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NFL Draft: Fate of Duke Johnson will determine if Browns need to pick running back

The Browns are set at running back.

That would change as soon as Duke Johnson is traded.

Without a first-round pick, the drama surrounding the draft has been reduced for the Browns. But a significant element of suspense is whether general manager John Dorsey will deal the discontented Johnson, who’s proved to be an effective dual threat during his four years.

Johnson wasn’t satisfied with a diminished role last season and grew more frustrated when Dorsey signed Kareem Hunt in February.

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Hunt will be suspended for the first eight games, but the plan is for him to take the role of No. 2 back behind Nick Chubb when he returns. That makes Johnson expendable, so he’s asked to be traded sooner rather than later.

The draft seems like the perfect time for Dorsey to dump Johnson, whether it’s in a trade up or for a player in a similar untenable situation with another team.

If Johnson is traded, it would make sense for Dorsey to draft a back in the later rounds. After Chubb and Johnson on the depth chart is Dontrell Hilliard, an undrafted rookie last year.

Without Johnson, Dorsey should look for a third-down back capable of catching, picking up the blitz and spelling Chubb until Hunt is eligible.

TOP OF THE CLASS — Running backs

Josh Jacobs, Alabama: Had limited workload in career with the Crimson Tide (252 carries) but averaged 5.9 yards a carry and rushed for 16 touchdowns. Strong runner with versatility.

David Montgomery, Iowa State: Not a homer run hitter but productive, posting two 1,000-yard seasons and 24 touchdowns in his final two years with the Cyclones.

Miles Sanders, Penn State: Saquon Barkley’s former backup can play, too. In lone year as starter rushed for 1,274 yards, a 5.8 average and nine touchdowns.

Other notables: Damien Harris, Alabama; Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic; Darrell Henderson, Memphis

Keep an eye on for the Browns: Darwin Thompson, Utah State; Myles Gaskin, Washington; Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska

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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