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Browns Mailbag: Would Round 1 be too early to add more talent at safety?

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

March? Is it really about to be March?

The offseason is disappearing before our eyes, and we're less than three weeks away from the start to the new league year. That's the formal way of saying we're less than three weeks away from the start of free agency, and the Browns certainly figure to be involved in some way, shape or form.

How about a three-question Friday to cap February?

I see some very good D-line and LB prospects ranked between 20 and 30 in Daniel Jeremiah's 2.0 college prospect rankings, so I expect that the Browns could do well with one of those picks. However, do you think it would be worth it to move up six to eight spots to take safety Trevon Moehrig or are you confident that our safeties can do the job? What about safeties in free agency? — Bob K., Akron

Before we launch into this discussion, it's important to note one thing about these kinds of rankings, which are always excellent. This is Jeremiah ranking the players based on their overall ability and talent at their respective position. It's NOT the order in which he thinks they'll be drafted. So while Moehrig, the junior out of TCU, is his 16th overall player, it doesn't mean that's where he'll likely go in the draft. In fact, in our latest roundup of mock drafts, Moehrig isn't projected anywhere in the top 20 and some don't even have him landing with a team in the first round. So if these mocks are to be trusted — save your jokes — then a significant move up likely wouldn't be needed for Moehrig, whom Jeremiah and others consider to be the best safety in this year's draft.

As for the Browns' situation at safety, here's where it stands: Ronnie Harrison Jr. and Grant Delpit, who missed all of his rookie season with a torn Achilles, are slated to return. So, too, are Elijah Benton and Jovante Moffatt, both of whom saw minimal playing time after making the team as undrafted rookies. Veterans Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo, who collectively played a lot of football for the Browns in 2020, are poised to be free agents. If neither of those players return, that would make the team's safeties room one of the lightest on experience on the entire team.

Which brings us to this year's free agent class, which features some pretty big names. This comes with a caveat, though, because teams can utilize the franchise and transition tags over the next couple of weeks, meaning a number of big names on all of these very fun free agent ranking lists won't actually become free agents. Two of Pro Football Focus’ top 10 free agents are safeties, as Justin Simmons (Broncos) and (Anthony Harris) check in at sixth and seventh, respectively. Marcus Williams (Saints), Marcus Maye (Jets) and John Johnson III (Rams) are also in the top 25. From there, it's a pretty big drop to the next cluster, which features Malik Hooker (Colts) at No. 69 and Keanu Neal (Falcons) at No. 72. Still, it's a pretty solid class the Browns can tap into if they choose to go down this path.

I think the Browns are set at WR and TE for next season regardless if any trades happen. I'm enamored with DPJ (Donovan Peoples-Jones) and his potential and believe he is at least a WR2 or better. Everyone I think knows what the Browns need: LB, CB, and just mainly defense in the draft. What position should the Browns focus on on Day 3 assuming the needs of LB, CB, and DT are drafted by then? — Donald V., Columbus

I like this question because it provides me with a great opportunity to promote the latest episode of “Best Podcast Available.” While we didn't discuss this EXACT question, we had a discussion that touched on a similar line of thinking.

Most everyone agrees with your assessment about the defense, and I'm not sure any team can satisfy all of their needs at three different position groups on the first two days of the draft. That said, if we're eliminating defense from this scenario and focusing exclusively on the offense as the Browns head into Day 3 of the draft, the position I'll be watching closest is offensive tackle. Yes, the Browns addressed the position in a massive way last offseason with the free agent signing of Jack Conklin and first-round selection of Jedrick Wills Jr. And yes, the team is pretty set with its starters at both tackle positions. But as we saw last year, depth is so pivotal on the offensive line, and the Browns may not have achieved the results they did without the solid play they got from Chris Hubbard and Kendall Lamm when they were in a pinch at one or both of the positions. Lamm is the only member of the offensive line poised to hit free agency and Hubbard underwent knee surgery in late December. Alex Taylor, an undrafted rookie, made the active roster on a handful of occasions throughout the season but never played any offensive snaps. Simply put, there's no such thing as too many tackles.

There is an edge rusher who is between positions of DE and OLB at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds who played next to Levi Onwuzurike at the University of Washington named Joe Tryon who could fall to the Browns in the second round. He has great instincts and the skill set of Von Miller. How does he rank on the pro football pontificator's boards? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

Tryon, like Onwuzurike, opted out of the 2020 season and announced he'd be entering the NFL Draft. He played two full seasons at Washington after redshirting his first year and, as a preseason first-team All-American, was poised to be one of college football's top players in 2020 before the pandemic. In 2019, he had eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss and earned second-team All-Pac 12 honors.

Here's what Jeremiah, who ranks Tryon as the No. 27 overall prospect in this year's draft, had to say about the talented pass rusher.

Tryon has an ideal frame/build for an edge rusher. His game is built on his strength and power more than his speed and agility. He has an average get-off as a pass rusher, but he has shock in his hands to jolt offensive tackles, separate and close on the quarterback. He has a nasty push/pull move and can shorten the edge by powering through the outside shoulder. He isn't bendy at the top of his rush due to some ankle tightness. His effort is exceptional. He dominated tight ends at the point of attack against the run and he can reset the line of scrimmage. Overall, Tryon plays with force and effort, which affects both the run and pass game. He can make an impact on all three downs and should get on the field right away for the team that drafts him.

Tryon has been projected to the Browns in the first round in a handful of mock drafts over the past few weeks. Based on our latest roundup, though, Tryon was projected as a first-rounder in just one of the mocks we found. That said, it's important to remember the Browns, because of all of their success in 2020, aren't picking until the bottom part of the second round. So even if Tryon makes it to the second round, there are A LOT of picks before the Browns get another chance to grab him barring some kind of trade.

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