Receiver vs. pass rusher: What direction will the Cleveland Browns go with its first three draft picks?

2022 NFL draft

Cleveland has made big splashes in the offseason with the additions of Deshaun Watson at quarterback and Amari Cooper at receiver.

But the Browns are still in a holding pattern with receiver Jarvis Landry and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, as it’s possible both could return to the team, according to media reports.

In other words, Cleveland’s offseason needs haven’t changed much since the big Watson and Cooper trades, says ESPN’s Jake Trotter.

Can the Browns address those needs through the draft, even after trading away some of its picks, including its first-rounder? Cleveland has seven picks in the upcoming draft, including three in the top 100: pick No. 44 (second round), and pick Nos. 78 and 99 (both third round).

Here’s a few possibilities:

Round 2

Positional breakdown

There are 18 pass rushers ranked among the top 100 prospects, according to the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, and they’re all evenly distributed with six ranked in the first-round range, six in the second-round range and six in the third-round range.

On the other hand, there are 14 wide receivers ranked among the top 100 prospects, but they’re all bunched up in the first round (six) and third round (eight).

Final verdict

This is an easy one: Cleveland would be over-drafting a receiver if the Browns draft one in the second round, so the call here is for the team to draft a pass rusher in Round 2. Potential names include Houston’s Logan Hall, Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie and San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas.

Round 3

Positional breakdown

Cleveland can now focus on finding the best remaining wide receiver with one of its two third-round picks.

Potential players who may be available at pick No. 78 include Georgia’s George Pickens, Alabama’s John Metchie, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, Clemson’s Justyn Ross and Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson.

However, all come with warts:  Pickens, Metchie and Ross all have an injury history, Pierce may struggle to separate from coverage, and Robinson’s size may limit him to slot receiver-only.

Final verdict

The 6-foot-3, 211-pound Pierce, a senior, is probably the safest pick. He’s not going to give you a lot of yards-after-catch and lacks elusiveness, but he should be a solid possession receiver who plays with a physical playing style and who can help on special teams.

But why stop there?

Cleveland could double-dip at the position. Pierce is by no means slow – he ran a 4.41-second 40 at the Combine – but he’s not a speed burner, and neither is Cooper. Memphis’ Calvin Austin III, though, would give the Browns the type of speed and deep-play ability they’ve been lacking in recent years. His 4.32-second 40 was the third-fastest among receivers at the Combine. Austin should be available in the third or maybe even fourth round due to his size. At 5-foot-8, 170-pounds, Austin is likely limited to slot receiver, but he can also serve as a punt and/or kick returner on special teams.

Which direction will Cleveland take with its first three picks? Find out in Fanspeak’s latest Browns mock draft.

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