The 2020 NFL Combine has come and gone, and before you know it, Draft night will be here. The Cleveland Browns have 45 days to figure out who they’ll select, and of course a major part of player regulations is the NFL Combine. Team interviews are more important than on-field drills, but those have value as well. Here are how some Browns targets fared over the week in Indianapolis.
Draft Targets for the Cleveland Browns Stood Out at the NFL Combine
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa [Scouting Report]
The talk of the Combine, Wirfs started out by measuring in at 6’5″ 320lbs, prototypical size for an NFL tackle. Some analysts have been suggesting Wirfs move inside to guard in the pros, but his 34″ arms are certainly long enough for him to stick at tackle, where he was dominant in 2019.
He followed that up by jumping 36.5″ in the vertical, the best mark ever recorded by an OL. He then tied the all-time OL record with a 121″ broad jump. And his 4.85 40-yard dash paced all lineman this year, and placed him third-all time. Wirfs is legendarily athletic and played in a zone blocking scheme in college, making him a great fit for the Browns. He is incredibly strong and now has proven himself to be incredibly explosive. His tape shows a player who possesses fantastic short-area quickness and agility. He is a franchise cornerstone whether he stays on the right side or moves to left tackle, and if he does somehow last to the tenth pick, Cleveland should be running to the podium.
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
With how some of the other OL prospects performed, Thomas went under-the-radar. That seems to be a consistent trend for him; he ended the season as OT1 on most boards and has now fallen to OT3 or OT4 on many. That’s no fault of his own; he’s still the same player, and in fact, he proved to be an elite athlete and to possess elite length with his 36 1/8″ arms. Thomas placed top-six in the 3-cone and shuttle drills, posting better times than Wirfs. He was a three-year starter in the SEC, improved each season, and has the best film of any tackle in the class. He may not be amazing at any one thing, but he does practically everything well.
But that’s what you want out of your quarterback’s blindside protector, right? If the average fan isn’t noticing an offensive lineman’s play, that means he’s doing his job. Thomas may not be a legendary athlete, or stand 6’8″ 350lbs, but he is the most consistent tackle in the class, and although there is no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL Draft, Thomas is the safest tackle prospect, and could very well be on the board at 10; if he is, the Browns shouldn’t hesitate to take him.
Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
Cleveland doesn’t need just one tackle. They need two new starters, and perhaps one of the spots will be filled with a stop-gap veteran. If that is the case, it makes a lot of sense to draft a developmental OT prospect to take over in a year or two. And with developmental players, the more athletic they are, the better, especially in a zone scheme. Cleveland is a perfect fit, and not just because of his last name.
Of all the tackles in attendance, Cleveland’s drill ranks looked like this:
40-yard dash: 4.93 – 3rd
Vertical jump: 30″ – T – 10th
Broad jump – 111″ – 7th
Shuttle – 4.46 – 1st
3-cone – 7.26 – 1st
Since 2000, Cleveland’s shuttle time is the second-fastest among all OL, and his 3-cone comes in at 3rd. He needs to learn to time his punches better and has to get stronger, but he possesses the functional athleticism to be a top-tier tackle in a few seasons.
Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
It’s impossible to argue that Winfield Jr. isn’t a good football player. His tape shows a willing and physical tackler, very good range and instincts, and excellent ball skills. The only things that would hold him back from NFL success were injuries, size, and subpar athleticism. He is undersized, and does have a concerning injury history, but he proved to be a very good athlete. His 4.45 40 time was tied for third-fastest among safeties, and his 36″ vertical was tied for sixth. Running anywhere in the 4.4s would have been a huge win for Winfield, and his time alleviated concerns that perhaps he wouldn’t be able to cover the entire back end for a defense. As long as his medicals check out, Winfield Jr. would be an excellent pick at 41, and would transform a Browns secondary in desperate need of a playmaking safety.
Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
The Browns currently have Christian Kirksey, Mack Wilson, and Sione Takitaki as their starting linebackers for 2020. Kirksey is likely to be cut because of his contract, Wilson was one of the worst LBs in the league as a rookie, and Takitaki played a total of 105 defensive snaps. The position group needs a veteran or two to function as a stop-gap, but it also needs some young talent. Gay has some significant character concerns, including breaking his QB’s jaw and cheating on a chemistry test, but reports are that teams were able to clear up some of their concerns in meeting with him. If those check out, Gay will likely be a steal on Day 3. He has good size at 6’1″ 243lbs, and is a freak athlete.
The only LB to run a 40 faster than Gay’s 4.46 was Isaiah Simmons, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. His 39.5″ vertical placed second, and his 136″ broad jump first. General manager Andrew Berry places a large emphasis on character, and is unlikely to take risks like John Dorsey did, but this is a player Cleveland absolutely must do their homework on, because he has the potential to completely change what could end up being the weakest position group on the roster.
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