This last Thursday the Cleveland Browns set about reversing a two-decades long run of almost incomprehensible futility via the 2018 NFL Draft. Indeed the ignominy of going winless in 2017 can only be properly assuaged if it produces a bona fide Franchise Quarterback, and the Browns (and I) believe they have done so in the person of Baker Mayfield, selected with the first pick overall. This is a profound reversal of practice for Cleveland, who have not drafted a quarterback higher than number 22 overall since 1999 (Tim Couch, Kentucky), the year of expansion.
I have no problem submitting that Mayfield was the quarterback I was most hoping we would select and by a pretty substantial margin over everyone else in what I also consider to be the best quarterback class possibly since 1983. I very much liked and ultimately would have accepted Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, or Lamar Jackson - all of whom ended up being drafted in the 1st round Thursday night. However Mayfield was the clear front-runner due to his overwhelming display of quarterbacking prowess over the course of one of the most amazing college careers ever witnessed.
He’s smart, tough, very accurate, experienced and durable. Considering the monumental task ahead of him he’ll need all of that and more. He has plenty of arm, ample mobility and a rapid processor. As Oklahoma’s defense was significantly not special he found himself in shootouts on a weekly basis and routinely emerged victorious while amassing an incredible record of 39-9 as a starter.
Most importantly, he’s a hard worker that has had to earn his way at every level. He was the first walk-on to ever win an FBS opener, or to win a Heisman trophy. His leadership and command of respect from his teammates is something in the realm of legendary. He also apparently wanted to come here, so he’s a little nutty on top of everything else. You’d almost have to be in order to attack this the way it’s going to be needed, so along with the aforementioned skill (which produced top statistical performance in basically every meaningful category) I wanted him because of his attitude. That’s right, all of it. I think it’s pretty well needed considering the state of the organization combined with playing in our division.
Browns’ GM John Dorsey was brought in specifically to identify talent and get it - especially at the quarterback position. Cleveland came into this draft with a treasure-trove of draft capital, but none of it counts for anything if the wrong decision is made at QB. Everything hinges on it, so to my mind he did about as good a job as he could have done, not just in terms of pulling the trigger on the best QB of a loaded class, but also keeping it secret throughout the entire draft season up until Thursday morning, when the leaks about Mayfield being the pick gained momentum.
Dorsey knows that this decision above all others defines whether or not his tenure in Cleveland will be successful. Prior to signing with us he had all of last offseason to scout everyone that was available, so he was well apprised upon arrival. With this being such a make-or-break call, the diligence had to be done with respect to the character questions. During the press conference Thursday night he made it about as clear as I think he’s capable of doing:
While it really shouldn’t, there’s something reassuring about the way Dorsey defends Mayfield here.
As a fan and lover of this franchise I have a great deal invested into this pick being right. However as committed as I may be to it, my career and reputation doesn’t depend on it. John Dorsey’s does, and so you can bet he turned over every stone, kicked every tire and followed-up on every lead so as to ensure that he wasn’t pursuing a problem. Clearly, he determined that his future, as indeed with the fulfillment of our (as fans) desire to see all this get turned around, rests on the arm and brain of our new signal caller.
Having said that, there was more to the draft than just the selection of the QB (although in a larger sense, none of it really matters without getting that right). We still had much to do, and on balance I think we did it pretty well:
There were two long-standing Browns’ practices ended on Thursday: the first was the selection of a QB top 20. The second was the avoidance of players from (THE) Ohio State University in the first round. It had been 23 years (Craig Powell - 1995) since the last time we took a Buckeye, and not only did we break the trend but we did it with a top-five pick. That came in the person of Denzel Ward, the best cornerback in the draft. While possessed of less than ideal size (5’10) he’s tough, superbly talented and excels at press-man.
