General manager Andrew Berry has many paths to a successful NFL Draft.
The variety of routes is necessary for the three-day marathon, especially when so much is out of his control.
Berry isn’t scheduled to pick until No. 26 in the first round tonight, which could happen close to midnight depending on the pace of the first 25 picks. He isn’t up again until No. 59 on Friday night.
Despite as much preparation as Berry and his personnel staff did over the last three months, he has no way of knowing exactly how the draft will go for the Browns.
Here are a few directions to make sure it qualifies as a success:
CORNER THE MARKET
The Browns shouldn’t exit the first two rounds without a high-level cornerback. The position is among the most important on the roster in the pass-happy NFL and not yet a strength for the Browns. Denzel Ward is a legitimate No. 1 and Troy Hill was signed as an upgrade at nickelback, but the No. 2 outside starter remains shrouded in doubt.
Greedy Williams missed all of last season with a nerve injury in his shoulder, and although progress reports have been good, he’s still a large question mark. Even if he’s healthy, quality competition would improve the spot and provide necessary depth.
Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II should be the top target because Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn will be long gone. If Newsome is available at No. 26, it’s a no-brainer. If he’s around at No. 21, the Browns should offer a third-round pick to the Colts to move up and guarantee they get him.
If he doesn’t make it that far, Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley is a risk-reward option with tremendous potential but two back surgeries on his resume. If the Browns don’t trust the medical report, Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr., Georgia’s Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell and Washington’s Elijah Molden are candidates at Nos. 26 and 59.
The pool is deep enough that Berry must land one.
IN A RUSH
The urgency isn’t the same at defensive end, but the plan should be: Get one early.
If the top four corners are gone by No. 26, defensive end is the next-best option. It is also a vital position and there should be plenty of quality choices, including at least a few from Michigan’s Kwity Paye, Miami’s Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau, Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Penn State’s Jayson Oweh and Washington’s Joe Tryon.
If corner is the pick in the first round, pass rusher at No. 59 makes perfect sense. Houston’s Payton Turner would be a steal if he’s still on the board. Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham Jr., Texas’ Joseph Ossai and Oklahoma’s Ronnie Perkins could also be in the mix.
Berry made it clear last week the draft isn’t only about 2021. He’s also planning for the next three to five years. That’s important to remember when discussing end.
The free agent signings of Jadeveon Clowney and Takk McKinley greatly reduced the immediate need, but they’re on one-year contracts. A draft pick will have time to learn behind No. 1 overall picks Myles Garrett and Clowney without early expectations.
MOVING AND SHAKING
Berry describes himself as aggressive, and he needs to live up to that all weekend when it comes to trades.
Sitting and picking at No. 26 may turn out to be the best option. But there’s just as good a chance it won’t.
If that means trading up for Newsome, perfect. If it means sliding back into the second round to pick up a second-round pick in 2022, that works, too.
The deals should continue throughout the weekend. Berry has helped build the roster to a point where he can be bold in multiple ways.
He should not only trade to make sure he can draft players he really likes but try to add picks for next year. The extra picks in the third and fourth rounds this year should allow him to do just that.
KEEP ’EM COMING
While it’s doubtful Berry will keep all nine picks he enters with, the ones he makes on Days 2 and 3 remain important.
Receiver fits with Berry’s long-term vision. The position appears filled with the top six guys returning from a year ago, but Berry should add youth and speed — especially with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry set to turn 29 in November and combining for $30 million in salary in 2022. A deep receiver draft class is the perfect place to find it.
The same philosophy applies at guard, where Wyatt Teller is in the last year of his contract, and defensive tackle, where Andrew Billings and Malik Jackson are on one-year deals. A young quarterback who could develop into Baker Mayfield’s backup should also be a target.