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NFL Draft best available players for Cleveland Browns: Arnold Ebiketie, George Pickens

Long before the 2022 NFL Draft started with Thursday night’s first roundit always felt like the cleveland browns would start their draft Friday night at No. 44 with either a pass rusher or wide receiver.

Now that the Browns are 11 picks from getting involved with draft, that hasn’t changed. League-wide movement among wide receivers remains crazy, and in the short term, the Browns’ acquisition of Amari Cooper for a fifth- and sixth-round pick looks like supreme value shopping. But the Browns still need more juice in their receiving corps, and a remake of the defensive line remains both necessary and incomplete.

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Big board best available: Who’s left from Dane Brugler’s Top 300?

As expected, Thursday night was quiet for the Browns as six wide receivers were drafted and veteran wide receivers AJ Brown and Marquis Brown were traded. The Browns started their offseason by trading for Cooper, then six days later traded their first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024 as part of a six-pick package for quarterback deshaun watson.

It will be a long time before we can fairly judge the Browns’ deal for Watson and the assets committed to their new quarterback. The Browns have more quiet first rounds to come, and the Browns’ commitment to Watson suggests the front office is fine with that. On Thursday, the draft’s four best wide receivers and three best pass rushers were all taken before pick No. 13, where the Browns were slated to pick before the Watson trade.

Nine offensive linemen were drafted. The Browns might be looking for a developmental tackle later in the draft, but they’re not taking an offensive lineman in the second round. So nine linemen going in the first round has to be viewed as a positive for the Browns’ available options in the second round and beyond.

Options at No. 44

player position school

Logan Hall

FROM

Arnold Ebiketie

FROM

George Pickens

WR

David Ojabo

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Boye Mafe

FROM

Skyy Moore

WR

Travis Jones

SD

UConn

Drake Jackson

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Perrion Winfrey

SD

Jalen Tolbert

WR

The Browns enter Friday with pick No. 44 in the second round and Nos. 78 and 99 in the third. Though it wouldn’t be stunning to see them add a tight end or cornerback at some point, expect the focus of the team’s second selection to remain on the defensive line or the wide receiver group. In both groups, the Browns are looking more to the future than the present but will be looking for athleticism and versatility.

If he’s still available, the 6-foot-6, 283-pound Logan Hall is appealing to the Browns because he can play any spot across the defensive line. With Jadeveon Clowney still a free agent and both of last year’s starting defensive tackles gone, the Browns have roles and snaps to be won. Even if Clowney comes back, we’re assuming the Browns prefer a defensive end to a true interior player like Travis Jones or Perrion Winfrey.

George Pickens is big (6-foot-3), athletic and just turned 21 in March. He suffered a torn ACL last March but returned to play last season and showed the kind of vertical playmaking ability that will appeal to the Browns.

It feels like the Browns are more likely to trade down in the second round than up, but if they really covet one or two of the remaining prospects and one of those players is still available as the draft gets into the high 30s, a move up could happen. But the Browns have flexibility with their needs and their roster as a whole. There shouldn’t be any panic in the draft room about any player who goes among the first few picks Friday night.

The top remaining players who could interest the Browns in the top-300 ranking by The Athletic‘s draft guru, Dane Brugler, are Arnold Ebiketie (No. 28), Jones (34), Hall (37), Skyy Moore (39), David Ojabo (43), Pickens (47) and Boye Mafe (48).

Options at No. 78

player position school

Josh Pascal

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Khalil Shakir

WR

Alec Pierce

WR

Nik Bonito

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cameron thomas

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Calvin Austin III

WR

John Ridgeway

SD

Educated guesses for Friday night

one. Browns general manager Andrew Berry will make a trade. He has traded down on the second night of each of his first two drafts in charge to add a mid-round pick for the following year. There should be opportunities for the Browns to make a move, and it’s not like they are drafting for one specific need or scrambling to fill an immediate hole. Whether it’s moving up, moving down or even moving picks into either Saturday or 2023, the Browns are open for business.

two. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are slated to start Friday night with pick No. 33. The Bucs could be in the market for a defensive lineman, and it feels like at least three defensive linemen will be taken between picks 33 and 43. I can’t get away from the thought that the Browns go pass rusher and wide receiver, in some order, and I’ll guess that Pickens and three defensive linemen go before the Browns can get them. So I’ll stick with my pre-draft guess of the Browns taking Michigan edge rusher Ojabo, who’s recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon and will likely miss at least half of the 2022 season.

3. The Browns won’t trade Baker Mayfield on Friday. Not yet. though the Carolina Panthers are clearly the most likely trading partner for the Browns, the Panthers know the Browns have to trade Mayfield. The Panthers don’t have second- or third-round picks and will likely take their time after the draft to assess their options. The Panthers have enough cap space and a pretty glaring need, but this remains a complicated situation — and likely one that will linger at least a bit longer.

(Photo by Arnold Ebiketie: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

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