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2020 NFL Draft

Browns Mailbag: Why not go defense-heavy in the draft?

The limbo period between the Combine and start of free agency is well underway, but that doesn't mean there's little to accomplish.

We didn't get to the Mailbag last week while we were in Indianapolis. That means there's an abundance of draft-related queries in this week's edition.

Why do the Browns seem to need to find Peyton Manning in the draft? Why don't we build a defense? We have a great secondary and Joey Bosa would be fantastic rushing the QB and helping to stop the run, which is a glaring need for us. Get a game manager to run the offense and let the defense win us a championship. Look at Seattle and Denver. Why does Cleveland believe in offense first? -- Justin T., Columbus

There are a lot of false assumptions in that question, so let's knock a few of those out right away.

Both executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and coach Hue Jackson are on record saying the Browns will take the best player available at No. 2 and at the rest of their picks. Jackson has a track record of getting a lot out of young quarterbacks who were not the first at their position selected in the draft, so nothing is set in stone. There are too many needs to go in any other direction. The Browns' secondary was riddled with injuries and struggled throughout the 2015 season. Tashaun Gipson is an upcoming free agent and Donte Whitner and Tramon Williams are respectively entering their 11th NFL seasons. As Cleveland looks to rebuild its roster through the draft and free agency as a supplement, the secondary won't be ignored. This position group, along with the rest of them on the roster, will be seeking some redemption in 2016.

Now about that defense: I don't think there's been any indication the Browns are ignoring it in the face of rebuilding their offense for 2016. Quarterback talk understandably steals a lot of headlines, but Brown made it clear in an interview Tuesday on Cleveland Browns Daily that the team is in pursuit of talented players on both sides of the ball. Asked to identify a position of need outside of quarterback, Brown quickly mentioned pass rushers.

From a 5,000-feet view, this is a good year to be looking for defense in the draft. It can be argued the three best and deepest position groups in this year's draft are all on defense, and it starts with interior defensive linemen. There are also a number of defensive backs and pass rushers who, in some years, would be first-round picks but are projected to be available Day 2. Some Day 3 defensive linemen, according to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, may receive first-round grades from teams.

As for the reason why there's an emphasis on the Browns finding a franchise quarterback? When a team does, like the Seahawks and Broncos did before their respective Super Bowl runs, they're able to pool their draft and free agency resources toward every other position on the roster. Let's use Denver as an example: Manning signed with the Broncos in 2012. In the four drafts since that signing, the Broncos used their first pick on the defensive side of the ball in all four. Five of the starting players on Denver's Super Bowl defense were drafted in the years since Manning's signing. Many of the big names, including Pro Bowlers Demarcus Ware and T.J. Ward, were acquired in free agency periods after Manning's signing.

Simply put, stability at the quarterback position can help make the entire roster better, and the Browns are seeking both as they look ahead to 2016.

Why is there zero hype or talk around the Browns taking a chance on Cardale Jones? A Cleveland native who has made it clear the Browns are his favorite team. I feel the opposite of many with the idea that the real Cardale was shown in the playoff games last year, and the fluke was this past season as Bucks new OC couldn't play to his strengths. If there's the second coming of Bernie out there, it's Cardale. -- Mike B., Columbus

As it stands now, Jones is an intriguing prospect who is expected to be available on Day 3 of the draft. If the Browns take a quarterback in the early rounds, it's not out of the realm of possibilities they could also take one in the later rounds. Jones' lack of experience and the fact he lost his job in his final season will be among the biggest questions he has to tackle in the coming months. His physical presence and arm strength are very intriguing, though, and it's why he's projected way higher than most quarterbacks who enter the draft with his level of experience.

If Carson Wentz is questionable, why wouldn't the Browns draft Goff second and maybe trade up the 32nd pick higher to take Wentz as well? This might lose a couple of later-round picks or maybe next year's first pick but it would give the Browns both quarterbacks to evaluate and a better chance of having the quarterback of our future. -- James S., Hamilton

The price to trade up from 32 to wherever the latter of Goff and Wentz land would be incredibly steep. That kind of maneuver would be largely unprecedented and costly.

Do you think the Browns can get a big wide receiver that can take on defensive backs? The big athletic receivers seem to have the most success. Also, they can provide a big target. -- George H., Caldwell

While Antonio Brown may disagree with your line of questioning, there's certainly some validity to it, and Sashi Brown hit on that topic during his Tuesday interview. He considered that type of receiver to be one of the missing links from last year's offense.

"We need a guy in coverage when he's being followed and contested with a backer coming across or a safety coming across who can still bring the ball down," Brown said. "We'll value being able to add someone that can add that dimension to our roster. That might be Dwayne (Bowe), it might be someone else."

Picking a wide receiver at No. 2 would be a reach, but there are a handful of players who meet that criteria if the Browns are looking for one at No. 32. TCU's Josh Doctson and Ohio State's Michael Thomas are among those who fit the bill and could be available.

I hear the Browns have 14 picks in the upcoming draft. How many and what rounds are they? -- Bob B., Austintown

As it stands now, the Browns have one pick in each of the seven rounds. They could be in line for a handful of compensatory picks because of what transpired in free agency last season, but there's no telling the exact number and placement of those picks until they're revealed a month or so before the draft.

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