Cleveland Browns should go all in with DeShone Kizer
By Joel W. Cade
The Cleveland Browns are in position to take the top quarterback with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. But the Browns should go all-in with Deshone Kizer instead.
The NFL Scouting Combine is the talk of the NFL this weekend. Teams are in Indianapolis not only to evaluate players, but also to begin the unofficial tampering period that will decide the fate of free agents and future trades as well.
The Cleveland Browns seem to be in the center of all of it so far. Why should they not be? They own five picks in the top 65 selections in the 2018 NFL Draft. They have an insane amount of cap space. And now they have a general manager who seems to be willing to buy, sell and trade. All told this will be a fun weekend for hardcore Browns fans.
One of the most interesting highlights so far was general manager John Dorsey’s press conference on Thursday.
Of all the interesting things to be examined in this press conference, a few stand out. First, Dorsey seems non-committal on the role quarterback DeShone Kizer will play on this team moving forward. He expects Kizer to improve, but will not commit to him as the starter.
Second, Dorsey let slip that the Browns will be running offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense. This tidbit runs counter to head coach Hue Jackson’s statement that the offense will be a collaborate effort of mixing of Haley’s and Jackson’s offenses. It may be a simple slip, it may not be.
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On the surface these points seem unrelated. But Haley does have an “ideal” quarterback he likes to use. Ironically, Kizer fits that ideal mold very well. Haley likes the tall, big, athletic and strong-armed quarterbacks. Should Kizer make the leap that Dorsey expects him to, is it really necessary to draft a quarterback first overall?
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The options at quarterback entering the NFL Draft are intriguing. There seems to be someone for everyone. There is the big, strong-armed guy; the short, spunky guy; the intellectual guy; and the gritty gunslinger.
If the options are narrowed to who actually fits the mold that Jackson and Haley look for at the position, the quarterback options dwindle. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield’s height (and possibly his arm strength) may not measure up to what they want. UCLA’s Josh Rosen may not athletic enough to create plays outside of structure (plus he has medical issues).
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This leaves USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Both seem to be in consideration for the Browns at first overall. Both are big, tall, athletic and strong armed. Both fit what Haley and Jackson are looking for.
Darnold is the current favorite to be the first overall pick. But Darnold comes with drawbacks. He is 20 years old, he has ball security issues, and he makes head-scratching throws that lead to interceptions. If this sounds a lot like Kizer’s issues, then rest assured you have been paying attention to the Browns.
Allen is the other favorite. He too fits the mold of the Haley-Jackson offense. Like Darnold, Allen comes with his drawbacks. He is inaccurate as a passer; he lacks touch on his throws; he struggles with passes to his left; he is a long strider with his lower leg mechanics, which leads to overthrows; and he struggles to identify defenses. Again, if this sounds a lot like Kizer, congratulations on being a hardcore Browns fan!
Then what is so special about Darnold and Allen that would make them preferable over Kizer? For Darnold, it seems to be his leadership ability. He took a USC team that was struggling and turned them into the talk of the town (with UCLA’s Rosen in that same town).
Per NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, Josh Allen is a better version of Kizer. Sadly, Mayock didn’t expound on why that is the case. Maybe he should have given a reason.
Allen’s completion percentage (56.2) was worse than Kizer’s in college (60.7). Mayock claims that Kizer struggled in the fourth quarter (which Browns fans are painfully aware). Mayock concedes Allen will probably overthrow the receivers at the combine (which Kizer did too). It is still unclear how Allen is an upgrade over Kizer, even though Mayock wants us to believe that is the case.
All of this begs the question, would the Browns be drafting a 20-year-old Darnold for his leadership ability? If so, great! But Darnold will still need to mature at the NFL level. During that time, Kizer may develop those leadership skills.
The Browns have an intriguing in-house answer with Kizer. Instead of drafting a quarterback first or fourth overall, they should invest in a veteran quarterback to mentor Kizer. Then they can use those picks to shore up the defensive secondary and running back positions.
The time it would take to develop a top pick would be equivalent to the time it would take to develop Kizer. But Kizer already has a one-year head start with roughly the same talent level and roughly the same issues. Why take then long road when a shorter road can be taken to the same place?
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But it may be to the point where any Browns general manager with a high pick needs to draft a quarterback for no other reason than job security and to avoid further alienating an already frustrated fan base.