Road to the Draft

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Road To The Draft: Breaking down a loaded class of offensive tackles

The days are winding down until the 2020 NFL Draft. As we get oh so near to our final destination, we'll be breaking down a position group that matters for the Browns when they're on the clock with one of their seven picks.

We're kicking things off with a look at one of the biggest positions of need, offensive tackle.

Why the position matters for the Browns: The Browns struggled to protect Baker Mayfield throughout the 2019 season and were particularly vulnerable at both tackle positions. The addition of All-Pro RT Jack Conklin should very much help on the right side, but there's still a big hole on the left. Last year's starter, Greg Robinson, is no longer with the team, and the remaining tackles on the roster have accumulated most of their experience on the right side. Both executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski have made a point to say protecting Mayfield is paramount toward the team's success in 2020 and beyond. Adding multiple options to his blind side will go a long way toward shoring it up.

The top dog in this year's class: That's the best thing about this loaded class of offensive tackles. There isn't a clear-cut, frontrunner. There could be as many as four who are graded as the top tackle in this year's draft on teams' respective boards. Alabama's Jedrick Wills Jr., Louisville's Mekhi Becton, Iowa's Tristan Wirfs and Georgia's Andrew Thomas comprise what many people have called "The Big 4," and a number of draft analysts believe there's a good shot all four will be taken in the top 10. Simply put, the NFL hasn't seen an elite class of offensive linemen like this in years, especially among those projected to play left tackle. Each carries a question mark about his game -- Can Wills make the adjustment to the left side? Is Wirfs better off at guard? Why wasn't Becton's 2018 film great? Does Thomas have too much to clean up in his technique? These are all justifiable queries, but they're considered small ones in the grand scheme of things. It's hard to find a position with more elite talent at the top than offensive tackle.

Check out photos of the top offensive tackles in the 2020 NFL Draft

Rounding out the top five: We already mentioned four, and there's plenty of competition for No. 5. Houston's Josh Jones has a ton of experience and had a great Senior Bowl. USC's Austin Jackson may have the most upside of any tackle in this year's class. Boise State's Ezra Cleveland had a great Combine and is viewed as a "riser" by draft analysts. Again, it depends on who you ask, and that's a good thing. Not only is the talent at the top elite, but there's also plenty of good options beyond the Big 4.

How many first-rounders?: In his latest two-round mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had the Big 4 gone by the 14th pick and Jones and Jackson going early in the second round. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah anticipated the same fate for the Big 4 while pegging Jones and Jackson as late first-round selections. Jeremiah also recently wrote that some NFL general managers view Georgia's Isaiah Wilson as a first-round pick.

A sleeper or two?: We're already seven- or eight-deep, but there are even more who could be worth considering on Day 2 of the draft. Lucas Niang (TCU) had his final season end prematurely because of a hip injury, but NFL.com's Lance Zierlein views him as a "help-now" right tackle. Digging a little deeper, a player like UConn's Matt Peart could be a great value pick late Day 2 or early Day 3. The Jamaica native impressed at the Senior Bowl and is viewed as a prospect that could really improve over time.

Quote to note: "We value movement skills. That's not to say that we don't value a guy that is ultra-physical. I think it's always a combination of all those things." -- Stefanski, on what he looks for in offensive tackles

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