He figures to immediately assume the starting role, and with improved coverage from the CB’s we should see an uptick in pressure from our talented EDGE rushers. Ward becomes the crown jewel of what is now an entirely overhauled position group. What this pick also served to do was fully cash-in on the series of trade-downs from 1st-round positions that first began with the deal that sent the second overall pick in 2015 to Philadelphia. The book is now closed, the assets spent, and we now get to see all that infusion of talent over the last few years develop.
After the first round concluded the Browns had a full day to consider what to do with 1st pick of round two. It surprised many when that selection turned out to be Austin Corbett, not because he isn’t a good prospect, but because of the presumption of his pro position. He’s listed in many scouting reports as a guard, but he played tackle, specifically Left tackle at Nevada.
We have a lot of cap space wrapped up in Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler, and we didn’t draft this guy at #33 overall if we didn’t intend for him to play. Considering the acquisition earlier this offseason of Chris Hubbard and the assumption that he will be the starting RT, I think the conclusion here is that Austin Corbett is going to play LT for us. At least, he’s probably going to get the first shot at it, this being the first time in over a decade that we will start a season with someone other than first-ballot Hall-of-famer Joe Thomas protecting the blind side.
Two picks after Corbett Cleveland acquired their new starting tailback. Nick Chubb really had two college careers: one before and one after a horrifying knee injury he suffered as a sophomore. Prior to that his production and projection had him somewhere in the area of GOAT. However after the injury, he returned to the lineup in 2016, but was clearly missing much of what he had prior to the injury.
However last year he came back closer to that form, and in the process became a very effective runner between the tackles. He put up an impressive combine and wound up being the 4th running back taken overall. Our backfield is now officially set.
Near the end of the 2nd round Cleveland traded down three spots, and with that pick selected Chad Thomas from Miami. Thomas looks like a comparable version of Emmanuel Ogbah to my eye. He may not be the most prolific pass-rusher available but this one guy that absolutely CAN set the edge.
Productive player whose may have slid a bit due to teams being concerned about his commitment to football compared to his other interests in the music business. Alas, John Dorsey wasn’t concerned enough to avoid him and we now appear to have at very least some good rotation depth along the defensive line, as he’s big and strong enough to rotate inside on occasion.
Let’s be clear here: this is a risk. Callaway has all the talent in the world - some had a 1st round grade on him in terms of playing talent. However he’s had a number of off-field issues and problems at Florida that led to him missing all of last season. Suffice it to say he’s had problems.
At the same time it’s the 4th round, and this is a very talented prospect. Seems like exactly the time to take this sort of risk as far as I’m concerned, and while I’d prefer to have guys that don’t have these sorts of problems, pretty much anyone is going to have some kind of issue when you get this far into the draft. Very boom or bust move, but one worth it IMO.
Again, the further you get down into these things the projecty these selections become. That said this is a highly productive player that played both inside and outside and shows more than a little bit of pass-rush ability. Is a bit inconsistent, but flashes a lot of skill.
Some had him ranked significantly higher on their board. He should be good for some depth at the position which is important because even though we have three pretty good ones in Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey, there’s not a whole lot in the way of depth behind them.
A little bit on the obscure side for someone playing at TAMU, but it doesn’t take too long a look to see why he is now an NFL player. He’s got good size and blazing speed (4.39 at his pro day).
The deal with him is he’s raw, didn’t play very much and is going to need time to learn the nuance of the position requisite for success at the NFL level. I think this pick probably spells the end for Ricardo Louis.
The one position we hadn’t addressed at all up to this point is Safety, which I think was huge problem for us last. We did add Demarious Randall earlier this offseason but still I thought there would be at least a body or two more added, and think that’s what we got here with Simeon Thomas.
Like Ratley, this guy is a serious athlete. Standing at 6’3(!) and while he wasn’t at the combine varying reports of his pro day seem to indicate his 40 time in the 4.5 range. He’s a small-school guy with a pretty huge upside that I think will make the team and contribute right away on special teams, and perhaps even push Derek Kindred/Jabrill Peppers for playing.
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