Browns are not using the No. 1 overall pick on Saquon Barkley

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns must have only one focus with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft: finally find a quarterback.

The Cleveland Browns are in a position to absolutely own the first two days of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The club is currently in possession of 12 selections, including picks No. 1 and No. 4 in the first round and five selections in total in the first two rounds.

Those assets provide general manager John Dorsey with the opportunity — some could even argue the responsibility — to have a franchise-altering weekend in Dallas.

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is arguably the best running back prospect available in this year’s draft.

The Browns, however, will not be calling Barkley’s name with the first overall selection of the draft.*

Dorsey’s top priority this offseason is to finally fix the quarterback problem for the Browns, one that has plagued the franchise since 1993. Absolutely everything else must take a back seat to that task, since we all know far too well what will happen if Dorsey fails.

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Which means that the idea of selecting a running back with the No. 1 overall pick has to be off the table. This has nothing to do with Barkley’s talent and everything to do with the reality of the situation and how the NFL works.

Barkley certainly put up impressive numbers with the Nittany Lions, finishing his collegiate career with 3,843 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns to go along with 1,195 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns.

He also set Browns Twitter, and a lot of other people on fire with his performance on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. Why that matters remains a bit of a puzzle, because we’re not sure the last time an NFL running back was required to perform the bench press during a game. (Although his 41-inch vertical leap might come in handy if he is playing with quarterback DeShone Kizer.)

Barkley might be the greatest running back to hit the NFL in the past decade, but that doesn’t translate to wins on the field.

Looking back at the last 10 years, the league’s rushing champion has put up an average year of 1,698 rushing yards and 11.8 touchdowns.

Sounds really good, right?

Of course, those same rushing champions have seen their teams win one playoff game in the past decade.

Still think a running back at No. 1 will make a difference?

Even if Barkley is good enough to put up a season comparable to the league’s best, the difference between his production and the production of a “lesser running back” is negligible at best.

Let’s say the Browns bypass Barkley but select a running back at the top of the second round — perhaps Sony Michel or Nick Chubb, teammates at Georgia, or San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny – and they put up 85 percent of Barley’s production. Going back to that 10-year average, that would equate to a season of 1,443 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

But if Dorsey gambles that he can pass on a quarterback at No. 1 and then select “whoever is there” at No. 4, Browns fans may not like what happens next. The difference at running back doesn’t really matter, but if you find yourself with a quarterback who is only 85 percent as productive as a top quarterback then you end up with, well, a quarterback like DeShone Kizer.

Dorsey has to get this right, and to do that the front office has to do its homework, trust the work they’ve done, and then select the quarterback they think is the right one with the first pick in the draft. They simply cannot try to get cute and hope that everything works out for the best.

If by some chance Barkley is still there when the Browns are on the clock with the fourth overall selection, then they can consider it. But taking a quarterback at No. 1 and following him up with a defensive player like Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick or North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb at No. 4, will have a far greater impact on the team’s fortunes.

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That is going to be a harsh reality for some fans, but if Dorsey and his rebuilt front office are everything they are advertised to be, it is a reality they will have no trouble dealing with.

*This all becomes a moot point if the Browns somehow sign quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency. Then Barkley at No. 1 becomes a legitimate option. But the Browns are not signing Cousins in free agency.