In the fifth installment of the weekly “Mock Draft Wednesday” series1, I present you with mock draft version 5.0 of the Cleveland Browns 2020 NFL draft, with the team landing two premier tackle prospects, a former Buckeye wide receiver, a stud along the interior defensive line, and an FCS tight end with star potential. Additionally, in this scenario, the Browns sign free agent safety Anthony Harris (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings) to a four-year contract, fulfilling the team’s glaring need at the position with a cornerstone player.
The 6-foot-5, 322-pound junior could be a long-term solution for the Browns at the tackle position. Per Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network: “Phenomenal talent. He’s got grace and nimble feet despite his looming stature — making him a prototypical NFL offensive tackle prospect. He’s got a great presence about him in both pass sets and run blocking, very effective in physically dominating the opposition regardless of what direction he’s tasked with going. Impressive reach, incredible strength and a dynamic lower half…”
Per Pro Football Focus (“PFF”), the Hawkeye tackle allowed a quarterback pressure on only 3.5% of pass-block snaps (40 quarterback pressures on 1,138 pass-blocking snaps), while only allowing multiple pressures in two games in the 2019 regular season. Further, Wirfs 90.2 grade was the highest among all tackles in the Big Ten Conference who played a minimum of 325 offensive snaps (PFF), resulting in a First Team All-Big Ten selection and being named the conference lineman of the year. He is primed to protect quarterback Baker Mayfield for the foreseeable future.
Tristan Wirfs, OT, #Iowa:
• Athleticism (++)
• Fluid and efficient pass sets
• Effective second level climbs
• Aware to anticipate twists/stunts
• Resets his hands effortlessly
• Comfortable in space (+)
• Ideal fit in a zone blocking scheme pic.twitter.com/1nKhU6Mndn
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 14, 2020
The Browns have an immediate need at the right tackle position, assuming Chris Hubbard’s contract is terminated2 Hubbard struggled mightily in 2019, ranking 50th in pass-block grade (62.0) and 63rd in run-block grade (38.5) among the 65 offensive tackles who played at least 500 offensive snaps (PFF).
He could be replaced by the 6-foot-7, 328-pound Niang, who was a First-Team All Big-12 selection by Pro Football Focus in 2018. Per Crabbs: “Lucas Niang is a high-upside starter in the NFL. Niang’s mobility would make him a great fit in a zone style system and his length and range as a pass blocker make him an attractive option for teams with deeper passing concepts. There is some refinement needed in Niang’s footwork but he shows all the requisite physical skills to be a plus starter in the pros. Should find the field early and improve through the first few seasons. Should be healthy for the 2020 season.”
Lucas Niang TCU career:
1,027 Pass-block snaps
32 QB pressures allowed pic.twitter.com/4E2eWSvca4
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 31, 2020
One of the more surprising moves of the 2019 season was the lack of usage and playtime for wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who was quarterback Baker Mayfield’s favorite target and safety blanket in 2018. With Higgins set to hit the free agency market, wide receiver three behind Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry has become a need for this offense.
Hill accumulated 569 receiving yards on 51 receptions and ten touchdowns in his senior season with The Ohio State Buckeyes. His body control and catching ability are second to only a handful across FBS and would be a welcome addition to the Browns wide receiving corps.
Trautman has star potential at the next level. Per Jonah Tuls of The Draft Network: “Possesses excellent height, length, and frame at the tight end position. An explosive athlete with a good blend of speed and short-area agility at the top of his routes. Basketball background shows up at the catch point — boxes out defenders and leaps off the ground for the ball like a power forward. Has experience and production as a field stretcher. He knows how to stack defenders vertically in his attack over the middle. Came to college as a quarterback, so he is still very young in tight end years — plenty of untapped potential. Used as a chess piece who lines up all over the field — in-line, backfield, slot, and out wide.”
The 6-foot-6, 253-pound specimen recorded 916 receiving yards on 70 receptions (13.1 yards per reception) and 14 touchdowns his senior year with the Flyers on his way to being named the Pioneer Football League’s Offensive Player of the Year. Further, per PFF, he ranks top-three in both yards per route run and receiving grade at the position group since 2015.
Trautman is not only a dominant force in the passing game, but he is also well-versed in the run-blocking aspect of football. Case in point:
The Minnesota Vikings offense placed an emphasis on two-tight end sets under the tutelage of Kevin Stefanski, deploying “12” personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) on 35% of offensive plays, which was the second-most in the league (Sharp Football). As a result, the Browns will need another playmaker at the position in 2020 and I believe Trautman would be a near-perfect addition.
The Browns rush defense allowed an absurd 5.00 yards per carry in 2019, which were the most in franchise history. As such, the interior of the defensive line could use an upgrade alongside veteran Sheldon Richardson and there may not be a better suitor in the middle rounds of the draft than former Mizzou Tiger Jordan Elliot. Per Benjamin Solak of The Draft Network: “Has great length throughout his frame, ideal mass, and not much bad weight at all. Uses length and upper-body power extremely well when initiating contact with his hands to shock offensive linemen into the backfield and disrupt blocking designs in the running game…High-ceiling even considering his impressive production/film so far in 2019; the sky’s the limit.”
Jordan Elliott: The only Power-5 interior defender with elite 90.0+ run-defense AND pass-rush grades. pic.twitter.com/QqwQBmqhiD
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 11, 2020
I don’t think #Missouri DT Jordan Elliott is talked about enough as one of the better DT prospects in this class. Strong, long and slippery.
Brown/Kinlaw is the top DT tier. And IMO, Elliott might start the second DT tier. He’s battling Blacklock, Madubuike, Gallimore, etc. pic.twitter.com/LvIgisYR5e
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 6, 2020
Round 6, Pick 168 (via Arizona Cardinals) – Nate Landman | Linebacker (Colorado)
Browns defensive leader and Pro Bowl snub Joe Schobert is set to make some dough this offseason. Even if he is retained by the Andrew Berry regime (and I hope that he is), the Browns still have a depth need at linebacker behind second-year players Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki.
As a result, Colorado linebacker Nate Landman is the pick here. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior is known for his tackling ability, power, patience, and aggressiveness. There are some doubts regarding his man coverage ability, but has the opportunity for growth with the proper coaching under linebackers coach Jason Tarver.
Round 7, Pick 222 (via Green Bay Packers) – A.J. Green | Cornerback (Oklahoma State)
Green was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State, who finished his career with 147 tackles, six interceptions, and 21 passes defended. The cornerback is best known for his size (6-foot-1 and 190 pounds) and his physical style of play. He plays at his best when in press-man coverage, not dissimilar to current Browns cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ scheme emphasizes cover-1, which makes Green a seemingly natural fit in the system.
Who are your favorite prospects heading into the 2020 NFL Draft? What do you see as the team’s biggest needs?