By Tim Bielik, cleveland.com | Posted January 28, 2019 at 03:13 PM | Updated January 29, 2019 at 06:08 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns are one of the most intriguing teams entering the offseason following a 7-8-1 record. Armed with 11 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, a massive amount of cap space and a big draw for free agents in quarterback Baker Mayfield, they have plenty of room to make noise.
But considering that the team should contend for a playoff spot in 2019, having 11 rookies on the roster probably won’t happen.
That means trading up, something the Browns haven’t often done in the early rounds in recent years. Who could they move for?
Here are some players that could be trade-up options from the Browns picks at No. 17 and 49.
Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Gary enters the draft as one of the more unique players at the top. He has defensive tackle size, and the athletic ability to move outside.
He provides a pass rush from the edge and the interior.
One concern is he doesn’t have the stat line that other top prospects have with only 9.5 career sacks and 23 tackles for loss.
With the depth at defensive line, one is bound to slide. If Gary is that guy, the Browns could make a move up and put him opposite Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi, putting him in a situation where teams will target his less in pass protection. His versatility makes him valuable, and he could give the Browns more athleticism up front.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Oliver is arguably as talented as any player in the draft. The question that comes up with him is his size, or lack of for a defensive tackle in the NFL.
The question will be if the teams at the top of the draft ignore what he isn’t and realize what he is: a disruptive force in a game where interior pass rush is more and more important.
Oliver is less likely to slide than Gary because of his pure talent and production at Houston. The Browns need a defensive tackle. And if Oliver slides outside the top 10, they could make a call to move up and add him to their young defensive talent.
Devin White, LB, LSU
Linebacker is a need on the team that isn’t as pronounced as defensive line or offensive tackle. What happens with Jamie Collins and his contract will be something to watch in the next few weeks. And if he is released, there’s room for a third linebacker in a base 4-3 next to Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert, or to rotate in nickel or dime situations.
The team to watch with White will be the Bengals at No. 11, who might need a linebacker more than anyone in the draft right now.
If White falls past Cincinnati, then he might not last long if a team like the Browns wants to move for him.
Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
It might seem odd to suggest the Browns could trade up for a cornerback after just drafting a Pro Bowler in Denzel Ward last season. But just as you can never have enough 3-point shooters in the NBA, you can never have enough good corners in football.
But Williams could be a great complement to Ward. At 6-foot-3, Williams has the size and length that Ward doesn’t have, which could give the Browns a corner for tall receivers and one for shorter, faster ones.
The top two tiers in the draft right now are very fluid. There’s a good fit between Williams and the Browns that a trade up for him could help add strength to the secondary.
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Now that the Browns have their quarterback in Mayfield, there’s two things the Browns need to do:
1. Protect him
2. Give him weapons
When it comes to step No. 1, Williams is considered the best offensive tackle in the class. If the Browns deem him much better than West Virginia’s Yodny Cajuste, Washington State’s Andre Dillard and Ole Miss’ Greg Little among others, he should be a trade-up target.
The question is if he will drop down into trade range. It depends on whether teams thing he can play tackle, or if he is better as a guard like Greg Gabriel of Pro Football Weekly suggested.
Williams was good as a tackle at Alabama, and could be good in Cleveland if John Dorsey decides he is a tackle.
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Moving on to step two in the plan to enhance Mayfield is looking at a player he knows very well.
Brown could go in the first round because of his remarkable speed. But he could slide depending on how concerned teams are about his lack of size at 5-foot-10, 168 pounds.
Dorsey’s recent history, which includes Antonio Callaway and Tyreek Hill, suggests he likes speed at receiver. Brown, who is the cousin of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, has speed and lots of it. The Browns need a game breaker at receiver. And given Marquise’s history with Mayfield, the two could reunite if he indeed falls.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech
Ferguson was one of the big names to come out of the Senior Bowl last week. It’s a little surprising that it took until last week for the NCAA career sacks leader (45) to get some attention.
But again, the depth of defensive linemen in the class mean that someone is going to slide.
Depending on what the Browns do in free agency and at No. 17, they might still need more pass-rush depth behind Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah.
If Ferguson continues to rise, he won’t make it to No. 49. So if the Browns want to get him, they might have to make a move to do it.
Kelvin Harmon, WR, N.C. State
This receiver class is not strong at the top, but there are a lot of guys that could go in the second and third rounds of the draft.
Harmon is a much bigger receiver than Marquise Brown at 6-foot-3. And although he isn’t the fastest receiver, Joe Marino of TheDraftNetwork.com likes Harmon’s route-running ability and how he finds the football.
The second round could see a run on receiver. And Harmon is more of a total package receiver than Brown. Of the main receivers on the Browns, no one is taller than 6-foot-2.
Size is a reason Harmon could be a fit for the Browns, and a reason to move up for him in the second round.
Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
At 6-foot-1, Mullen doesn’t have the big frame that Greedy Williams does. But he could be a good complement to Ward and give the Browns a top corner with size.
Mullen started 26 games in the last two seasons with four interceptions and 12 passes defensed. Those may not be spectacular numbers. But he played his best in the biggest game, getting an interception and earning Defensive MVP honors in Clemson’s 44-16 blowout of Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Mullen has first-round potential depending on how he does at the NFL Scouting Combine. But if he slides, his frame and physicality are worth taking a chance on in a trade-up.