands and quick feet," Brooks writes. "He has a feel for shooting gaps utilizing his strength and power to create space between blockers."

In our most recent roundup of mock drafts, Nixon was included in roughly half of them. Among the ones that consider him a first-round pick, he was largely projected as one of the last picks in the first round. 

I just find it hard to believe. Why isn't Marty Shottenheimer enshrined in the HOF? One of only five NFL coaches to win 200 games. He even won a championship in the United Football League. Was it his playoff record? In my estimation, his contributions to the game overweighs his record. The coaching and development of players in the personal and professional aspect of life was his legacy. He mentored four coaches that won the Super Bowl. I hope that the HOF would reconsider. — Erwin F., Guayama, Puerto Rico

Here here to that. And you're certainly not alone with your opinion.

Sporting News' Bill Bender, a frequent guest on Cleveland Browns Daily, wrote a great column explaining the case for Schottenheimer to make the Hall of Fame. The number that jumps out the most to me: Eleven seasons with 10 or more wins and FIVE seasons of 12 or more.

Schottenheimer has never been a finalist to make the Hall of Fame, but here's hoping that changes in 2021.

Check out the best 100 photos from this season by the Browns photo team

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