2020 NFL Draft

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Joe Thomas explains why Browns made a 'home run' selection with Jedrick Wills Jr.

Joe Thomas didn't hold back his feelings for Jedrick Wills Jr.

The Browns selected Wills with the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to bolster the left side of their offensive line, and Thomas, an 11-year Browns veteran and 10-time Pro Bowler, gave Wills his highest praise.

"There will not be any sleeping for me tonight because I'm so excited by this pick," Thomas emphatically said in a radio interview with the Cleveland Browns Radio Network. "When I watch him on film, there is nothing he can't do. All these other guys who were the top tackles had big question marks, in my opinion. This guy? No question marks. Browns home run."

Thomas, who is one of the top left tackles in NFL history, isn't just saying that to rile up Browns supporters, either. He said Browns fans have been messaging him on Twitter about the offensive tackles in the draft for the last couple weeks, and Thomas wanted to give them an informed response about who he'd have at the top of his list.

So, he watched game film on the top four tackle prospects. Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Wills were all likely to be pegged early in the first round and highlight one of the best offensive tackle classes in recent memory. When Joe Thomas finished his work, however, Wills stood out.

"There is nothing that when you watch him on tape makes you go, 'Well, I don't know. He's going to have to get better at this,'" Thomas said. "Does this man move like an All-Pro in the NFL? Will the footwork skills, technique, quickness, balance, change of direction and recovery skills that he possesses in his body be able to hold up to the Von Millers and JJ Watts? I went back, and there was only one guy that stood out. He just popped off your screen. The technique he was using. The dominance. The finish. The change in direction. The explosion that he had. The way he could bend his ankles, knees and hips and create force and power. When guys tried to bull rush him, he was firm and stout. 

"There was only one guy that looked like that, and that was Jedrick Wills."

The Browns have selected Jedrick Wills Jr. in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Wills' biggest question mark with the Browns will be how well he can move those skills over to left tackle. Wills started at right tackle for two seasons at Alabama and protected the blindside of Tua Tagovailoa, the left-handed quarterback whom the Miami Dolphins selected Thursday with the No. 5 pick.

Now, he'll be tasked with blocking the blindside of Baker Mayfield as a left tackle. Coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed Thursday that the Browns intend to switch Wills to the left side, which can be a tougher transition than it might appear.

Thomas, however, has no doubt that Wills can do it. He compared Wills' raw skills to Mitchell Schwartz, who endured a transition from left to right tackle when he was drafted to Cleveland in 2012 and hasn't missed a start in eight seasons split between the Browns and Kansas City Chiefs.

"I've seen it so many times where guys come out of college and they were on the left side or guard and they were going to tackle or they were a right tackle going to left tackle," Thomas said. "You don't have enough muscle memory from what you did in college to be untrainable. This man will come in — and I don't want to make any guarantees — but he is ready to go to the Pro Bowl this year."

Thomas believes Wills won't have much trouble in the transition with Bill Callahan as his offensive line coach. Callahan, who was hired by the Browns in January, has a high pedigree as an offensive line coach and has spent time coaching Pro Bowl linemen in Nick Mangold, Alan Faneca, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Tyron Smith and Trent Williams.

Callahan is regarded as one of the top offensive line coaches in the NFL, and Thomas believes Wills will flourish under Callahan's direction.

"Offensive line coaches, more than any other coach, have an ability to take a player from where they are and increase their production," Thomas said. "There's no other position on the field that requires smarts and technique so much more than it requires power and strength. It's technique that wins, and coaches teach technique. Bill Callahan is going to have Jedrick Wills turn into an All-Pro tackle. Mark my words."

Thomas is willing to help Wills with the transition, too. 

He already reached out to Wills on Twitter before the draft began to let him know that Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry had heavy interest in drafting him. Thomas messaged Wills again as soon as Berry made the pick with his phone number and offered to help Wills with his new team.

Wills, of course, plans to take him up on it.

"As soon as I can start that position as fast as possible and kind of send him some videos, get some pointers and clips from his direction, I feel like I will be in good hands," Wills said. "He's a Hall of Fame player, so why not?"

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