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X-Factor to Watch in the 2021 NFL Draft, Impact on the Cleveland Browns

The 2021 NFL Draft is unprecedented on multiple fronts, but the number of players who did not play in the 2020 season could play a major role.
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There are two major elements that could shake up this year's NFL Draft. One we don't know, which is access to thorough medical information and one we do, players who opted out in the 2020 season due to the pandemic and in the case of some PAC-12 schools, wildfires that impacted the Pacific coast.

The Cleveland Browns were not asked about their approach with players who opted out, but several teams were and gave pretty revealing thoughts on this wrinkle in this year's class.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones described players that opted out this past season as "compromised".

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert described it as a tie breaker.

"As I stated in the summer, if a player chooses to opt out for whatever reason, that's their decision and we will respect it," Colbert said. "However, if a player played in 2020 and those players are of equal value, the one that didn't play and the one that played, we'll take the one that played because we don't know what the opt-outs will be like in their first season back in football. 

We believe it's hard to sit this game out. Sometimes it happens because of injury, but this time it was pandemic-related for the most part. But we will take the players, again if they're close. It's not to say we're not gonna draft somebody that opted out. I couldn't say that. But if I have a choice and we have a choice, we'll take the one that played if their value is close."

New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman likened this situation to one and done in the NBA.

"There's nothing I can compare this to," said Gettleman, who currently has six choices, including No. 11 in the first round. "With a handful of these guys, it's almost like the NBA one-and-done: they go to college for a year and now, bang, they're in the NBA. So, you have to do it on a case by case basis. Listen, they made a decision to opt out. Who am I to judge? Things haven't changed, it's what you do between the white lines that give you your value as a player. Then, obviously you're judging the character piece as well."

Just how many teams echo the sentiments someone like Gettleman or Jones expressed is unclear, but it wouldn't take a significant amount of them for it to have a real impact.

Particularly with the PAC-12, that's a significant number of players that are projected to go highly. A number of the players that opted out could be of interest to the Browns.

Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech

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Gregory Rousseau, DE Miami(FL)

Joe Tryon, DE Washington

Paulson Adebo, CB Stanford

Jevon Holland, S Oregon

Thomas Graham Jr., CB Oregon

These are just the players who decided for themselves not to play. Small school players who saw their teams cancel the season are also in this mix and they didn't choose not to play. It was taken out of their hands.

It might not take much for a team to either have one of these prospect lose a tie for them to end up going almost a round later than they otherwise might. So if one player the Browns have targeted as someone they like ends up slipping, they might be able to get a nice value.

The one player that really stands out on this front is Adebo. Two years ago, he was considered one of the best corner prospects in the nation when he was a sophomore. He did not have a great junior year and 2020 was viewed as a potential bounce back year. Since he opted out, there was no bounce back and if teams also hold it against him for opting out, he could be a potential steal.

Between his athleticism, production and age, his upside may be a multiple Pro Bowl type player. He has work to do on his technique and try to become more consist overall, but he's got a ton of talent and the Browns might love what he can be in the secondary they've overhauled.

It's definitely something to keep an eye on as several prospects have been linked to the Browns in the first round including Farley, Tryon and Rousseau.

READ MORE: The Prospect that Scares Me Most for Browns