Browns Pick Offensive Lineman Jedrick Wills In The First Round Of The NFL Draft

Cleveland is committed to protecting Baker Mayfield

April 23, 2020
Nov 17, 2018; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Jedrick Wills Jr. (74) during the second half against The Citadel Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – At first glance, it appears the football gods finally smiled on the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Draft.

With left tackle a glaring need and a gaping hole, executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry saw the payer he had atop his board at the position fall in his lap.

Shockingly, three of the four top offensive tackles – Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton – were available when Cleveland went on the clock Thursday night, a stunning development that saw Berry select Wills with the 10th pick.

“We just felt that he checked all the boxes for us coming into this weekend,” Berry said.

“Jed, from our perspective, a very well-rounded skillset, great feet, athletic ability, coordination, advanced in pass pro and very physical in the run game. Just a really well-rounded player for us.”

The New York Giants selected Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall, but the run in the top-10 on offensive tackles that many analysts predicted, and Berry expected, never materialized.

“I’m never surprised by anything in the draft at this point,” Berry said. “I did expect more tackles to come off the board a little bit earlier. We did have some options to potentially move down the board. Obviously, we sat and decided to make the pick.”

Chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and Berry ran through multiple scenarios to prepare for Thursday night and the prospect of watching their first, second, and possibly third preferred tackle land elsewhere before they went on the clock.

For once, the board fell in Cleveland’s favor and they didn’t have to settle.

“We went through a lot of different scenarios over the course of the past week and really tried to prepare for the worst,” DePodesta said. “We didn’t necessarily anticipate that we were going to have any of them to choose from. We had a lot of different scenarios in mind where they might not be there, but we also thought there was a real chance that at least one or two of them could be there.

“I think we were pleasantly surprised that three were there, but we had run through so many scenarios that we definitely thought this was at least a reasonable likelihood that we would have a shot at one of the guys we really like. We did not necessarily know we would have a shot at the top one on our board so that was a pleasant surprise.”

Berry made shoring up the offensive line in front of Baker Mayfield, who was sacked 40 times in 2019 and 65 times in 30 games over his first two seasons, a priority this offseason by signing Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42 million deal and the selection of Wills.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, Wills allowed just one sack and 3.5 quarterback hurries in 2019.

“I think he is a complete player,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “There was some carry over to the run schemes that they ran that are similar to things that we will run. You see the ability in a downhill offense and the ability in a wide zone offense. I think he is kind of versatile to be able to do both of them. Pass protection wise, I just think he is a technician. I think he can only get better but really liked the use of his feet and his hands in his pass protection.”

Wills started 29 games for the Crimson Tide at right tackle where he earned second-team All-American accolades and was a first-team All-SEC selection.

Berry doesn’t expect the transition for Wills from the right to the left side to be difficult.

“I do think that there is going to be some physical reprograming or gaining a little bit of comfort,” Berry said. “From our perspective with Jed, the reason that he was playing the right side at Alabama is because they had a very successful left-handed quarterback. In terms of the actual physical skillset – his speed, his athletic ability and his ability to pass-protect – all of those are top notch from our perspective, and we think that he can really play either side of the line of scrimmage.”

Time will tell if Berry got it right and Wills' career will be compared to Wirfs and Becton, but for once a Browns GM didn't have to go to plan B in late April.

Hallelujah!