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2020 NFL Draft

Five things to watch in Round 1 of the NFL Draft


CHICAGO —** The buzz around the NFL Draft reaches a crescendo here Thursday night.

And while that buildup happens over the course of several months, the draft itself can seem to fly by in the blink of an eye — especially the first round.

So here's five things to watch as the Browns and the rest of the league prepare to be on the clock Thursday night in Chicago.

Best player available?

For months, the Browns have made it clear they'll take the best player available, regardless of position. And while it's essentially impossible to see who that might be until the draft gets underway, it makes for interesting fodder.

Cleveland's executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said last week the Browns had "locked in" their draft board and were going over potential scenarios to prepare themselves for Thursday night.

Of course, there are plenty of options for Cleveland to choose from at No. 8.

While quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are expected to come off the board at No. 1 and No. 2, it's entirely possible players like Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey, Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott, UCLA LB Myles Jack, Ohio State DE Joey Bosa and Ole MIss LT Laremy Tunsil could be available when the Browns are on the clock.

A measured approach to addressing roster needs

While Brown and first-year coach Hue Jackson are cognizant of the team's roster needs -- particularly at wide receiver and the defensive secondary -- the Browns aren't going to necessarily take a player based purely on the position he plays.

"We don't want to get to a place where we're thinking of the current needs of the roster and pass over better football players. So you take the guy you feel like can best impact you winning and we certainly feel like that's kind of our mantra and our central theme," Brown said.

"Sometimes position does play into that decision and we're not blind to what the roster is. But at the same time, we're not going to take a worse player because we're already set or we have less of a need."

Still, Cleveland has also made it clear that it's not afraid to take a wide receiver at any of its 12 picks, the first round included.

"We would like to have talented wide receivers on our roster, and we feel like the draft is a good place to get them," Brown said.

Will the Buckeyes match a first-round record?

With as many as 15 players who could hear their name called by the time the draft is all said and done Sunday, the Buckeyes could set an NFL record for most players taken in the first round. Elliott, Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee, left tackle Taylor Decker, cornerback Eli Apple, and safety Vonn Bell.

Five Buckeyes — Elliott, Bosa, Lee, Decker, Apple — are in attendance at the draft in Chicago.

Miami currently holds the record with six first-round picks in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Could Tunsil fall to the Browns?

Once projected to be the No. 1 pick, Tunsil has watched his draft stock fall in recent weeks to no fault of his own.

After the Titans traded the No. 1 pick to the Rams two weeks ago, Tunsil started sliding down mock drafts as teams near the top of the order are expected to address needs outside of the offensive line.

Which begs the question: Could Tunsil fall to the Browns?

And if so, does Cleveland take him?

The Browns are in search of offensive linemen after center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz departed the team in free agency. And Tunsil, with his quick feet and long arms, could be an ideal right tackle with nine-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas on the other side of the line.

Another trade?

Sashi Brown last week wouldn't tip his hand when asked whether or not the Browns would trade from the No. 8 pick. Instead, Brown said, it all depends on what the potential move could offer Cleveland as it tries to build a young "nucleus" of talent under Jackson and Co.

With that in mind, the Browns last week traded the No. 2 pick to Philadelphia in exchange for the No. 8 pick and a bevy of other selections this year and in the future.

Brown said the front office is prepared and confident heading into their first draft together.

"We're going to stay calm and keep an open mind. And then make great decisions, go into the draft knowing the players that you want, have conviction and don't worry about the 'what might've been' but just make the best possible decision for yourself," Brown said.

After all, they've prepared extensively.

"These last couple of days for us are really about testing ourselves if so and so calls, or if this player is no longer available and making sure that we have a good understanding of how we'll react, how we think about it, what choices we want to make and what tradeoffs those opportunities, pros and cons, provide for us."

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