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2020 NFL Draft

If Browns look for O-linemen early in draft, there's no shortage of options


MOBILE, Alabama -- Since 2007, the Browns have used a first- or second-round pick on an offensive lineman four times and have essentially batted 1.000.

The oldest, left tackle Joe Thomas, hasn't missed a Pro Bowl since he entered the league. Since he was drafted in 2009, center Alex Mack has been considered one of the NFL's best at his position. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, a second-round selection in 2012, hasn't missed a start in the past three seasons. Left guard Joel Bitonio didn't miss a snap in his rookie season, was graded by some as one of the best at his position in the NFL and is considered one of the core pieces of the Browns' future.

Though Browns general manager Ray Farmer recently said the offensive line has a "good nucleus," complacency at any position on the field, no matter how strong it is, is non-existent. The goal, Farmer said, is to "drive competition to where we force guys that are currently starters to fight for their spots as well as improve our depth."

If the Browns opt for what's worked best over the past eight years to do just that, a number of talented options are available at picks No. 12, 19 and midway through the second round. A little light on top-end offensive tackles but filled with as many as 15 first- or second-rounders, this year's class of offensive linemen offers a little bit of everything that even a team with a good nucleus can appreciate.

If it's the first round, a familiar face at a relatively new position could be among those considered.

T.J. Clemmings was one of Pennsylvania's most coveted defensive line prospects in the class of 2010, and Browns secondary coach Jeff Hafley played a major part in keeping him in the state. Hafley, then at the University of Pittsburgh, was Clemmings' lead recruiter and established a bond with him that remains in tact today.

Clemmings just didn't pan out as a defensive end and ultimately switched to offensive line for the 2013 season. It was the right move, as Clemmings started every game at right tackle during his final two seasons with the Panthers and ended his career as a second-team All-American. Though he played at both left and right tackle at last month's Senior Bowl, most draft analysts project him to remain at the position at which he flourished in college.

Most mock drafts slot Clemmings as a mid-first round selection behind the likes of Brandon Scherff (Iowa) and in the same neighborhood as La'El Collins (LSU), Andrus Peat (Stanford) and Ereck Flowers (Miami).

"It's been a good two years," Clemmings said. "Playing defensive line for three years and making the transition to offense, it wasn't easy but I had a great coaching staff behind me."

The two-year streak of an offensive guard coming off the board in the first 20 picks is anticipated to end, but there could be a handful of top options available when the Browns make their selection at No. 43. Among them is one of the draft's best stories, Laken Tomlinson, whose journey from Jamaica to Duke has drawn comparisons to Michael Oher's in "The Blind Side."

Tomlinson moved from Jamaica to Chicago as a 10-year-old and weathered the culture shock before he found his calling on the football field. Mentored by Bob Sperling, a lawyer and former University of Illinois trustee who grew up in the neighborhood in which Tomlinson lived, Tomlinson morphed from a raw athlete with little experience into a highly coveted prospect.

Tomlinson picked Duke over a number of the Big Ten's football powerhouses and has used his time with the program to not only blossom into one of the best guards in the country, but also put himself on the path toward becoming a doctor. Tomlinson double-majored in psychology and evolutionary anthropology. According to Sports Illustrated, he shadowed a neurosurgeon last summer and plans to take the MCAT in the next year or two.

He left a strong impression with scouts, coaches and general managers at the Senior Bowl. NFL Network analysts Charles Davis and Mike Mayock both raved about his overall performance and how he handled himself against top nose guard prospect Danny Shelton.

Tomlinson spoke confidently about how he presented himself behind the scenes with prospective employers, too.

"I'm a hard worker. I'm 100 percent in everything I do or more," Tomlinson said. "I feel like what I can bring to your team is my talent level, my skill set and my leadership skills could be very beneficial to any team."

This article is part of the Road to the Draft series, driven by Liberty Ford.



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