This season of college football is in its twilight, and the Cleveland Browns will, with mathematical certainty, own the rights to the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft. As this year’s crop of blessed pigskin slingers ride into their bowl game sunset, the national conversation naturally seeks to speculate where their narratives may yet lead.
Both USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are two of the most-discussed options in contention for Cleveland’s first-overall pick, even amidst the uncertainty as to whether they even will be available for selection. Both Rosen and Darnold are underclassmen and have another year (two for Darnold) of eligibility left in the NCAA. All signs point to Rosen declaring for the draft; while there is more uncertainty surrounding Darnold, there is a belief that he will declare as well.
Earlier, DBN reported on Josh Rosen’s unwillingness to play for the Browns. Since then, Rosen has doubled down starting that he’d “rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team”.
UCLA QB Josh Rosen on getting drafted by certain teams, if he comes out this year: “I’d rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team.”— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) December 26, 2017
It was only natural for the media to seek another perspective, and they peppered Sam Darnold directly and indirectly about how he would feel to be drafted by the Browns. In direct contrast to Rosen’s message, Darnold stated:
Honestly I think any team, whenever I come out to go to the NFL, I’d be honored to play for any team
When asked about being drafted not by a losing team, but a hopeless team, Darnold’s response was even more mature:
I honestly don't look at it that way. I know certain guys might look at it that way. But for me it's been such a dream of mine to play in the NFL, that whether I go now or I stay at USC, to be able to have the opportunity to even play in the NFL and achieve that dream of mine is something I've always looked at.
And for an organization to put their trust in me to be able to go out there and play football for them, I think any opportunity to play for anyone would be amazing and something I always dreamed of.
The contrasting responses of Rosen and Darnold remind us of two other quarterbacks who not only expressed their desire to play elsewhere, but acted on it after being drafted. Eli Manning, drafted by the (then) San Diego Chargers, stated outright that he would refuse to play. This led to a trade for Philip Rivers sending Eli to the New York Giants. The original wielder of draft leverage is the legendary John Elway, who after being drafted by the Baltimore Colts threatened to commit full time to baseball - he was already a member of the New York Yankee’s organization.
It is uncertain if Rosen would resort to the tactics used by Elway and Manning, but historically speaking, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t work. Instead of being party to Jim Irsay’s midnight move to Baltimore (setting up Model’s cursed exodus), Elway flourished in Denver destroying the hopes and dreams of Browns fans worldwide. While Rivers has found success in San Diego, his team has not. Meanwhile, Eli Manning has two superbowl rings in New York.
In stark contrast, it might be worth hearing from the only other QB to be drafted by an 0-16 football team: Matthew Stafford.
It’s an honor to be picked in this league, especially at that position, No. 1. I mean, it’s something you dream about as a kid. If you’re going to go into the draft, you might as well try and get picked first. It means you’re doing something right. And sometimes those teams need a lot of help, sometimes they don’t, you just never know. But it was important to me to understand the privilege and the honor it is to be selected, and go out there and make the best of any situation.
Stafford just inked a $135 million contract extension, so the choice to accept the honors of the then hopeless Lions seemed to have worked out.
The discussion surrounding Darnold and Rosen can proceed with more certainty once they formally declare (or opt not to declare) for the upcoming NFL draft. If there is one certainty, it is that the discussion as to who the Browns will take with the number one overall pick will not subside, and until Cleveland can establish a multi-win season, a theme of hopelessness is bound to follow.
Who would you prefer with the Browns #1 Pick - Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold?
This poll is closed
Rosen - his attitude can be overcome
Darnold - his intangible leadership qualities and willingness to be in Cleveland overshadow his lack of development
Other - Why do you give me false dichotomies?