The former USC’s star is a name to watch, as a Hall of Fame GM’s almost comical ranking of tackle prospects could reflect serious consideration by the Browns to trade the No. 10 pick.
This is no re-run of "Browns Sounds of Spring," circa 2019.
The choir of voices is so different this April, and not just because "rehearsals" are on Zoom, not in Berea, because of COVID-19.
John Dorsey's finger was on the draft button last spring. Now, it is Andrew Berry's. Conspicuous lineup changes include head coach (Freddie Kitchens to Kevin Stefanski), offensive coordinator (Todd Monken to Alex Van Pelt), and offensive line coach (James Campen to Bill Callahan).
With offensive tackle held forth as the biggest need, Hall of Fame GM Gil Brandt's "Hot 150" is almost comical as it pertains to Cleveland's scheduled pick at No. 10.
Brandt's top-rated tackles are Alabama's Jedrick Willis at No. 7 overall, Iowa's Tristan Wirfs at No. 8, Georgia's Andrew Thomas at No. 9 and Louisville's Mekhi Becton at No. 10.
Berry might add USC's Austin Jackson, ranked 19th overall by Brandt, as an acceptable option.
The Class of 2020 might be so full of good tackles that a couple will slide well outside the top 10. NFL.com draftnik Chad Reuter has the Browns trading from No. 10 (where the Saints would take QB Jordan Love) to No. 24, where Jackson would be the pick.
In a Monday Zoom session with beat writers, Berry would only say "tons of hours" invested by his staff have produced a "clear mind" on Cleveland's tackle rankings.
Berry warns that rookies seldom excel right out of the gate. One exception was Joe Thomas, who played every down at left tackle on the last Browns team to post a winning season (2007).
Last year's draft exemplifies how pre-draft rankings go away once tackles hit the field ... or don't.
The first O-lineman picked, by Cincinnati at No. 11, was Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams. He suffered a torn labrum in spring practice and sat out the season. The next, at No. 22 to Philadelphia (Berry's team at the time) was Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard. He made four starts.
The third to go, Alabama State left tackle Tytus Howard by the Texans at No. 23, played every down and was not charged with a sack after Game 6.
Otherwise, Berry might conclude the Browns can trade up from their second pick, at No. 41, and secure a good tackle who drops. The USC guy, Jackson, is an interesting possibility.
Former Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network sees Jackson as the 28th-best player in the draft, with top-15 potential.
Jeremiah's scouting notes:
"Intriguing blend of size and athleticism, with endless upside ... People may be sleeping on him ... Only 20 years old ... Overall play strength needs to improve, but he is tantalizing."
Jeremiah's top five tackles are Becton (No. 7), Wills (No. 10), Wirfs (No. 13), Thomas (No. 18), Jackson (No. 28). He ranks Houston's Joshua Jones at No. 39 and Boise State's Ezra Cleveland (a Brandt favorite) at No. 53.
Jackson's school, USC, has a history of churning out tackles. In addition to Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, a first-round pick in 1980, Trojan tackles drafted in Round 1 include Keith Van Horne (1981), Don Mosebar (1983), Ken Ruettgers (1985), James Fitzpatrick (1986), Dave Cadigan (1988), Pat Harlow (1991), Tony Boselli (1995), John Michels (1996), Sam Baker (2008), Tyron Smith (2011) and Matt Kalil (2012).
Jackson grew up in Phoenix as a two-way lineman who on defense made 29 tackles for loss as a high school senior. He chose USC in part because his grandfather, Melvin Jackson, played on the Trojans' 1974 national championship team prior to a career with the Packers.
Jackson played as a true freshman in 2017 and started at left tackle in 2018. Life got complicated when he emerged as the donor of blood marrow for his younger sister, Autumn. The good news was that transferring 1.4 liters of marrow from the back of his hip was a godsend to his sister.
The flip side was the procedure was delayed until last July. He lost a month of training and began his pivotal 2019 season in a weakened condition before getting in a groove.
His USC position coach, Tim Drevno (a former Michigan offensive coordinator) notes Jackson never missed a practice, fought through the season, and should be graded on a curve by NFL scouts.
USC went 8-5 in 2019, posting September wins over No. 23 Stanford and No. 10 Utah, later going on a 5-1 hot streak before losing a bowl game to Iowa.
Jackson dismisses any heroic element to donating his marrow, saying, "Wouldn't everybody do it for their little sister?"
NFL Network analyst Lance Zierlein sees Jackson as "raw but gifted, with "true left tackle traits."
The Browns’ highest expansion-era picks out of USC were Daylon McCutcheon and Cody Kessler, third-rounders in 1999 and 2016. Notable picks from the past include Chip Banks, Clay Matthews and Charles White.
Cleveland hasn't drafted an offensive lineman from USC since 1973, when Pete Adams was a No. 22 overall pick who had been a teammate of Jackson's grandfather.
Of perhaps going to his grandpa's NFL team, Green Bay, Jackson says, "It'd be nice," but he adds, "Whoever drafts me ... that's where I'll be happy."
Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP