A quarterback appears to be the most logical choice, but which one? Sam Darnold had a down year. Josh Rosen has said that he doesn't want to play for the Browns. There have been rumors linking the Browns to Josh Allen, but I'm not sure I quite buy those yet. That said, I have to admit that I was close to changing this selection to Allen.
I think it's more likely that the Browns address the position elsewhere, perhaps acquiring A.J. McCarron, Kirk Cousins or Nick Foles. If they do that, they'll want to pair that signal-caller with an elite play-making weapon, and the first-overall choice would be obvious then. Besides, if the Browns take Barkley, they're guaranteed to land two of Darnold, Rosen, Allen or Baker Mayfield at No. 4, so it would be illogical to draft a signal-caller here.
Saquon Barkley is the best player in this class, and he has a legitimate chance to be chosen first overall (or second, if the Giants and Browns flip selections). He's drawn comparisons to Marshall Faulk, and he's unlikely to get past the Colts at No. 3 overall.
I wrote earlier that the Browns could address their quarterback woes prior to the 2018 NFL Draft. Acquiring A.J. McCarron or Nick Foles seems realistic. Kirk Cousins, less so, as reports have come out speculating that he doesn't want to go to Cleveland. What could also happen is that the Browns wait on a quarterback until No. 4, which would be the smart decision because two of Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield will be available.
Mayfield has to be in the discussion here, as there are two references to him being linked to the Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft Rumors page, one of which is 100-percent non-smoke. It would not be surprising to see Mayfield chosen over some of the other quarterbacks in this class, as they all have flaws. Mayfield has his issues as well - mechanics, anticipation - but he'll win teams over with his leadership ability and upside.
Rd. 2, Pk. 1
Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
I actually slotted Brian O'Neill to the Browns at No. 4 overall in my Senior Bowl-only mock draft. He makes sense for them, as Cleveland needs an upgrade at right tackle. O'Neill could then shift to the blind side once Joe Thomas retires.
It sounds like Cleveland is settled on taking the best player in the 2017 NFL Draft, which is Myles Garrett. He has been the consensus best player all year and and has been No. 1 on my big board since the start of the 2017 NFL Draft process. I think the Browns are wise to take him and not reach for a lesser player.
In 2016, Garrett totaled 33 tackles, 15 for a loss, 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Against UCLA in the 2016 season opener, he collected three tackles, 1.5 for a loss and one sack going against a quality left tackle in Conor McDermott. Garrett is lightning fast off the edge with natural strength to bull rush offensive tackles. He is a freakish athlete with the potential to be one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.
Immediately after arriving at Texas A&M, Garrett began dominating college football. The 6-foot-4, 272-pounder took the game by storm in 2014 as he was an impact-making defender for the Aggies from Day 1. The fast and athletic Garrett was a force on the edge as a quarterback hunter. He had 11.5 sacks as well with 53 tackles and 14 for a loss. That sack total broke the NCAA freshman record previously set by Jadeveon Clowney.
In 2015, Garrett kept it going, racking up 59 tackles with 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles, two passes batted and an interception. He has blinding speed off the edge and is a natural pass-rusher. Garrett could be the best prospect in college football and could have been in the running for the No. 1-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft if he had been able to declare.
Rd. 1, Pk. 1
Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Days ago, I reported that the Browns had spoken with the Jets about trading from No. 12 to No. 6 in order to get Trubisky. I think Cleveland is motivated and has the ammunition to get Trubisky. I think the Browns will get it done and get their guy.
Trubisky looks like a second-round caliber prospect, but that doesn't preclude teams from reaching on him in Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Some teams graded Trubisky in the second round, but teams across the league believe he will go in the top 10. One team picking in the top 10 that could take a quarterback told me Trubisky is the only quarterback prospect they would take that high. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder was very efficient in 2016, flashing good decision-making and good accuracy in the short to intermediate part of the field. He has a decent, but not great, arm and some athleticism. However, across the history of the NFL, there have been very few 1-year college starters who turned into good pro starters. His accuracy going downfield is also something he needs to improve.
The junior beat up on some weak secondaries in 2016, but it still is impressive that he had three straight games throwing for over 400 yards without throwing a single interception. On the season, Trubisky completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,748 yards with 30 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also had five rushing touchdowns.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State
Cleveland could use more weapons for its young quarterback.
