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2020 NFL Draft

Sashi Brown: 'We're trying to build a group that's going to be together for a long time'

The Browns, who added 10 new faces to what's already the league's youngest team, have spoken of the 2017 NFL Draft as something of a turning point for the organization.

At the very least, they've assembled what executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown has long described as a "core nucleus of young talent" to be molded under second-year coach Hue Jackson.

That nucleus, of course, got a big boost this past weekend, which saw Cleveland use a series of shrewd moves to net three first-round picks, including former Texas A&M defensive end and first-overall pick Myles Garrett, former Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers (No. 25 overall) and former Miami tight end David Njoku (No. 29 overall).

They also snagged former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, once thought to be a top-10 pick, at No. 52 and Charlotte defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi at No. 65, both of whom the Browns expect to seriously compete for playing time.

In all, the past two drafts have netted Cleveland 24 new players, four first-round draft picks and three second-rounders. Forty-six members of its 79-man roster are in either their first or second NFL season, still learning the landscape of the league and coming into their own as professionals.

That dynamic is partly by design, Brown said.

"We like guys that are arrow up. The longer the arrow is up, the better for us," Brown said Saturday. "We're trying to build a group that is going to be together for a long time. For us, that is the really great thing about the last draft class, this draft class and the next one."

Take a look at all 10 picks in Cleveland's 2017 Draft class.

Indeed, Cleveland added a record 14 draft picks last year, including wide receiver and first-round pick Corey Coleman and defensive end/second-rounder Emmanuel Ogbah. The Browns are also poised to add another 12 picks — including two first-rounders and three second-rounders — in the 2018 draft.

It also just so happens that many of Cleveland's players were underclassmen who left school early. Njoku, who started nine career games at Miami, won't turn 21 until July. Kizer, who played two seasons at Notre Dame, turns 22 next January.

That youth, Brown said, is more of a coincidence than anything else, but "says something about what they're likely going to be when they're 24, 25, 26" and enter the prime of their NFL careers."

It's all part of Cleveland's plan to build a sustainable franchise that can win for years to come. To be sure, Brown admitted it's also a dynamic that "presents a hell of a challenge" for Jackson and the coaching staff.

"He has so much youth that he can't rely on that veteran presence in the locker room and on the field, but it also presents a tremendous opportunity and challenge for the organization in terms of if we get these guys on track, they are going to playing together for a long time," he said.

"They're all under four-year contracts and five for the first-rounders. To be able to put that group together for him as he looks out in two or three years on that field, these guys have been in his system for a while and will be in his system for a while. That's our strategy and a big piece of our plan."

Jackson, who said he feels more "confident and comfortable" with the state of the roster, also made clear the Browns can't just look promising on paper.

"I'll know more about them when I can get them on the field," he said. "It's the second year in this opportunity for me with our coaches, with a new defensive staff and obviously with this group here. I think we're better.

"Now, how much better we are? We'll find that out as we go," Jackson continued, "but I feel more comfortable and confident in our guys that are in the locker room and that they know what to expect and how we want to play. I think we did a great job of drafting to our identity and what we want to become here at the Cleveland Browns."

Added Brown: "This is obviously a good group. We set ourselves up next year for another good group to come in.

"We want to perpetually be getting better," he said. "We're not going to rest now."

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