Welcome to the seventh installment of the weekly “Mock Draft Wednesday” series1. In this scenario, the two most coveted left tackles of the 2020 draft class (Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas) were both picked before the Cleveland Browns were on the clock at No. 10 overall. As a result, the team maximized their draft capital and positioning by trading their first-round pick (No. 10 overall) and a seventh-round pick (No. 245 overall) to the Miami Dolphins for their first-round pick (No.18 overall), one of their second-round picks (No. 56 overall) and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft2.
This trade-down approach netted the team, in my opinion, the third-best offensive tackle for the Browns’ offensive scheme and a big-bodied/sure-handed wide receiver to go along with perennial Pro Bowlers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Providing stability on the offensive line was/is one of the highest priorities this off-season for the Cleveland Browns. The right tackle postilion was addressed in free agency via the signing of former Tennessee Titan Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42 million contract. The left side of the line remains a sizable question mark with only Kendall Lamm as an option currently on the roster. Insert Josh Jones.
The left tackle was the highest-graded player at the position group and third-highest graded overall offensive player by Pro Football Focus (“PFF”) in 2019, trailing only Oregon’s Penei Sewell and LSU’s Joe Burrow. Additionally, Jones only allowed four quarterback pressures in 2019 on his way to receiving the highest pass-block grade (86.8) on true pass-block snaps (PFF).
Jones wrote the textbook on durability, having missed only two games in four seasons with the Cougars (45 total starts). He is more than capable of protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield’s blindside for the foreseeable future.
I love watching Houston LT Josh Jones. Nice combo block to get to the second level easily pic.twitter.com/33pfBUJtYY
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 27, 2020
Josh Jones, OT, #Houston:
• Springy pass sets (+ athlete)
• ++ Upside
• Strong hands/grip at the POA
• Huge factor in the screen game
• Plays through the echo of the whistle
• GREAT fit in a zone blocking scheme pic.twitter.com/wnTGIhWbeO
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 3, 2020
The Browns signed 32-year-old Andrew Sendejo (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings) to a one-year, $2.25 million contract this off-season, providing depth at a position of need for the squad. This signing, along with the presence of second-year safety Sheldrick Redwine, should not preclude the team from drafting a potential upper-echelon free safety in 2020 in Winfield, Jr.
Winfield, Jr. was selected as a unanimous First Team All-American for his 2019 performance (the first Gopher to do so since 2005). The sophomore recorded 80 total tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and intercepted seven passes (4th-most in FBS) this season. He is a playmaker by every definition of the word, with elite athleticism, ball skills, and coverage potential. The injury concerns are there (he only played four games in each of the 2017 and 2018 seasons), but let’s hope that is behind the youngster.
The 6-foot-4, 223-pound wide receiver put on a show at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, with a 4.52 40-yard dash, 36.5-inch vertical jump, and 4.14 20-yard shuttle, which further solidified what was displayed on game film. The former Fred Biletnikoff Award finalist (awarded to college football’s most outstanding wide receiver) and second-team Associated Press All-American had his best season as a senior in 2019, accumulating 101 receptions for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns. Further, per PFF, Pittman only had a 2.8% drop rate throughout his collegiate career. With sure-hands, size, toughness, and a wide catch-radius, Pittman could serve as the perfect complement to the aforementioned starting duo.
Watching #USC WR Michael Pittman vs. Utah…
• 10 receptions, 232 yards, 1 TD
• 4 receptions of 25+ yards
• Quick game (speed out, slant, hitch)
• Works back to the ball on curl routes
• Verticals from the slot
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 27, 2020
Gay’s best season came as a Sophomore, wherein he totaled 48 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks and two interceptions. Unfortunately, his breakout campaign was subsequently overshadowed by multiple suspensions, resulting in a shortened junior season. If the off-the-field incidents and character are approved by the front office and team evaluators, Gay could prove a meaningful member of the linebacker corps.
Per Joe Marino of The Draft Network, “Explosive and urgent football player than can close down distances in a hurry. A thick, stocky frame that packs a violent punch when he makes contact. Has the quickness and fluidity needed to navigate tight spaces and work in coverage? Consistent tackler that rarely whiffs while bringing tremendous hitting power and contact balance to the table. He has ideal traits to execute in coverage, making him an every-down option. Shows strong anticipatory skills in coverage and has the physical ability to win in man coverage. Should be a dynamic blitzer and special teams weapon in the NFL.”
The Browns rush defense allowed an absurd 5.00 yards per carry in 2019, which were the most in franchise history. Additionally, the interior of the defensive line failed to generate any sort of meaningful pass rush. In order to address the issue, the team signed familiar face Andrew Billings, who previously played the entirety of his three-year career with the division-rival Cincinnati Bengals. Even with this signing, the Browns could use some depth alongside Billings, Sheldon Richardson, and Larry Ogunjobi 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
Depth at the edge defender is a position of need for this team behind Myles Garrett, Oliver Vernon, and the newly-signed Adrian Clayborn.
In 2019, Highsmith had the sixth-best pass-rush grade in the country (91.4), coupled with 16 sacks that were the second-most (PFF). Granted, this was against Conference USA level talent, but the lofty numbers are worth mentioning. With some fine-tuning technique-wise by defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, the former 49er could add to his above-average agility and speed that tore apart lesser competition.
Round 6, Pick 188 (via Arizona Cardinals) – Lamar Jackson | Cornerback (Nebraska)
There is no such thing as rostering too many quality defensive backs in the modern-day NFL. As such, Lamar Jackson is the pick here. Throughout his career with his Cornhuskers as a three-year starter, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound cornerback only allowed a completion percentage of 42.9% (PFF), while also accumulating 92 solo tackles, 22 passes defended, and five interceptions. Per Dan Kadar of SB Nation: “The first, obvious thing you notice about Jackson is his size. There just aren’t many 6’3, 215-pound cornerbacks out there. And the key to being that big at cornerback is utilizing it. Jackson often does in how he reroutes receivers and gets his hands on them at the line. If a team needs a corner who can handle 6’3 or 6’4 wide receivers, Jackson is your man. He is a little limited, though, as being an outside cornerback. He’s not the fastest on the field, and speedy receivers do give him trouble. His size also limits his flexibility and how quickly he can flip his hips and keep up on complex routes. Some may like him more as a safety.”
Who are your favorite prospects heading into the 2020 NFL Draft? What do you see as the team’s biggest needs?