Scouting sources compare Samuel to Percy Harvin and think Samuel could be a special play-maker in the NFL. The 5-foot-10, 196-pounder would probably fit better as primarily a receiver in the pros given his build. In 2016, Samuel had 74 receptions for 865 yards with seven touchdowns. On the ground, he averaged 7.9 yards per carry for 771 yards and eight scores. Samuel has explosive vertical speed and is a play-maker with the ball in his hands.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
The Browns need a third cornerback, and a bigger one would allow them to move Joe Haden inside to the slot when they go to the nickel.
After losing Vernon Hargreaves to the NFL, Wilson replaced him as Florida's starter alongside Jalen Tabor. Sources with multiple teams graded the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Wilson as a second-rounder, and team evaluators feel that Wilson has above-average speed to go along with his size. In 2016, he totaled 33 tackles with six passes broken up and three interceptions. Sources also feel Wilson has above-average feel and awareness. He is good at running the route to prevent separation with the size to take on big receivers.
Wilson is a longer press-man corner for the NFL with ball skills, but scouting sources say that there are aspects that Wilson needs to improve. He grabs at receivers a lot and could get called for pass interference penalties in the NFL. They also say that he lacks instincts and has some limitations in scheme. Thus, he will need some development. Wilson's best fit would be as a longer press-man corner.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Marcus Williams, S, Utah
The Browns grab a safety upgrade.
Williams had a quality 2016 season with 64 tackles, three passes broken up, five interceptions and two forced fumbles. He put together a tremendous 2015 season for the Utes with five interceptions, five passes broken up and 66 tackles. It was a breakout sophomore season for Williams after he recorded 59 tackles with an interception as a freshman. The 6-foot-1, 202-pounder could use more strength and weight to tackle in the NFL.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
The Browns could use more tight end talent. Here's a nice value pick.
As a senior, Sprinkle had 33 receptions for 380 yards with four touchdowns. He played well as a junior as part of a pair with Hunter Henry, recording 27 catches for 289 yards with six scores. As one could expect from playing for Arkansas, Sprinkle (6-5, 252) is a decent blocker, but he also has some off-the-field concerns.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
The Browns could use some competition at three-technique, and this could be a nice value pick.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
The Browns grab more receiving competition.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Matt Dayes, RB, N.C. State
The Browns haven't taken running back depth yet, and it would make sense to grab a tailback on Day 3.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
The Browns could use take multiple quarterbacks with the all the picks they have in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Jadar Johnson, S, Clemson
The Browns could use take multiple safeties to upgrade that weak position.
If the Browns end up with the No. 1-overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, I think they would trade down again for a package of picks. That has been Cleveland's M.O. in the last two drafts, passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in the process, so there is no reason to believe the team will follow a different plan in the 2018 NFL Draft. Considering Cleveland also passed on Derek Carr for Johnny Manziel and passed on Dak Prescott, the franchise has had a rough streak of passing on good quarterbacks. In a move down, the Browns could still target a difference-maker like Barkley to help the regime start winning some games. The Browns have Isaiah Crowell entering free agency, and their running game hasn't thrived this year despite a lot of money being spent on the offensive line. Here's a stud back to make DeShone Kizer's job a lot easier. <br> <br>
On the year, Barkley is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, which makes for 757 yards with eight touchdowns. He has 32 receptions for 448 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. The sophomore averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also made 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley was very impressive as a freshman in 2015 when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score. Barkley was very impressive, running for 194 yards on 26 carries against an Ohio State defense loaded with NFL talent. <br> <br>
The 5-foot-11, 223-pounder is a tough runner with a burst. Barkley has devastating quickness to hit the hole and accelerate downfield. Along with great speed, Barkley has tremendous balance, vision, cutting ability, elusiveness, and power. He also is a receiving threat who presents mismatch problems for a defense in the passing attack. Barkley is an elite running back prospect in the same mold of Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, and better than Ezekiel Elliott. Unless Barkley has an injury or off-the-field issue, he's a lock to be a top-10 pick next April.
