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Analysis

NFL Draft: Ranking the best prospects by position, and examining how the Browns fit at each spot

SCOTT PETRAK’S TOP OF THE CLASS 

Ranking the top players in the draft at each position.


QUARTERBACKS

Sam Darnold, Southern California: The best combination of all the desired traits. Has a strong arm and good size, is accurate and athletic, makes plays in the clutch and has no off-field concerns. A strong candidate to be the No. 1 pick.

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Josh Rosen, UCLA: The best pure thrower in the draft. Some in the league question his personality but I like his intelligence and curiosity and believe he loves the game. The true concern is durability after a shoulder injury in 2016 and two concussions in 2017.

Josh Allen, Wyoming: Has the best size (6-foot-5, 233 pounds) and the strongest arm, by far. But his accuracy wasn’t good enough, with a career 56.2 completion percentage. Many believe that can’t be improved significantly once a quarterback reaches the NFL.

Other notables: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; Lamar Jackson, Louisville; Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

How the Browns fit: As always, they need a quarterback. But this year, for the first time since 1999, they seem poised to take one with the No. 1 pick. The favorite remains Darnold, despite rumblings for Allen and Mayfield. The Browns have been so bad at the position for so long, they might draft a second quarterback in the middle or late rounds.


RUNNING BACKS

Saquon Barkley, Penn State: Considered by many a generational runner. Has size, speed and big-play ability.

Derrius Guice, LSU: A strong, physical runner with 2,638 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in the last two years.

Sony Michel, Georgia: Split time with Nick Chubb but still managed a lot of production. Also a threat catching the ball out of the backfield.

Other notables: Ronald Jones, USC; Rashaad Penny, San Diego State; Nick Chubb, Georgia

How the Browns fit: Despite having Duke Johnson and free agent acquisition Carlos Hyde, they seem interested in adding another runner. The talented class provides lots of options.


WIDE RECEIVERS

Calvin Ridley, Alabama: Had best year as a freshman with 89 catches, 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. Fast and a good route runner.

D.J. Moore, Maryland: Only 6-foot, but runs a 4.4 and caught 80 pass for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Could be the first wideout picked.

Courtland Sutton, SMU: Has the best size of the top prospects at 6-3 and was highly productive, with 193 catches for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns over the last three years.

Other notables: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M; Anthony Miller, Memphis; Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame

How the Browns fit: Need a receiver to challenge Corey Coleman for playing time, and as insurance for Josh Gordon. Someone with size would be ideal.


TIGHT ENDS

Hayden Hurst, South Carolina: Former minor league baseball pitcher had two strong years with the Gamecocks and has the physical tools to succeed.

Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State: Small-school product has good athleticism and a lot of upside.

Mike Gesicki, Penn State: Reliable hands and great leaping ability (41½ inches) make him a desirable target. Not much of a blocker.

Other notables: Ian Thomas, Indiana; Mark Andrews, Oklahoma; Chris Herndon, Miami

How the Browns fit: All set after drafting Seth DeValve and David Njoku the last two years and signing veteran Darren Fells in free agency.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame: Might be the best player in the draft. Feels like a can’t-miss prospect.

Isaiah Wynn, Georgia: Played guard and tackle for the Bulldogs but at 6-3 projects as a guard in the NFL.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame: Not worth a top-10 pick, but the best of the tackle group.

Other notables: guard Will Hernandez, UTEP; tackle Kolton Miller, UCLA; tackle Jamarco Jones, Ohio State; center Billy Price, Ohio State

How the Browns fit: Have only one need, but it’s a big one — someone to replace Joe Thomas at left tackle. Will probably try to add someone in first two rounds to compete with Shon Coleman for the starting job.


DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State: Equally adept at rushing the passer and stopping the run. Can play right or left end and projects as a top-five pick.

Vita Vea, Washington: Powerful and athletic nose tackle at 350 pounds.

Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio: Small-school end had 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss last season.

Other notables: tackle Maurice Hurst, Michigan; end Harold Landry, Boston College; end Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

How the Browns fit: Not a pressing need, but a team can never have enough up front, at end or tackle. An impact player in either area could be added.


LINEBACKERS

Roquan Smith, Georgia: Finished 10th in Heisman Trophy voting. Gets to the ball consistently, totaling 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in his final year.

Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech: Hasn’t turned 20 and has tons of potential. Is 6-4½, 253 pounds and runs a 4.54 40.

Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State: Played eight-man football in high school in Idaho and was a one-year starter in college. Should have plenty of room for growth.

Other notables: Rashaan Evans, Alabama; Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida; Jerome Baker, Ohio State

How the Browns fit: The one position that hasn’t been addressed by general manager John Dorsey. The starting group appears set, but depth could be added later in the draft.


CORNERBACKS

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: Athleticism and intelligence allow him to play corner, nickel and safety. Has great character and could help change the culture of a losing organization like the Browns.

Denzel Ward, Ohio State: May be the best true corner in the draft. Lacks ideal size at 5-11, 183 pounds but makes up for it with blazing speed — 4.32 in the 40.

Josh Jackson, Iowa: Good length and showed impressive ball skills with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed in 2017.

Other notables: Jaire Alexander, Louisville; Mike Hughes, Central Florida; Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

How the Browns fit: They could use a No. 1 corner, even after addressing the position in free agency. Dorsey values speed in the secondary.


SAFETIES

Derwin James, Florida State: A favorite of Profootballfocus. Has position versatility, including nickelback.

Ronnie Harrison, Alabama: Teamed with Minkah Fitzpatrick in the backend for the Crimson Tide. Hits with power.

Justin Reid, Stanford: Five interceptions in final season and runs a 4.4.

Other notables: Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee; Jessie Bates, Wake Forest; Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech

How the Browns fit: They drafted Jabrill Peppers in the first round last year and traded for Damarious Randall in free agency, so it’s no longer a pressing need.

 

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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