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2020 NFL Draft

Sashi Brown: 'We feel like we need to have some great play' at wide receiver

Browns coach Hue Jackson is known throughout the NFL for his high-powered offenses. 

So on Tuesday, executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said the Browns are in search of playmakers on the outside -- be it through current members of the roster or newcomers in the coming months.

"We feel like we need to have some great play at the wide receiver position, whether it's from the slot, certainly outside," Brown said on the Cleveland Browns Daily show.

"I think what we lacked last year in terms of production was a little bit of what (former Browns receiver) Miles (Austin) brought in small doses the year before, the ability to make the contested catch, move the chains on third down when you need a guy to make a play for you."

After all, Jackson — previously the offensive coordinator for the high-flying Bengals -- had one of the better groups of wide receivers in the NFL last season in Cincinnati with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

While Pro Bowl tight end Gary Barnidge (who caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns) Travis Benjamin (who caught 68 passes for 966 yards and five scores) and running back Duke Johnson (who caught 61 passes for 534 yards and two touchdowns out of the backfield) were consistently reliable targets, Cleveland's production in the pass game drops off from there, as only Brian Hartline caught more than 28 passes or amassed more than 500 yards last season. 

"Travis brings a lot of elite speed and ability to get downhill but you can take that away from dropping six," Brown said of teams being able to lock in on Benjamin. "We need a guy in coverage when he's being followed and contested with a backer coming across or a safety coming across can still bring the ball down and we'll value being able to add someone that can add that dimension to our roster."

Indeed, Cleveland will have options to bolster its options in the pass game through free agency or the draft, the latter of which Brown and Jackson say is the preferred route going forward.

"I think to build a sustainable team, it's going to start in the draft room," Jackson said last week. "We're going to have to draft some really good football players."

And with the second and 32nd overall picks, Cleveland has the chance to add a playmaker for Jackson's high-powered offense if it so chooses.

On the heels of the combine in Indianapolis, Ole Miss receiver Laquan Treadwell, Ohio State's Michael Thomas, Baylor's Corey Coleman, Notre Dame's Will Fuller and TCU's Josh Doctson emerged as potential impact players for whatever teams select them come April.

Treadwell, who caught 82 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior last season, looked sharp during on-field drills and will run his 40-yard dash at his school's Pro Day. He also lacks no shortage of confidence.

"I wouldn't consider anyone tough in college. You had teams that had great players. I just never got a one-on-one matchup where I (thought) that guy would stop me or that guy would shut me down," Treadwell said when asked of his toughest opponent.

Fuller, the speedy receiver from Notre Dame, clocked the fastest 40 time of any receiver at the combine with a 4.32.

"I've been looked at as a deep-threat type of guy. I've heard that throughout the time I've been training," he told reporters at his podium session. "So I've been training hard to get the best speed time that I can."​

Thomas, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound receiver who emerged as a star for the Buckeyes in 2014, might see his stock trending upward after a solid combine showing in which he ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash. The nephew of former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson, Thomas left Ohio State with 1,580 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in two years as a starter.

Thomas said his "route running ability, my competitiveness, my hands" separate him from the rest of the receivers in the draft despite lower numbers than some of his counterparts. "(Teams) just watched the film, they wanted to know if I'm going hard every play and doing my job."

And for the Browns, a player like that could make the difference on an offense looking to break out this season.

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