The Cleveland Browns selected Jedrick Willis with their top pick in the NFL Draft, and now the team knows what jersey number the former Alabama standout will wear when he takes the field in the orange and brown.
Wills — the No. 10 overall pick — revealed on Monday that he will wear No. 71 with the Browns, moving away from the No. 74 he wore in college with the Crimson Tide.
“Starting my own Legacy. #71,” Wills wrote on Twitter.
Wills talked about the process a little while on ESPN Radio in Cleveland. He said that he wouldn’t wear No. 74 out of respect for veteran Chris Hubbard. Wills said that Browns future Hall of Fame tackle Joe Thomas gave him the all clear to wear No. 73, but that head coach Kevin Stefanski swooped in and shut that down.
Browns HC Kevin Stefanski: ‘We Got a Winner’ in Wills
Wills filled a major need for the Browns, falling into the team’s lap at No. 10. Despite it being a deep tackle draft class, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas was the only tackle off the board through the first nine picks. Thomas was taken by the Giants at No. 4.
There was speculation that the Browns could trade out of the No. 10 spot and take a tackle later in the draft, or possibly make a move for Washington Redskins veteran Trent Williams, who was a long-time target for the team dating back to last season. But the Browns had their pick of Wills, Mekhi Becton or Tristan Wirfs and knew exactly who they wanted.
“There are a lot of things I like about this kid. He has played a bunch of games down there at Alabama,” head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters following the pick. “I liked his makeup. I like his tenacity, his toughness, his intelligence, and then not to mention that he is a scheme fit for our team. Great movement skills. Plays with a nastiness. I think we got a winner, and I think we got the right person. I keep coming back to it and it is the truth: just trying to get some good players in here and some good people, and he fits the bill.”
Joe Thomas Serving as Mentor to Jedrick Wills
Wills has a good mentor in Joe Thomas, who was thrilled when the Browns picked up the Alabama stud to fill a role he once played for the team.
“When I watch him on film, there is nothing he can’t do,” Thomas said in a radio interview with the Cleveland Browns Radio Network.” All these other guys who were the top tackles had big question marks, in my opinion. This guy? No question marks. Browns home run.”
One question about Wills will be whether or not he can make the move to left tackle from right, where he has played since high school. At Alabama, his role at right tackle was essential, as QB Tua Tagovailoa was a left-handed thrower. Wills said that Thomas — a seven-time first-team All-Pro — has offered him some pointers.
“He knew I was going to be playing left tackle and if I need any pointers on tips and videos or things like that, he will just be there to help me out,” Wills said.