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Browns targeting impact player at No. 4 with options aplenty

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ORLANDO —** Many expect the Browns to select their quarterback of the future with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft later this month. While the Browns have yet to unveil their plans at the top of the draft, the team has been abundantly clear on one point— whether it’s Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen, whoever that quarterback is will sit behind Tyrod Taylor next season.

Because of that, it’s critical Cleveland — owners of two picks in the top five for the first time since the Redskins did so in 2000 — add another future impact player who can contribute sooner than later. Browns coach Hue Jackson said as much two weeks ago at the league’s annual meeting in Orlando as Cleveland entered the home stretch of its draft preparations.  

“We need impact football players, period, and that's part of where we are now,” Jackson said when asked about the team’s plans for the fourth overall pick. “Here's another opportunity to put some impact players on our team that can help us get to winning as fast as we can. You said it: we need to draft guys that have the ability to come in and play and contribute to this football team."

Over the past month, the Browns have trained a lens on the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft class and, currently, are in the process of hosting them on pre-draft visits. After years of instability at the position, Dorsey, Jackson and Cleveland’s reshaped front office can address that longstanding problem at No. 1 and can “dictate” how the draft unfolds.

Their plans at No. 4, however, would appear to remain a more fluid situation with a wide array of talented players who will conceivably be there when the Browns are back on the clock.

They include:

*— A potentially game-changing offensive weapon in Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley, *who’s widely considered the best player in the draft class. Barkley, the 2017 Paul Hornung Award winner (given to the nation’s most versatile player), has a rare combination of size, speed and skills that could help a Cleveland offense that struggled in 2017. “We need guys that come in and make a difference and Barkley is definitely one of them,” Jackson said. “He'll be in the discussions.” Barkley finished his final season at Penn State with 1,271 rushing yards, 632 receiving yards and 21 total touchdowns.

*— Another premier edge rusher in N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, *who amassed 25 sacks and 55 tackles-for-loss in three seasons. A year after selecting former Texas A&M star defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, the Browns could bookend their defensive line — which already includes 2016 second-round end Emmanuel Ogbah and 2017 third-round tackle Larry Ogunjobi — with Chubb. Asked to compare Garrett and Chubb, Dorsey said: “Very similar, two different players. They play the game in different levels. Myles is such an athletic, to me, he’s more like Julius Peppers in terms of his movement skills and his length and how he plays. Chubb plays the game a little bit differently, but he’s still an unbelievable defensive prospect for this draft.”

— A top-shelf defensive back, whether it’s Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick or Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. While the Browns overhauled their secondary in free agency, prospects like Fitzpatrick and Ward — who are believed to be top-10 picks — could give Cleveland a premier defender who can take the ball away (the Browns finished second-to-last in interceptions last year).

—  A quarterback if they decline to take one at No. 1. For starters, Dorsey said he’s open to trading the first overall pick, though it’ll take a substantial offer to do so. He has also suggested the Browns will take the best player available with their first two picks, regardless of position. Asked if Cleveland had a leader in the clubhouse, he shrugged. “I won’t tell you. I won’t tell you who it is,” he said, smiling. “It could be Saquon Barkley.”

— A trade down. Dorsey made clear the Browns will do whatever is best for the long-term future of the organization. As a result, a potential move down the draft board remains a possibility. “I’ll explore all options,” he said.

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