Road to the Draft

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Road to the Draft: Pass rushers are always at a premium, and this year is no different

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 pass rushers, the position played by arguably the best overall player in this year's draft.

Why the position matters for the Browns: It's hard to find a team that's not looking for more pass rushers. It's a premium position, and there are only so many humans on this planet with the ability to get around the edge to the quarterback in quick enough time to make himself valuable to an NFL team. Cleveland has one of the best pass rushers in the league in Myles Garrett. It also has Olivier Vernon, a veteran who was effective during the first half of the season before missing most of the second half with a knee injury. Both of those players were missing through most of the team's final eight games in 2019, and their voids were simply too hard to fill. At some points, the Browns were so short-handed that they had to use DT Sheldon Richardson as an edge rusher. Chad Thomas, who enters his third season, was solid and showed great improvement from his rookie season. There just wasn't enough consistency, and the Browns' entire defense suffered as a result. The Browns signed veteran Adrian Clayborn earlier this month, giving them a reliable option who can make an impact without being on the field for every snap. Still, there's always room for more pass rushers, especially ones who can be counted on to make an impact as a rookie and beyond.

This year's top dog: It's Chase Young by a mile. The former Ohio State star has been pegged by most analysts to come off the board at No. 2 to the Redskins and many, including NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., believe he's the top overall prospect in this year's class. Young missed two games but still finished with a whopping 16.5 sacks in 2019, the most ever by an Ohio State player in a single season. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compares Young to future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers. Enough said.

Check out photos of the top pass rushers in the 2020 NFL Draft

Rounding out the top five: There's a pretty substantial gap between Young and the rest of the pack, but that doesn't mean it's a weak year for pass rushers. LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson was the top pass rusher on the best team in college football and is projected by many as the second pass rusher selected in the draft. There are three more names to know from Big 10 schools: Iowa's A.J. Epanesa, Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos and Michigan's Josh Uche. Epanesa (14 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks) and Gross-Matos (15 TFLs, 9.5 sacks) were big-time producers in 2019 and were among the best at their position in the conference while Uche is considered a high-upside prospect who has gotten some significant buzz leading up to the draft.

How many first-rounders: Just about everyone with a mock draft has Young going to the Redskins at No. 2. Jeremiah has Chaisson, Epanesa and Gross-Matos all being selected in the second half of the first round. Kiper has the same, though he projects Epanesa and Gross-Matos to come off the board a little later in the first round. The Athletic's Dane Brugler has Chaisson, Uche and Gross-Matos as first-rounders with Epanesa falling into the second.

A sleeper or two?: This is an important category for the Browns if most, if not all, of the top five are going in the first round. Can it be possible for a sleeper to come from Alabama? If so, then Terrell Lewis qualifies. Dogged by injuries throughout his career, Lewis, a former five-star recruit, is coming off a 2019 season in which he racked up 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Deeper down the list is Utah's Bradlee Anae, who was a third-team All-American in 2019 after posting 14 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. One more: Derrek Tuszka from North Dakota State. He's likely to be available Day 3 after winning Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year (19 TFLs, 13.5 sacks).

Quote to note: "Myles is an athletic freak as everyone knows, but what excites me about him is he's just getting started. He's just scratching the surface of what he can be. In talking with him, he's really eager to get back to work and he wants to chase greatness and I think when you have that mindset, it's going to be really easy to coach. It's going to be really fun to coach and it's going to carry off on everybody else too in the room. We're going to create some great competition in that room, build quality depth, guys that want to perform at a high level and hopefully we get that group to gel and come together and be a strong point for the defense." -- Browns DL coach Chris Kiffin

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