The key to figuring out the Browns best option in a trade-down scenario in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night is probably a position that isn’t in the Browns plans at all.
This draft has three marquee offensive tackles in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. There’s also an available veteran left tackle in Branden Albert, who’s been franchised by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have the draft’s first overall pick and could use it on a left tackle, making Albert expendable.
The Chiefs gave Albert’s representation permission last week to work out a trade. From what we assume we know about this draft, the Browns best hope of moving down from their spot at No. 6 and picking up a second-round pick (at least that much) in the process probably depends on a team — like the Chargers at No. 11 or the Dolphins at No. 12 — coming up to take a tackle.
The Cardinals, at No. 7, know the Browns aren’t taking a tackle and wouldn’t have to trade up if one of three top tackles in the draft is still there. Though there are two prized guards in this draft, too, teams are much, much more likely to trade up for a tackle than they are for a guard.
It’s been reported that the Chiefs asking price for Albert is a second-round pick. What suitors must decide is if they’re willing to pay that plus the kind of hefty contract Albert is seeking as an established player at a money position.
We don’t have anything besides guesses as to what the Browns are thinking heading into the draft and seeking once it starts, but it’s clear that they’ll more likely have trade options if one of the top tackles is still on the board. If they’re all gone, the Browns will be in position to take a top defensive player — if there’s more than one they truly love. Again, we don’t know. The Eagles and Lions, at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, could be interested in offensive line help, a pass-rusher or a cornerback.
If all three of the top tackles — Fisher, Joeckel and Johnson, in some order — go in the first five picks, the Dolphins or Cardinals (or some other team) might be more inclined to give up a second-rounder for Albert; it wouldn’t be the first time necessity drives a draft-night trade or drives the price for such a trade up or down. In that all-the-tackles-are-gone scenario, the only way the Browns are trading out of No. 6 is if some team wants to come up to get Tavon Austin, Geno Smith or a pass-rusher — unless the Browns go into Mangini Mode and trade way, way down the board.
That’s possible, too, and it’s also not a terrible idea in a draft that’s deeper than it is top heavy.
The Browns, right now, are neither. Which is why, at least for the sake of options and maximum value, they’re rooting for at least one of those three offensive tackles to slip past the Lions at No. 5.