We’re back from Indianapolis and ready to deliver our first of two Browns Mailbags this week.
Of the three things you said on the Browns radio that you'd be watching for, I'd like to know your take on the DBs. Since most of the "heavy hitter" DL-men will be gone by No. 17, which CB do you see as most attractive to John Dorsey with his emphasis on speed and on the long and vertical jumps, based on their combine performance? Charles C., Sheridan, Wyoming
Dorsey and the Browns are looking for the best player available with that No. 17 selection, and a cornerback could very much fit the bill at that point in the draft. A handful have been mocked to Cleveland in various projections. If the Browns went that direction, it’d be the second straight year and third time since 2014 they devoted a first-round selection to a defensive back. And you know what? It wouldn’t be the craziest thing to do. Cleveland has upgraded its secondary in a big way in the past year, but there’s truly no such thing as too many good defensive backs. Just look at what happened last year when Terrance Mitchell went down with a serious injury and E.J. Gaines was in and out of the lineup. Depth can get tested in a hurry, and opponents will make you suffer if there’s a significant drop-off.
“I think there's a lot of depth in this class,” Dorsey said last week at the NFL Combine. “I think the strength of it is in the depth of the class. I think there are some very talented individuals with some size and actual speed. That's why I can't wait to watch those guys run here coming up here later, what, Monday? And watch those guys work out on Monday.”
The top three cornerbacks in most mocks and projections are LSU’s Greedy Williams, Georgia’s Deandre Baker and Washington’s Byron Murphy. Of the three, Williams was the speediest in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.37 seconds -- second among all cornerbacks -- while Baker posted a 4.52 and Murphy clocked a 4.57. Murphy was the only one of the three to do the vertical leap, posting a measurement of 36.5 inches. Baker and Murphy posted the third- and fourth-worst broad jumps among cornerbacks who participated (Williams did not). In those three events, no one had a better day than Jamal Dean, who clocked the best 40-yard dash of anyone at the Combine (4.30 seconds), had a solid vertical leap (41 inches) and was tied for sixth among cornerbacks in the broad jump. Dean, for what it’s worth, has great measurables (6-1, 206 pounds) but comes with a bit of mystery because of multiple knee surgeries.
Some other players Dorsey may be referring to when he discusses the depth of this year’s cornerbacks class includes Michigan State’s Justin Layne, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, Notre Dame’s Julian Love and Alabama’s Saivion Smith. All of whom could be available Day 2.
I know it’s still early, but are there any AAF players that have been making a big impact and may be worth a look as free agents or potential draft picks? -- Harris B., Cleveland
CBSSports.com has a nice list of five players who have been impressing so far in the AAF. The list includes a former Brown, linebacker DeMarquis Gates, who has 23 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in four games. Assuredly, a handful of these players will land on 90-man rosters by the time training camp rolls around. Most of them, at some point over the past few years, have already done that. Dorsey was asked about the AAF and the XFL, which opens play next year, at last week’s Combine.
“What we try to do in the Cleveland Browns organization is we're going to turn over every stone,” Dorsey said. “And if there's a player in that respective league that can help this organization, we'll make sure we try to find them.”
With the addition of Kareem Hunt to the Browns would it make more sense to move Duke Johnson from running back to wide receiver considering most of his talent lies in his hands and route running? -- Matthew M., Charlotte
This thought was unequivocally dismissed by coach Freddie Kitchens last week at the Combine. Johnson has played a number of snaps through the years lined up as a wide receiver, goes through drills with wide receivers in practice and has even attended wide receivers meetings, but he’s still a running back in Cleveland’s eyes. That’s where he’s the most dangerous and from where he’s caught the majority of his 235 receptions since 2015.
“We’re always looking for good football players and Duke’s a good football player,” Kitchens said. “We can’t ever have enough good football players. We’re always looking to get better as a team and that goes down to each individual position.”
I like the signing of Jaelen Strong. Do you see the Browns trying to pursue any other WR in a similar situation? I'd love to see Kevin White given a chance in Cleveland. -- Jason H., Columbus
It’s hard to rule out anything at this point of the offseason. The Browns would love to bring back Breshad Perriman, a receiver who definitely fit in this category at this time last year, but he’s set to be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the league year. White’s an interesting case who likely will have a new home in 2019. White, the former No. 7 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, missed his entire rookie year and posted just six catches over 10 games in the last two seasons.
Dorsey expressed optimism about Strong, a third-round pick in that 2015 draft, who will compete for a roster spot in the coming months.
“Jaelen’s big, he runs really good routes, he’s got great hands. I think he’ll fit in to this offense,” Dorsey said. “Again, he’s a younger guy. He’s been out of football for a couple of months. I’m willing to take a shot because I think there’s some talent to unearth there.”