CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – With 8 weeks until the NFL Draft and the NFL Combine now behind us, the silly season of trying to project how the top end of the draft will fall is officially underway.
As expected the top players in the class of 2018 did not disappoint in Indianapolis and what had been scouted throughout the college football season was essentially confirmed.
Here’s how we think the top of the draft will play out with the Browns holding picks 1 and 4.
4. Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB, Alabama
Analysis: The Browns add a much needed playmaker to the back end of their defense. Fitzpatrick can play free safety, nickel or corner. While some might view his versatility as a problem, Gregg Williams likes players – especially those in the secondary – that can move around. Part of Williams’ frustration in 2017 was the lack of versatility and athleticism on the back end which forced him to use Jabrill Peppers as his free safety drawing criticism from fans and media. Of Fitzpatrick’s 9 interceptions, he returned 4 of them for touchdowns. He’s been described as a culture changer and leader, something the Browns desperately need. He’ll likely be the best player left on the board when the Browns go on the clock for the second time.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb – DE, NC State
Analysis: The Colts get the best pass rusher of the class to fill a gaping hole defensively. Chubb was a force in each of the last 3 seasons for NC State that saw him total 198 tackles – 100 solo and 54.5 for loss, 25 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 4 pass breakups and a fumble recovery. If the Colts pass on Chubb, it’ll be as equally surprising if the Browns elect not to take a QB at 1.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State
Analysis: With Eli Manning still in the fold the Giants don’t need to reach for a quarterback and instead take the most prolific offensive weapon in this year’s draft in Barkley. The Penn State back has tallied 1,000 yard rushing seasons in each of the last 3 years for the Nittany Lions. He totaled 5,038 total scrimmage yards and scored 51 TDs – 43 on the ground.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold – QB, USC
Analysis: There is no such thing as a safe pick or sure thing but Darnold presents the safest option for the Browns with the top pick. In 2 seasons for the Trojans, the 20-year old completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 7,229 yards with 57 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Wyoming’s Josh Allen has a big arm and looks the part but some say his fundamentals and technique need work and that’s not always easy to correct at the NFL level. Baker Mayfield’s talent isn’t the problem but his size and the perception of him off the field is. Cleveland is 2 years removed from the Johnny Manziel disaster and although that decision was 2 general managers ago, that draft hovers over the franchise like a dark cloud. Josh Rosen of UCLA is healthy but there are questions about him behind the scenes that remain unanswered concerning his love of the game, leadership and personality. So, Darnold it is.
A lot can change between now at April 26. The Browns still have a multitude of pro days to attend plus their 30 invitees to Berea.