All signs seem to point to one name for the first overall pick
The Cleveland Browns could go a lot of different ways with the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, but many expect the team to try and finally nab its franchise quarterback of the future.
They could go with the polish and fundamental soundness of Josh Rosen. They could go with the scintillating potential and cannon arm of Josh Allen. Or they could go with the all-around game and youth of Sam Darnold.
But, according to an NFL.com report citing sources and other teams’ intel, the Browns are going to pass on all of them to nab Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.
In a twist of irony, the constant scrutinizing of Mayfield while he was at Oklahoma seems to have benefited him come draft time.
As the draft drew nearer, pundits and scouts picked apart Allen’s inaccuracy, Darnold’s turnovers and Rosen’s intangibles. But Mayfield? He’d already been picked clean duringh his time at Oklahoma.
So while Allen, Darnold and Rosen were being criticized for what they can and can’t do, Mayfield just sort of quietly trickled up everyone’s draft boards.
And now all signs seem to point to Mayfield being the first name called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday.
In fairness to Mayfield, his ascension from college walk-on to possible No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft is very much a testament to his work ethic. Mayfield doesn’t have accuracy issues like Allen, as he completed 69.8 percent of his passes at Oklahoma. Mayfield doesn’t cough up the football like Darnold, throwing only six interceptions in his final year at Oklahoma. And nobody can question Mayfield’s love, passion and competitiveness when it comes to football, a benefit of the doubt that Rosen simply won’t be afforded.
But it’s that same passion and competitive fervor that sometimes spills over and makes Mayfield a slight character risk.
His antics on a football field, such as planting the OU flag on an opponent’s field after a game or grabbing his crotch toward opponents, aren’t particularly huge red flags. Those issues can be ironed out as he matures.
But his public intoxication arrest in 2017? That hews a little too close to another gun-slinging, undersized quarterback who the Browns selected in the first round — Johnny Manziel.
Yes, Mayfield’s slight frame is a cause for concern. Yes, Mayfield’s nearly three year older than some of his quarterback peers. But it’s his partying that has most football pundits most worried.
Assuming Mayfield and the Browns can work together to ensure he can keep his partying and drinking in check, his football fit with the team will be an interesting one.
The Browns find themselves in the unenviable position of investing quite a bit of capital into their offensive line, and yet with superstar left tackle Joe Thomas’ abrupt retirement, the team has a huge hole at arguably the most important spot on the line.
Mayfield will also find himself contending with veteran Tyrod Taylor for playing time. Even if Mayfield beats out Taylor, he’s not exactly working with star skill position players. The Browns’ receiving corps, which includes Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, is admittedly solid. They also have a decent receiving back in Duke Johnson Jr. and a promising tight end prospect in David Njoku. But cupboard’s pretty bare behind those players.
Mayfield will certainly have his work cut out for him should he be the top overall pick. But if any of the quarterback prospects in this year’s class has the competitive drive to succeed in Cleveland, it’s him.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.