Cleveland Browns: Round 1 the morning after
The Cleveland Browns made two polarizing selections in round one of the 2018 NFL Draft. In the bright light of day, let’s take a look at the newest Cleveland Browns.
The night started out with a bang as the Cleveland Browns were on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick. They went right to work, selecting their newest quarterback of the future.
Pick #1 – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Let’s get this out of the way. There was no quarterback who John Dorsey could have selected that would have pleased the entire Cleveland Browns fan base. That’s the nature of this year’s crop of quarterbacks. They all had unchecked boxes. While Dorsey and Hue Jackson praised Mayfield’s “moxie” as a reason for their selection, make no mistake two attributes that influenced this selection were accuracy and ball security.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. In 2016, accuracy was cited as a reason why Hue Jackson asked fans to “trust him” on the pick of Cody Kessler. Kessler, however, is yet another closed chapter in the Browns history of drafting accurate quarterbacks who lacked arm strength, or quarterbacks who had arm strength, but were not accurate. Arm strength will not be a concern with Mayfield. Nor will accuracy.
Then, in 2017, ball security was ultimately the issue that led to DeShone Kizer being in Green Bay. I believe that Mayfield was the player to beat for quite a while. However, if the debate was close between Sam Darnold and Mayfield, this may have tipped the scales in Mayfield’s favor. Are the concerns about Darnold’s propensity for turnovers (fumbles as well as interceptions) overblown? Possibly. However, the fact that Mayfield threw just six interceptions last year is impressive regardless of what conference he played in.
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Which brings us to the character question. Mark Twain famously said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it frequently rhymes.” It’s easy to look at Baker Mayfield and want to see Johnny Manziel. That stereotype fails to recognize that many NFL quarterbacks have been “characters” to say the least (some U.S. Presidents as well).
Ultimately, Manziel failed in Cleveland, by his own admission, because he lacked an understanding of playing from the pocket and didn’t put in the work to be an NFL quarterback. Mayfield had to earn the starting job at Oklahoma after being a walk-on. That is a significant data point, particularly in Lincoln Riley’s offense.
Yes, I would have preferred he handle his pre-draft meeting with the Chargers better. I could have done without the “reality TV documentary”. Heck, I still wish LeBron would have handled his decision better. But if I look in the mirror, there’s probably a person or two that I offended for an immature statement that I made when I was in my early 20s.
Oh, and there’s this.
He’s not Johnny Football, Cleveland. He’s just not.
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Pick #4 – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Late in the 2017 season, defensive coordinator Gregg Wiliams acknowledged what many fans could see for themselves. He lacked the talent to play the press-man coverage that he prefers. It’s one of the reasons, Jabril Peppers was frequently located in Summit County and our defensive backs provided a ten-yard cushion on third-and-seven plays. Ward was regarded by many as the top cover corner in this draft making this one of the safest picks the Browns could have made.
The chicken-egg question is would we be better off with a fierce pass rush or a secondary that can cover? Today’s offenses are geared to quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly. Ward’s preference for man coverage and his ability to cover the hard slants will be valuable to our revamped defense.
Did the Browns reach for a need? That depends on your definition of reach. Many mocks had Ward going at #5 to Denver and no later than #9 to San Francisco. Mike Mayock had Ward rated as the #1 cornerback in the draft. So did they put need over best player available? Yes. Was he a reach? No.
Overall, I give last night an A-. I like the fact that they did not trade down and drafted with conviction. I understand the importance of a quarterback so my preference for Saquon Barkely is really just nitpicking at this point.
The minus is because I think there is a legitimate question about whether we should have used our draft capital to move back into round one when players like Calvin Ridley were still available, not to mention losing two running backs in addition to Barkley. Buckle up Browns fans. Round 2 is just hours away!