Road to the Draft: Why understanding needs of other 31 teams is so vital for Browns

There are plenty of differences between the first pick and the 12th pick in the NFL Draft. *[



On Wednesday at their pre-draft press conference, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry hit on one of the biggest on multiple occasions. It's simple, really, but often forgotten in all of the pre-draft speculation that swirls in the months and days leading up to the main event.

At No. 1, the Browns, for the first time in 17 years, have complete control over who they land with their first overall pick. At No. 12, the Browns are still poised to grab one of the best overall players in the draft, but their control over what happens in that spot lasts for all of 15 minutes while they're on the clock.

Months, even years of preparation, can be altered by the unexpected behavior of the team one spot ahead in the pecking order.

"We do go into each draft with a plan," Brown said. "We prepare a lot. We run ourselves through different scenarios. We try to figure out how we can optimize the three days, particularly the first two where you can predict a little more. Once you get into Day 3, it is a little tougher.

"That said, a lot of it is outside your hands – what players will be available, what trade partners might be willing. You do what you can to try to at least align yourself and position yourself so you can execute on that and come out in a way where the organization is going to feel we did the best we possibly could to maximize day one and day two of the draft."

A big chunk of Cleveland's draft preparation at this stage in the process centers on the wants and needs of the 31 other teams in the NFL. Coming under the most scrutiny are the 10 teams that stand in between the Browns' picks at No. 1 and No. 12.

Still, there's only so much information to gather and analyze. How the team reacts to sudden change will go a long way during the most vital moments of the 2017 NFL Draft.

"We would like to think every year that we would go in knowing exactly what is going to happen, and every year we don't," Brown said. "There is always a surprise somewhere in that top 10, whether it is someone trading up or a team taking a player that you don't expect. We do have a pretty good sense, and it is important because we want to plan for us as we move forward. We really try to plan for the total haul. You don't want to look at any individual pick in isolation."

Will the Browns be one of those teams trading up, whether it be from the 12th pick into the top 10 or again into the bottom half of the first round to come away with three first-rounders? That remains to be seen and could depend largely on the actions of other teams.

"There are a lot of good players in the draft, so there are times at which you may trade down and maybe there are times that you trade up. Most often, you stay put," Brown said. "We do think we are positioned obviously very differently than where we were coming out of 2015 so the need to continue to acquiring high-value picks is less intense this year. We feel really good about having effectively two draft classes through the first two rounds and sitting at No. 65, as well.

"There will be a lot of good Cleveland Browns players coming off the board on Thursday and Friday night."

Take a look at the top defensive backs in the 2017 NFL Draft.

First Five

On Wednesday, Browns vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry acknowledged what many draft experts have said about this year's class of defensive backs. There's talent aplenty in a group that could see as many as four selected in the top 10 of next week's draft. The depth, though, is what makes it stand out, so we're looking at the five defensive backs who could be nice finds on Day 2 or 3 of the draft.

1. CB Adoree Jackson (USC) - Remember him? Once considered the top defensive back in this year's class, Jackson has fallen off a bit but still has plenty of talent and upside. He's one of the best corners available and can also give a team a boost on special teams with his returning ability.

2. CB Fabian Moreau (UCLA) - The former running back might have been a lock to be a first-round pick if not for a recent pectoral injury. At 6-foot and 206 pounds, he's one of the biggest cornerbacks in this year's class.

3. S Budda Baker (Washington) - It's a pick that would certainly make Danny Shelton happy. The hard-hitting safety is undersized but a favorite among many in the draft analyst community. He could help a team at both safety and nickel.

4. S Josh Jones (NC State) - Compared to Pittsburgh's Mike Mitchell by, Jones could be one of the hardest hitters in this year's safety class. He led the Wolfpack with 104 tackles last season and is projected as a second-round selection.

5. Sidney Jones (Washington) - He would have been a first-round pick if not for an unfortunate Achilles injury. Now, he could be a steal for a team willing to wait for him to recover.

How many days until the draft?


Draft news you might have missed

Small school spotlight

RB Kareem Hunt (Toledo) - The Willoughby native was a big-time producer with the Rockets, compiling 4,945 yards and 44 touchdowns over four seasons. He was at his best as a sophomore (1,631 yards, 16 TDs) and senior (1,475 yards, 10 TDs). Perhaps most importantly was Hunt's evolution as a bona fide pass-catcher, as he hauled in 41 passes for 403 yards after having just 152 yards combined in his first three seasons. Hunt was impressive at the Senior Bowl and is poised to contribute right away for whoever selects him, whether it be on Day 2 or 3 of the draft.

Did you know?

The last time three defensive players went in the top five of the draft was 2011. All three -- DE Von Miller, DT Marcell Dareus and DB Patrick Peterson -- have made at least one Pro Bowl.

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