The NFL Draft played perfectly into the Browns’ hands Thursday night in the first round.
They were desperate for a left tackle, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills fell into their laps at No. 10 and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta declared he had been the top-rated tackle on their board entering the night.
Will something similar happen Friday night in the second round?
There’s a good chance.
The Browns’ biggest remaining needs are safety, linebacker and defensive end, in that order, and the options remain plentiful and attractive after 32 picks.
Safety is particularly enticing after not one was selected Thursday.
Alabama’s Xavier McKinney was considered a likely first-rounder but is still on the board. The Browns are scheduled to pick at No. 41, so eight more teams would have to pass on him.
If McKinney is gone, LSU’s Grant Delpit, Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr., Cal’s Ashtyn Davis, Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn and Lenoir-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger are other exciting possibilities at safety.
A specific defensive end could cause the Browns to wait on a safety until the third round, where they have pick Nos. 74 and 97. Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa and Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos are the ends that jump out.
If the Browns pick an end at No. 41, they could have him learn behind veteran Olivier Vernon, or insert the rookie into the starting lineup and cut Vernon to save $15.25 million in 2020.
A linebacker taken Friday night would enter a competition for a starting spot in a shallow linebacker pool. Wisconsin’s Zack Baun, Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither and Mississippi State’s Willie Gay Jr. are options in the second round, and Ohio State’s Malik Harrison and Wyoming’s Logan Wilson in the third round.
Receiver is another consideration, although the depth of the position in the draft could allow the Browns to wait until the third or fourth round to find a complement to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. If the Browns are looking for a wideout early, USC’s Michael Pittman, Baylor’s Denzel Mims, Penn State’s KJ Hamler and Clemson’s Tee Higgins are possibilities at No. 41.
Round 2 starts at 7 p.m.