<
>

Wide receiver, kicker and Baker Mayfield: What to watch from the Cleveland Browns this NFL draft

BEREA, Ohio -- For the first time in seemingly forever, the NFL draft figures to be relatively uneventful for the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns, who twice drafted No. 1 overall in the past five years, don’t have a first-round pick heading into Thursday, having traded away their 2022, 2023 and 2024 first-round selections to acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.

But that doesn’t mean Cleveland won’t have opportunities to improve its already talented roster this weekend. Here’s what to watch for in what should be a much different type of a draft for Browns fans compared to the recent past.

Could Cleveland trade into the first round?

Anything is possible in the draft. But by general manager Andrew Berry’s own admission last week, the odds are against it.

“I would never rule out anything,” said Berry when asked about the possibility of moving back into the first round. “I would say just candidly, I think it’s unlikely. But I don’t want to say anything in absolutes because you just never know how situations arise. ... We have to be flexible with the situation.”

The Browns will be flexible and they will monitor potential opportunities. But given Cleveland’s depleted draft capital due to the Watson trade, it’s hard to see the Browns packaging together even more picks just to move up.

Who will the Browns target at No. 44 overall?

ESPN NFL draft insider Mel Kiper Jr. has the Browns taking UConn defensive tackle Travis Jones with their first pick, noting that Jones is a “nose tackle who can swallow up double-teams and free up the linebackers behind him."

Defensive tackle is a position of need for the Browns, though Berry recently noted the team is planning on Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai “to step up into increased roles” up front. While Cleveland could take a defensive tackle on Day 2, it seems more likely the Browns, like last year, address defensive tackle in free agency or via trade, which would free them up to select a wide receiver. The receiver position is their biggest need offensively, even after the trade for Amari Cooper.

Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, Alabama’s John Metchie III and Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce could be among the options at wide receiver for the Browns in the second round. And any one of them could have a significant role at receiver alongside Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz.

“Honestly, it’s best player possible,” Berry said when asked what type of receiver Cleveland could target in the draft. “Some guys will produce because they’re great route runners, they can separate and have great hands. Some guys can create because they can produce after the catch. Some guys are vertical threats. ... [We have] no particular preference as long as they can create an impact.”

Could Cleveland draft a kicker again?

The Browns obviously saw what drafting a kicker did for the Cincinnati Bengals, who took Evan McPherson in the fifth round last year. As a rookie, McPherson converted several key kicks in the playoffs for the Bengals during their unexpected run to the Super Bowl.

The Browns, meanwhile, continue to have issues at kicker since selecting Austin Seibert in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. Seibert lasted little more than a season in Cleveland, and the Browns have been scrambling ever since.

The draft seems to offer several compelling options at kicker, notably LSU’s Cade York and Texas’ Cameron Dicker. The Browns have limited draft picks going forward. But finally resolving their kicking struggles would be well worth a selection in the middle rounds if the team believes such a kicker is there. Look for Cleveland to seriously consider it.

What’s next for QB Baker Mayfield?

Mayfield remains on the Browns roster more than a month after Cleveland traded for Watson. The Browns, however, could have an opportunity to swing a Mayfield trade this week during the draft.

The team to watch appears to be the Carolina Panthers. If they pass on a quarterback with the sixth overall pick, that could grease the wheels for a Mayfield trade to Carolina, which struck out in its own pursuit of Watson. Other teams, as well, could be looking to see what happens at quarterback in their drafts before circling back to potential Mayfield trades.

If Mayfield is not traded around the draft, he could remain on Cleveland’s books for the foreseeable future as the Browns wait for a quarterback injury elsewhere -- or until Cleveland decides to eat enough of his $19 million salary to make a trade palatable for another team.