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Browns nab Bama’s Wills with No. 10 pick to plug tackle hole

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns filled an enormous hole at left tackle with one college football’s best right tackles.

With three of the top four tackle prospects still available, Cleveland used the No. 10 overall pick in Thursday’s NFL draft to select Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr., who spent the past two seasons protecting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and will now have Baker Mayfield’s blind side.

A starting left tackle has been a top priority for the past two seasons for the Browns, and this was the perfect year to find one. New general manager Andrew Berry, who returned to the Browns after one season in Philadelphia’s front office, made Wills the first pick of his tenure.

“We thought he was a guy who fit in terms of talent, makeup and need,” Berry said. “He’s perfect for us.”

The 6-foot-4, 312-pound Wills played right tackle for the Crimson Trade, but he — and the Browns — are confident he can slide to the other side and perform. The Browns are set at right tackle after signing free agent Pro Bowl tackle Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42 million contract last month.

“I do think there is going to be some physical reprogramming,” Berry said.

Going in to the draft, there were at least four top-flight prospects to choose from, and Cleveland also investigated acquiring seven-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams from Washington. Williams has been on the Browns’ radar for more than year. Former general manager John Dorsey wanted to trade for him last year, but the Redskins were unwilling to deal the 31-year-old.

Cleveland has been looking for a long-term solution at left tackle since perennial All-Pro and likely Hall of Famer Joe Thomas ruptured his triceps in 2017 and retired before the 2018 season.

When it was Cleveland’s turn to pick, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas was the only top tackle prospect not available after going to the New York Giants at No. 4. Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton were still on the board, but Berry opted for Wills, who made 28 consecutive starts for coach Nick Saban at Alabama and faced some of the SEC’s top edge rushers.

Before drafting Wills, Berry said the Browns consulted with linebacker Mack Wilson, his former college teammate, and Wilson said, “Man, Jed’s a baller.”

Berry could have traded down and potentially still gotten Wills, but he didn’t want to take any chances and addressed the Browns’ most pressing need.

Cleveland went 6-10 last season and entered the draft with seven picks.

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