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Bengals, Browns both need OL, linebackers in upcoming draft

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

The manner in which the NFL draft will be conducted is totally different. Now let’s see if the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns selection process changes.
With the NFL draft using a virtual format due to the regulations emitting from the coronavirus, teams will conduct the draft from their homes.
All team facilities have been closed and Commissioner Roger Goodell has ordered them to remain shut until medical and public health officials deem it safe to return.
The draft was originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas.
The Bengals appear locked into drafting LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, but the Miami Dolphins would love to trade up and grab Burrow.
Cincinnati also is leaning toward keeping former starting quarterback Andy Dalton who has a year left on his contract. Dalton could be traded but the only team who might be interested is the L.A. Chargers.
Defense is a big concern and the Bengals have been doing an overhaul with players they’ve released.
The key position on defense is linebacker. Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, LSU’s Patrick Queen and Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray are the top three LBs, but they’ll probably be gone by the time the second round begins.
If that’s the case, Zack Baun of Wisconsin or Alabaman’s Terrell Lewis could be attractive.
One area that has been the Bengals’ biggest problem is the offensive line.
The top players up front in the draft are Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz and Houston’s Josh Jones are the top prospects.
The Bengals offense will be strong at the skill positions if everyone is healthy. Wide receiver A.J. Green missed last season and is the key weapon. Wide receivers John Ross and Tyler Boyd make for a strong trio.
The Bengals need C.J. Uzomah to step up at tight end.
Add to that Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard and the Bengals have a strong running game.
The Bengals have $25 million salary cap space.
When talking about the Browns, there is one major area that must be addressed: offensive line.
Trading for Jack Conklin took care of the hole at right tackle, but the important left tackle spot is still open. The Browns restructured the contract of Chris Hubbard but only to keep him as a backup.
The next need is at linebacker where the Browns let Joe Schobert go the free agent path and the opt-injured Christian Kirksey was released.
Deciding whether to go offensive line or linebacker first will determine the first and second picks.
The prospects mentioned in the Bengals’ needs for offensive line and linebacker are the same for the Browns who will get one of the better picks ahead of the Bengals.
So, which way will the Browns go? It should be offensive tackle. Cleveland should have been trying to replace Joe Thomas in each of the past two seasons.
A third next need is at safety with the top candidates Alabama’s Xavier Mckinney, Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield, California’s Ashtyn Davis, LSU’s Grant Delpit and Lenoir-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger.
The Browns have the most salary cap money with $61 million.