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.
Our next stop is the wide receivers, a position that's as deep as any in this year's draft.
Why the position matters for the Browns: After years of struggling to get much from its wide receivers, Cleveland has invested heavily in the position. In 2018, the Browns acquired Jarvis Landry in a trade with the Dolphins and followed the next year by landing his best friend, Odell Beckham Jr., in a trade with the Giants. Though Beckham didn't have the season he anticipated last year, both players cleared 1,000 yards and combined for 10 touchdowns. That's a heck of a 1-2 punch, but the Browns could use some more help in a room that is otherwise young and low on experience. Beyond Beckham and Landry, the player who returns with the most career production is Taywan Taylor, and he didn't catch a pass last year. There's also Damion Ratley, who had a nice, long touchdown catch in the 2019 season finale and saw the most playing time last season out of anyone on the current roster. Rashard Higgins remains unsigned, though the Browns did add JoJo Natson, a spark plug returner who can play the position. Yes, the Browns have two perennial Pro Bowlers and an array of young options at their disposal, but there's opportunity to be had in a draft class that has been called one of the best in years for talented wide receivers.
This year's top dog: Depends on what kind of flavor you want from the position. There's Alabama's Jerry Jeudy, who caught 145 passes for 2,478 yards and 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons while sharing the field with a handful of other projected first-round wide receivers. He's been lauded for his route running and compared to Pro Bowlers such as Santonio Holmes and even Beckham. Then there's Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, who is a little bigger than Jeudy and was just as productive. He draws a comparison to former Pro Bowler Chad Johnson from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. Lamb's numbers over the past two seasons: 127 catches, 2,485 yards and 25 touchdowns. Both are expected to be picked in the first half of Thursday's first round.
Check out photos of the top wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft
Rounding out the top five: Jeudy's teammate, Henry Ruggs III, was one of the stars at the NFL Combine after posting a 4.27-second 40-yard dash. He's, perhaps, the biggest game-changer prospect in this year's class, and some have even pegged him as the first wide receiver off the board. LSU's Justin Jefferson is coming off a monster 2019 national championship season in which he caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. It's a tossup among Clemson's Tee Higgins (59 catches, 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns), Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk (65/1,192/8), Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. (56/764/4) and Baylor's Denzel Mims (66/1,020/12) for who could be fifth off the board.
How many first-rounders?: ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Jeudy off the board at No. 9, Lamb and Jefferson gone in the first half and Ruggs, Aiyuk and Higgins selected in the second half of the first round. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has the same six in his first round. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler puts five wide receivers in his first round, including Mims.
A sleeper or two?: How about 20? The top-end talent in this year's class is getting the most attention, but the next 15-20 players are the reason why it's considered one of the best in years. Take a look at CBSSports.com’s rankings. The 25th-ranked wide receiver in this year's class, Kentucky's Lynn Bowden Jr., is ranked as the No. 144 overall prospect. By the 144th pick last year, only 16 wide receivers had been taken. Jeremiah recently posted he had 18 wide receivers ranked in his top 100 overall prospects and gave 27 players grades of third-round or better. Kiper has said there's a chance 25-30 wide receivers are selected in the first three rounds. There will be a lot of enticing options for the Browns no matter where they're picking on Days 1, 2 and 3.
Quote to note: "This is a really phenomenal group of wideouts. Not all those guys are going to go early. They'll end up spreading throughout the draft. But it's really a good group." -- Jeremiah