NFL draft week is here, which means we’ll finally get an answer to that age-old question: How will the Cleveland Browns screw it up this year?
That could be a trick question in 2018, as the Browns have their choice of a deep group of talented quarterback prospects with the No. 1 overall pick. All have their flaws — Sam Darnold’s turnovers, Josh Allen’s accuracy issues, Josh Rosen’s injury history, Baker Mayfield’s wild side — but if the Browns choose wisely with two of the top four picks, this could easily be a year that’s remembered for what finally went right on draft day.
Job One, however, is not following their usual MO of passing on a first-round quarterback despite a perennial need at the position. Tyrod Taylor is a nice player, but there is a reason he’s no longer in Buffalo. He may be the best quarterback the Browns have had in some time, but if they consider him as anything more than a bridge, they’re setting themselves up for more long-term failure.
Get your guy now and then see whether Bradley Chubb or Saquon Barkley falls to you at 4, and snap them up — or trade down for more picks, as there should be no shortage of teams looking to trade up to snag whichever quarterback is still available after the Jets pick at No. 3.
Where the quarterbacks land — and how many of them go in Round 1 — will be the story of Day 1 as the draft gets underway Thursday at 7 p.m. Central from Arlington, Texas. As many as six could go in the first round, with four — Darnold, Allen, Rosen and Mayfield — considered first-day locks. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson also have a shot of hearing their names called Thursday.
Oddly, quarterback is the deepest position on Day 1 other than perhaps cornerback. The draft is light on first-round talent in two premium positions — edge rushers and left tackles — and there also does not appear to be a can’t-miss prospect at receiver.
With an acute understanding that trying to read the mind of NFL GMs is like handicapping what Kanye West might do at the Grammys, here’s another mock draft for you to enjoy/debate/ridicule/rip apart:
- Cleveland – Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Will the Browns finally draft a quarterback in the first round? With the Browns having passed on talents like Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, this should be the year that they can’t say no. Darnold has the look of a star, with a pro-ready skill set, an unflappable demeanor and the fewest questions in this class.
- New York Giants – Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Rumor is that Saquon Barkley will be the choice here if the Giants don’t draft a QB, and he would make a lot of sense for the Giants. But they have drafted a RB in the first round only once in the last 18 years and that RB, David Wilson, was forced to retire after only two years with a neck injury. The Giants usually like to build up front and Chubb gives them a replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul.
- New York Jets – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
A college QB who completes less than 60 percent of his passes against a Group of 5 schedule is a red flag. But somebody’s going to take a chance on his arm talent, and that big arm would be particularly tempting to a cold-weather team like the Jets.
- Cleveland – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Assuming the Browns don’t trade down here – which is a distinct possibility with so many teams in need of quarterbacks – it’d be difficult for them to pass up on the top play-maker in the draft in this spot.
- Denver – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
There have been rumors that Rosen could drop, but he has a high football IQ and all the tools one looks for in a quarterback. The fact that he’s opinionated and has other interests outside football shouldn’t be as big a concern as some are making it out to be.
(Photo: Eric Chan/Wikimedia Commons)
- Indianapolis – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The Colts are perennially in need of defensive help and the versatile Fitzpatrick would immediately give their secondary the leader it’s lacked.
- Tampa Bay – Derwin James, S, Florida State
Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Warren Sapp, Jameis Winston – the Buccaneers have had a lot of success drafting players from their home-state universities and can take one of the draft’s top defensive playmakers here.
- Chicago – Quentin Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
A lot of mocks have the Bears going defense here, but they need help up front too, and the best offensive lineman in the draft just fell in their laps.
- San Francisco – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
They signed Richard Sherman in free agency and now can land the best cover corner in the draft here, instantly upgrading their secondary.
- Oakland – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Another year, another draft with the Raiders still in need of defensive help. They land the top linebacker in the draft here.
- Miami – Vita Vea, DT, Washington
After cutting loose the spectacularly overpaid Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins can replace him with another dominant interior player who can plug the gaps and push the pocket.
- Buffalo – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
With two first-round picks for ammo, the Bills could be a candidate to trade up. But with AJ McCarron signed and with needs elsewhere on the roster, the smart move may be to stay put and gamble that the last of the top four QB prospects falls to them.
- Washington – Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
The Redskins, who landed a producer in Jonathan Allen with last year’s first-round pick, continue to shore up their front seven with a 6-6, 264-pounder who may be the most physically gifted pass rusher in the draft.
- Green Bay – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
At 6-5, 253 pounds with 4.5 speed and bad intent, Edmunds could team with Clay Matthews to form a disruptive duo at linebacker for the Packers.
- Arizona – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Cardinals could use a quarterback but with John Brown and Jaron Brown moving on and Larry Fitzgerald not getting any younger, they also need to restock their receiver corps. Ridley gives them another speedy weapon with big-play ability.
- Baltimore – Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College
With Terrell Suggs aging, the defensive-minded Ravens look to restock their pass rush.
- L.A. Chargers – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
A left tackle in college, McGlinchey is said to perhaps be an even better fit on the right side, where he’d be a nice complement to the resurgent Russell Okung for the Chargers.
- Seattle – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Richard Sherman is gone, and the Seahawks’ success has for years been built around a stellar secondary. This is a team that typically looks at the defense first.
- Dallas – Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
With Dez Bryant gone, the Cowboys have a dire lack of playmakers at receiver. Right down the road is a 6-4 red zone target that may fit the bill perfectly.
- Detroit – Da’ron Payne, DT, Alabama
A disruptive force up front, Payne could team with fellow Alabama product A’Shawn Robinson to give the Lions a formidable interior.
- Cincinnati – James Daniels, C, Iowa
The Bengals lost center Russell Bodine to Buffalo and can replace him here with a plug-and-play prospect in Daniels.
- Buffalo – Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
The Bills landed Bodine to replace retired center Eric Wood and continue to bolster their interior line with a road-grader in Hernandez.
- New England – Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
With their first of two picks of the first round, the Patriots secure a replacement for departed left tackle Nate Solder – unless they trade down, which has been their M.O.
- Carolina – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
With Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith now leading the Panthers’ receiving corps, Cam Newton needs another weapon and the speedy Moore would fit nicely in the slot.
- Tennessee – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Titans have needs at both inside and outside linebacker. The versatile, dynamic Evans can play either.
- Atlanta – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The departure of Dontari Poe left a hole in the middle of the Falcons defense. The 6-4, 291-pound Bryan can help fill it.
- New Orleans – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Saints haven’t had a true playmaker at tight end since Jimmy Graham left. They can add one in the well-rounded Hurst, a former baseball standout.
- Pittsburgh – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The Steelers’ defense fell apart last year when Ryan Shazier was lost with a serious neck injury. Vander Esch has his own neck concerns, but if he checks out medically he’d be a nice fit in the middle of the Steeler D.
- Jacksonville – Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
A college left tackle who projects as a guard , Wynn would give the Jaguars more muscle up front for that Leonard Fournette run game.
- Minnesota – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Vikings have few holes, but 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes is a walking interference call. They may want to try again to find a suitable complement for All-Pro Xavier Rhodes.
- New England – Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Five quarterbacks in the first round? With Jimmy Garoppolo gone to San Francisco, the Patriots can secure Tom Brady’s eventual successor.
- Philadelphia – Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
The arrest and subsequent departure of offseason acquisition Daryl Worley leaves the Eagles still in need of a third corner. The 6-1 Oliver gives them a polished product.
(Chicago draft photo: Wikimedia Commons)
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