Can the Cleveland Browns afford to draft a project quarterback?
The Cleveland Browns need a quarterback, but all things considered, can the team afford a project player in the first round of the NFL Draft this April?
The words “quarterback” and “Cleveland Browns” go hand in hand nowadays, and not in a good way. Since they returned to the league in 1999, the Browns have had 28 different starting quarterbacks, and maybe three of those have hit the “decent” benchmark.
This past season, the lack of steady quarterback play damned the Browns to an 0-16 season, only the second ever in the history of the NFL. Needless to say, the Browns will likely take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. But who will be the pick?
Well, Mel Kiper Jr. put out his first 2018 mock draft last week. To the shock of many, the top pick was not USC quarterback Sam Darnold or even UCLA’s Josh Rosen. It was Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.
This pick begs the question: can the Browns afford a project quarterback like Allen this coming season? In truth, there is evidence for both sides.
First, let’s argue the case for taking a chance on a project quarterback.
Once again, sentences including “Browns” and “quarterback” almost never end well for Cleveland. This offseason, things have taken on a more positive tone. With free agency starting in March, many fans now fully expect the Browns to be able to sign a veteran quarterback.
Even before the regular season ended, names like Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs and Kirk Cousins of the Washington Redskins had been linked to Cleveland. Now, those ties have been strengthened due to Kansas City’s playoff collapse and the recent statements of Monday Morning Quarterback’s Albert Breer on Cousins:
If the Browns could score Cousins, then Allen would have a chance to sit, learn and improve. The coaching staff would not have to rush him right onto the field as Cousins would remain the starter for most of his deal.
Frankly, the same thing could happen with Smith via a trade, or even with Minnesota Vikings free agent quarterback Case Keenum. There would be no pressure on Allen, who has faced questions about his clutch ability, to perform immediately.
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On the other hand, there is definitely a precedent for this sort of thing in Cleveland. And it is not exactly a good one.
Fans may remember quarterback Brian Hoyer and the developmental guy that sat behind him. Now, Allen should not be compared to Johnny Manziel; they really could not be any more different.
However, fans in Cleveland were clamoring for Manziel likely long before he was ready. If they do the same with Allen, and end up running the bridge quarterback out of town, things could get ugly.
Allen could need one and a half, maybe two full seasons on the bench before he is totally ready to go. Turning around and throwing him out there as a rookie could be one of the worst decisions the Browns have made since 1999.
So, it is time to answer the question: can the Cleveland Browns afford to pick a project quarterback like Josh Allen at No. 1 overall?
The answer is yes. A conditional yes, but still a yes. If and only if the Browns can score a bridge guy like Cousins, Smith or Keenum, they could then afford to take a Josh Allen type of quarterback in the draft.
Next: Browns mock draft season off and running
If not, they should probably just go with the safer options, like Rosen or Darnold.
Allen’s ceiling may be the highest of the quarterbacks in this draft. However, his floor could be getting people fired, and setting a franchise back a few years. That is something that the Browns, without question, cannot afford.