Cleveland Browns tied to Paxton Lynch in ESPN mock draft


Nov 21, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Memphis Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) calls a play at the line of scrimmage against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Todd McShay has released his first mock draft for 2016 and has the Cleveland Browns selecting Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round.

The 2016 NFL Draft is still months away, but for the Cleveland Browns it is never too early to starting thinking about what is annually one of the high points of the season.

ESPN’s Todd McShay released his first mock draft of the season this week and, with the second pick of the first round, McShay has the Browns selecting Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch:

"Lynch has been an extremely efficient passer for the Tigers this season (69.0 completion rate, 28 TDs vs. 3 INTs) — and he showed up in a big way against Memphis’ best opponent (Ole Miss). He has not yet declared for the draft — and I still have a lot of work to do on him in terms of analyzing his work ethic, leadership skills, mental makeup and durability history — but Lynch has the physical skills to develop into a good starting NFL QB, which Cleveland needs."

Lynch is certainly a player that we would expect the Browns to take a hard look at – even if it will ruffle the feathers of the Manziel Mafia – as the team continues its 22-year odyssey to find a true quarterback.

A redshirt junior, Lynch has completed 69 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,670 yards, 28 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season for the 9-3 Tigers. His numbers improved from his sophomore year, when he had a completion percentage of 62 percent, while throwing for 3,031 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, which is the kind of growth you like to see.

He also possess several of the qualities team’s look for in a quarterback, according to Lance Zierlein, a draft analyst at Zierlein’s assessment was based on Lynch’s game against the University of Houston, but he liked what he saw, especially in the following areas (among others):

"Poise: Pocket poise is clearly a strength for Lynch. He won’t sit in the pocket unnecessarily, but when he left the pocket on Saturday, making a play with his arm was his primary concern before he would finish with a run. One of the more underrated elements of Lynch’s game — and I saw it tonight — was his ability to set play fakes and disguise screens."

"Arm strength: In my write-up of Lynch earlier this week, I commented that his arm strength looked inconsistent and that I wanted to see him put more velocity on his throws to the perimeter. I saw that from him against Houston. When he really commits to a throw and gets his lower body into the throw, he can rip it. I’m not going to tell you he has a cannon for a right arm, but it is more than good enough."

"Extending plays: It was interesting listening to the NFL scouts in the press box because it was clear they hadn’t seen much of Lynch up to this point. There were plenty of “oohs” and “ahs” about Lynch’s quickness and overall running ability outside of the pocket. What was really impressive, however, is that Lynch was easily extending plays with his feet, but doing a nice job of balancing his scramble runs with his scramble passes."

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The biggest question surrounding Lynch is the level of competition he’s faced this year, as the Tigers’ schedule is not filled with defenses that necessarily boast NFL-caliber players in their secondaries.

In addition, while many people expect Lynch to declare for next spring’s draft, he has said he won’t make a decision until after the Tigers’ upcoming bowl game.

Speaking of which, Memphis will take on Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 30 at noon in a game televised by ESPN.

Something tells us the network may see a ratings spike from Northeast Ohio on that day.