The offensive tackle class was all they were expected to be and more at this year's scouting combine. Slated to pick 10th overall, the Cleveland Browns are in the market for one of them. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network is saying Tristan Wirfs of Iowa was the Browns dream target and believes his workout puts him out of their range. Further, the Browns could look to trade back and target Ezra Cleveland of Boise State.
Tristan Wirfs was the offensive tackle most coveted by the Cleveland Browns but he is assuredly out of their reach in round one now after his sensational workout on Friday night. So where do they look? It’s still very early but a source today further confirmed what I posted on Friday – the Browns likes Ezra Cleveland so trading down 8-to-10 slots in round one and then selecting the Boise State junior would be a contingency option. - Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network
There are a few things going on here, most of which are perfectly reasonable. First, the idea that the Browns would love Wirfs is hardly a surprise. Not only is Wirfs an incredibly gifted athlete, but he went to a school that specializes in teaching zone blocking. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa's head coach, is one of the most highly regarded teachers when it comes to the offensive line on the planet.
The Browns are going to run the wide zone scheme employed with the Minnesota Vikings last year when Kevin Stefanski was their offensive coordinator. It's an easy connection to make that the Browns would love Wirfs for their offense.
Likewise, Ezra Cleveland put in the second best workout for an offensive tackle at the combine this year. Tall, athletic, with outstanding movement skills, he looked like a better version of Brian O'Neill, the Vikings current right tackle. They both look like tight ends and are incredibly light on their feet for the position. Cleveland is 15 pounds heavier than O'Neill was coming out and has an even better athletic profile.
Beyond that, it would hardly be a surprise if the Browns were looking to move down in the draft. While plenty of people will say it's because that's what they always have done when they've been run by people who embrace analytics and math, the reality is the Browns only have seven picks in this draft and could use more assets to address a number of needs.
If the calculus for the Browns is they believe Cleveland, for what they do, is not a significant drop off, they can move down ten spots, add assets, that could make a ton of sense of them.
Some may view this as bad news, seeing that Wirfs, the player the Browns may covet the most won't be available to them. Wirfs was expected to test at an incredibly high level. It's not a game changer so much as confirming what teams already expected, the Browns included. Wirfs may well be gone before the Browns select. The Browns will certainly look into any number of trade possibilities. But those are two possibilities out of several.
For one thing, Andrew Thomas of Georgia, who at least on performance, was the best tackle in the country this past season, tested like an elite tackle. His numbers may not have been as spectacular Wirfs, but they certainly solidified his position in this draft class. It's difficult to envision Thomas goes any lower than 11th pick, currently owned by the New York Jets. He has the movement skills the Browns want in their zone scheme, is a tremendously effective pass protector, possesses sky high potential and ballast.
The Browns may not get Wirfs. They might have to 'settle' for Thomas with the 10th pick of the draft when so much of the college season, that looked like a pipe dream. The Browns could also move back and select someone like Cleveland or Josh Jones from Houston. The biggest need on the team is offensive tackle and this draft class is rich with options that not only appear capable at playing the position at a high level, but fit their scheme. This draft looks set to play out in a way that benefits the Browns, but it's up to general manager Andrew Berry to make the most of it.