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Cornerback may be rising to the top of Browns draft needs

Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.

As a result of John Dorsey’s mega-deal for Odell Beckham Jr. on March 12, the Browns don’t have a pick in the first round of the draft for the first time since 2008. Their first choice is in the middle of the second round, No. 49 overall.

This is one in a series analyzing what the Browns might do with the pick.

As the dust settles on John Dorsey’s second transaction season as GM of the Browns, there is one undeniable fact. Cornerback is one position that Dorsey has not yet addressed – but will.

Not that there was an urgent need at the top.

Outside starters Denzel Ward and Terrance Mitchell return, presumably healthy after bouts with concussions and a broken wrist, respectively. Also back is T.J. Carrie, who emerged as the team’s best nickel back.

That’s a good start, but depth has been weakened.

Reserves Briean Boddy-Calhoun and E.J. Gaines were not re-signed and departed in free agency.

Dorsey tipped off his desire to add depth when he expressed interest in veteran free agents Kevin Johnson and Bradley Roby. But both signed elsewhere.

Dorsey did retain two defensive backs from his Kansas City days – Phillip Gaines was re-signed and safety/cornerback Eric Murray was acquired in a trade for Emmanuel Ogbah.

Other cornerbacks on the roster are Tavierre Thomas, Ashton Lampkin, Robert Jackson and Justin Burris.

So, it’s not a stretch to say the need for a young, developmental cornerback capable of challenging for a starting spot in a couple years is real.

Such a prospect could be the target of Dorsey’s top pick at No. 49 overall in the second round.

There is no cornerback in this draft graded as highly as Ward, who was the No. 4 overall pick by the Browns last year. But as many as four could be taken in the first round. These include Washington’s Byron Murphy, LSU’s Greedy Williams, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin and Georgia’s Deandre Baker.

The next wave is from which Dorsey and his personnel staff may choose.

At the top of that second tier is another native Clevelander – Ward is from Macedonia – Justin Layne, a Benedictine High School product who rolled out of the Michigan State cornerback factory.

Layne is a 6-1 ¾, 192-pound converted wide receiver who is still learning the position but has the athletic and ball skills to merit a lot of attention among cornerback-needy teams.

At the NFL Combine, Layne said he thinks about staying home to play for the Browns “all the time. My dad [is] a diehard Browns fan.”

The second wave of cornerbacks includes nickel-projection Julian Love of Notre Dame, towering Joejuan Williams of Vanderbilt, press corner David Long of Michigan, Jamel Dean of Auburn and Amani Oruwariye of Penn State.

There is some indication Dorsey may wait until later in the draft to select a cornerback.

Late-round hopefuls Stephen Denmark of Valdosta State and Ka’Darr Hollman of Toledo reportedly were hosted by the Browns in pre-draft visits.

Given the Browns’ needs and their scouting, it wouldn’t be surprising if Dorsey selected one cornerback relatively early in the second or third rounds, and another one later.