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2020 NFL Draft

Why the Browns devoted so many picks to WRs and how they fit together

The Browns didn't have a specific number in mind when they entered the 2016 NFL Draft, but they made it clear that wide receiver was a priority.

What happened by the end of Cleveland's 14-pick draft was something of a milestone. Starting with Baylor's Corey Coleman in the first round, the Browns devoted four picks to wide receiver, equaling the number of picks allocated to the position in the previous six drafts combined.

"I said when I got here that I was looking to improve that position," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "I wanted to get some bigger targets on our football team, but I'm also very happy with the group we had. I think you can never have too much talent or competition at that position because I think it helps improve your quarterback position.

"You have to have targets for him to throw at, and we have accomplished that in this draft."

That opinion was shared among Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta. Though he stressed the haul of four receivers was a byproduct of Cleveland's draft board and not a preordained mission, Brown said the Browns covet playmakers at all positions, and wide receiver simply needed an injection of more options.

"It just so happened that early and then late again, there were some wide receivers that were available to us that we liked and did add," Brown said.

The Browns used their first of four fifth-round picks Saturday when they selected UCLA wide receiver Jordan Payton with the No. 154 pick.

As he broke down the team's four new receivers Monday on Cleveland Browns Daily, Berry put them into two groups. In one is Coleman and Auburn's Ricardo Louis, the No. 114 overall pick in the fourth round, and the other features fifth-rounders Jordan Payton (UCLA) and Rashard Higgins (Colorado State).

Berry used the term "burners" to describe Coleman and Louis, who was a standout at the NFL Combine for his top times in a number of the exercises. The threat both pose as deep threats who can stretch the defense was alluring to the Browns, who lost top big-play threat Travis Benjamin in free agency.

Coleman, in particular, was coveted for his explosiveness and ability to change the game in a single play. It's why Cleveland, with its pick of any wide receiver in the draft, went with him at the No. 15.

"It's hard to find players that can change the complexion of the game with a single touch. Those are the guys that scare defensive coordinators in the NFL," Berry said. "With Corey, We felt like he can absolutely do that at the NFL level."

All Payton and Higgins did at the collegiate level was produce at record levels within their respective programs. Both finished their careers as their program's all-time leader in receptions, and Higgins also holds marks for yards and touchdowns.

Berry said they each fit into the "possession mold" within Cleveland's offense. Because of his background in a pro-style offense, considers Higgins the most "pro-ready" of the Browns' four newest receivers.

"Between those four," Berry said, "we think we can add a lot to that room."

The Browns selected Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins on Saturday with their first of two fifth-round compensatory picks.

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