Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Who stands out beyond the Big 4 at offensive tackle?

Somehow, some way, the 2020 NFL Draft is less than three weeks away.

Even when you're homebound, the time sure does fly.

In the latest, stay-at-home edition of the Browns Mailbag, we're knocking out three of your draft-related questions as we head into the first weekend of April.

When is the first preseason game and regular season game for the Browns, and is their first game a home or away game? -- John M., Ontario, Canada

I don't have answers to either of those questions, and we're poised to find out a little later than usual. For the first time in a while, the NFL schedule is expected to be released after the draft. In a recent conference call with reporters, the league indicated May 9 would be the latest possible date of release. As of now, expect the first preseason game to occur sometime during the first week of August. As for whether the Browns open at home or on the road … that's up to the NFL. For what it's worth, Cleveland hasn't opened the season on the road since 2016.

What is the possibility of taking a defensive player at 10 and trading back into the first round to get a tackle? -- Dominic D., Akron

This has been a popular talking point on social media, so I'm glad someone asked about it. I'll open by saying what I say every time a question like this is posed: Anything can happen during the draft, I'm not attending the team's draft meetings and everything should always be considered to be on the table. Just because every mock draft under the sun has Cleveland taking a left tackle with the No. 10 pick, it doesn't mean that's what is going to happen.

So let's play the hypothetical game. Say a potential worst-case scenario unfolds, and four tackles are selected before the Browns are on the clock with the 10th pick. Or, say three tackles are taken, and the one everyone assumes will be the fourth selected doesn't make sense for how Cleveland wants to run its offense. That scenario, especially the one where four offensive tackles are off the board, certainly opens up the possibility to take a defensive player. Throw in two or three quarterbacks selected before the Browns pick, and you're in position to take the second- or third-best defensive player in the entire draft.

Before we discuss trading back into the first round -- something the Browns did just a few years ago -- let's give a look to this perceived "second tier" of offensive tackles. The "first tier," of course, includes Jedrick Wills (Alabama), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Mekhi Becton (Louisville) and Andrew Thomas (Georgia). The second group, based on numerous draft analysts, features Josh Jones (Houston), Austin Jackson (USC) and Ezra Cleveland (Boise State). In previous years, when the offensive tackle class wasn't as stacked as it is this year, any of these players might be pegged as top-15 picks. In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has both Jones and Cleveland coming off the board before the end of the first round. Perhaps one of these players make more sense for the Browns' offense than one or any of the perceived top four. We just don't know because Andrew Berry is understandably not sharing the team's draft board.

Now what would it take to move back into the first round? Let's look at what the Browns gave up to take David Njoku at No. 29 in 2017. They parted with the first pick in the second round (No. 33) and a fourth-rounder (No. 108) to move up those four spots. Cleveland doesn't exactly have that kind of ammunition this year because it holds the ninth pick in the second round as opposed to the first. A better comparison might be the trade between the Falcons and Rams last year. The Falcons took over the Rams' pick at No. 31 in exchange for their second- and third-round selections. The Rams also threw in a sixth-round pick in the deal.

In the most recent edition of "Best Podcast Available," The Athletic's NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler didn't predict the Browns trading back into the first round, but said it wouldn't surprise him to see the Browns move back from No. 10 to position themselves to take Cleveland.

"You're moving back and getting an offensive tackle that tested off the charts," Brugler said. "He's got really good tape and in terms of football character, coaches won't shut up about him."

If the Browns do want to move up to get Isaiah Simmons, what spot would they look to move up to, and what, realistically, would it take to move up a few spots in the draft? -- Daniel M., Loudonville

The only way you're guaranteed to get a player like Simmons, the talented linebacker/safety from Clemson, probably would be moving up to No. 3, where the Lions sit. That's not to say the Lions are going to take Simmons. It's just the safest place to guarantee grabbing him since most presume QB Joe Burrow and DE Chase Young will be the first two players selected.

Moving up from No. 10 to No. 3 would probably cost a lot. Like we did in our previous question, let's use history as a guide to see about what it would fetch. In 2018, to go from No. 6 to No. 3, the Jets gave up two second-round picks in that year's draft and a future second-rounder. Later in that draft, the Bills traded up from No. 12 to No. 7, sending the Buccaneers two second-rounders in the process. Back in 2016, the Browns traded down from No. 8 to No. 15. That cost the Titans a third-round pick in that year's draft and a future second-rounder.

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