CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Not much has changed for the Browns from a year ago as they return to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine this week.
They once again own the No. 1 pick and the top selection in every round of the NFL Draft, they haven’t won a game since last year’s Combine and they still need a quarterback.
As the Browns’ luck would have it there’s hasn’t been a definitive quarterback to take with the first pick in 2017 or 2018 which is why new general manager John Dorsey looks to find answers to a few questions for the top prospects this week.
Baker Mayfield might be the most talented quarterback in the class but his height – or lack of – as well as concerns over his maturity remain problematic for him entering the draft. Sure, Mayfield might be the exception to the rule and he could be the next Drew Brees or Russell Wilson but can he lead a franchise – or in the Browns case resurrect one? Fair or not, that’s the job in Cleveland where Johnny Manziel was an epic failure by his own doing just 2 years ago. The Oklahoma QB will need to convince the Browns that his love and dedication for the game supersedes all and that he is strong enough mentally and emotionally to carry the burden. Teams, and especially the Browns, will be watching him closely for how he handles himself throughout the week with reporters as well as behind closed doors rather than just how he throws the ball. While the comparisons to Manziel aren’t really accurate on or off the field, the questions about his maturity and decision-making off of it are legitimate and absolutely correlate to Johnny Football.
Wyoming’s Josh Allen needs to account for the drop-off in production as a senior – outside of a loss of talent around him – as well as his completion percentage, which is an unimpressive 56.2 percent over 3 seasons. Accuracy can be improved at the NFL level, it can not be taught. Dorsey can look no further than to DeShone Kizer, who completed 60.7 percent of his passes in 2 seasons at Notre Dame and he only completed 53.6 percent of them as a rookie, as a cautionary tale. With both quarterbacks the measurables and arm talent is there, but are they the complete package? There clearly are doubts about Kizer which is why a QB at 1 is even in play.
Sam Darnold is thought to have the most upside in the class and may be the safest bet for the Browns to take No. 1. But he’s not even 21 yet. In 2 seasons for the Trojans Darnold threw for 7,229 yards with 57 touchdowns while completing 64.9 percent of his passes. Some might use the history of failure of USC quarterbacks in the NFL against Darnold but that is hardly a worthy measurable when evaluating if he’s a franchise quarterback. Turnovers are Darnold’s biggest problem. He threw 13 interceptions last season and 9 in 2016. He fumbled 14 times last season bringing his 2017 turnover total to 27. The Browns, who were dead last in turnover differential last season after throwing 28 picks and losing 14 more fumbles, will have to determine the cause of and if Darnold’s ball security issues are correctable.
UCLA’s Josh Rosen will look to smooth over talk he wants to play anywhere but Cleveland. It is expected that Rosen will say all the right things this week about the possibility of the Browns selecting him when asked but statements made in front of hundreds of reporters aren’t sworn testimony. Rosen will also need to alleviate any medical concerns about him. He was sidelined in 2016 with a shoulder injury that did not require surgery but only allowed him to play in 6 games in which he threw for just under 2,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions as a sophomore. He bounced back in 2017 to throw for 3,756 yards with 26 TDs and 10 interceptions while completing 62.6 percent of his passes in 11 games. He was held out of a game against Washington after suffering a concussion and coaches pulled him for the second half against Cal after he took a similar hit to the one that concussed him before. Over 19 years and 28 different starting quarterbacks, durability has been just as problematic for the Browns as performance.
Lamar Jackson was electrifying for Louisville but he’s not even mentioned as a contender to go No. 1, but should he be? In 3 seasons for the Cardinals Jackson has combined to throw for 9,043 yards with 69 touchdowns and 27 interceptions while completing just 57.0 percent of his passes. Jackson has added 4,132 yards on the ground where he averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored a whopping 50 touchdowns. In college he was the perfect blend of run and pass but could he survive in the NFL?
Five quarterbacks and a bunch of questions.
Dorsey hopes that by next week he’ll have a few answers.