Cleveland's safety play this year has been poor. Here's an upgrade to go with Jabrill Peppers. <br> <br>
Fitzpatrick has 52 tackles, one interception, seven passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2017. He has played really well, doing everything that could be asked of a safety. Fitzpatrick is a superb center fielder, covering receivers deep downfield. He is also fast in pursuit, tackles well in space at the second level, can come down into the box, and is able to play man coverage against tight ends and slot receivers, plus help out his cornerbacks. The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has excellent size and some natural cover skills. Sources have said that Fitzpatrick is a prototypical free safety for the NFL. They say he has good size, speed, athletic ability and high football I.Q. in a play-maker. <br> <br>
In 2016, Fitzpatrick recorded 66 tackles with seven passes broken up and six interceptions. He was dominant at times for Alabama, splitting time between corner and safety. Fitzpatrick had a superb 2015 season for the Crimson Tide. The freshman totaled 45 tackles with two sacks, 11 passes broken up and two interceptions - both returned for a touchdowns.
The Browns improved their front office by bringing in John Dorsey to be their general manager. Dorsey doesn't have any ties to the DeShone Kizer selection, so he could easily look for a new franchise quarterback for Cleveland. At No. 1 overall, I think Dorsey will target a franchise quarterback. If Josh Rosen doesn't want to go to the Browns, it makes more sense for them to target a quarterback with excellent intangibles who would be willing to attack the challenge of turning the franchise around. <br> <br>
I'm going to keep Darnold in the 2018 mock for now, but soon, he likely will be moving to the 2019 version. Sources have been telling me that they're hearing Darnold wants to return to USC next year rather than enter the 2018 NFL Draft, but he is getting a lot of pressure to enter the draft. Walt has Darnold in his 2019 mock, so it makes sense to have one version with him declaring early. <br> <br>
This season, Darnold has had issues with interceptions and decision-making. He also has admitted to having issues with confidence. Darnold is an accurate passer without an elite skill set, but he has developed good anticipation, feel and timing. Darnold is a rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. He also throws accurately on the run.<br> <br>
In 2017, Darnold has completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,787 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. A general manager, who has scouted Darnold in person this year, told me that they like the "it factor" that Darnold displays. That general manager thinks there's nothing wrong with Darnold's throwing motion or arm strength, and that Darnold has some similarities to Philip Rivers. Other scouts feel that Darnold is a good prospect with the ability to be a plus starter, but they don't think he's elite, and on tape, they say he is not better than Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson were before the 2017 NFL Draft. <br> <br>
Darnold was very impressive as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and impressed evaluators even though he wasn't being graded yet. Along with a quality skill set, teams like his intangibles and moxie. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 6-4, 225-pounder led USC on a nine-game winning streak to end that season.
Cleveland's M.O. in the last two drafts was passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson to trade down. Considering the current regime also passed on Dak Prescott, the evaluation skills of Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, Andrew Berry and Hue Jackson are damning. I have been hearing chatter from scouts around the league that the Browns are going to clean house again. A new regime would definitely look to take its own quarterback. Even if the franchise doesn't clean house, DeShone Kizer hasn't done enough to convince the team he's the future. If Cleveland takes a rookie quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft and he has some success next season, that might be enough to buy the current regime some more time. <br> <br>
In 2017, Rosen has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,515 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The junior has been up-and-down this season with highs and lows, including a concussion. He had a legendary performance in UCLA's 2017 season opener versus Texas A&M, leading one of the greatest comeback wins in college football history, turning a 44-10 third-quarter deficit into a 45-44 win. <br> <br>
Of the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, Rosen has the best mechanics and is the most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it with his powerful arm. Rosen's tight spiral helps him to get his passes through tight windows and beat good coverage. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has serious arm talent with field vision and pocket presence. Scouts who did advance work on the 2018 prospects told me that Rosen has questionable intangibles with how he gets along with his teammates and his leadership skills for the NFL. <br> <br>
Rosen had an impressive debut as a freshman in 2015, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,670 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. As a sophomore, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,915 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games before suffering a season-ending injury.
The Browns grab a their franchise quarterback. I don't think drafting DeShone Kizer will be enough to keep Cleveland from taking a signal-caller early in the 2018 NFL Draft. <br> <br>
Allen (6-5, 222) became a discussed prospect late in the 2016 season, but he wisely decided to return to Wyoming. He has a good skill set and some draft analysts were projecting him high in the first round, but one general manager told WalterFootball.com that he had Allen as a third-day prospect and thought Allen should improve before going pro. Other team sources that did advance work for National Scouting for the 2018 prospects really liked Allen, so don't be surprised if he is a polarizing prospect. In 2016, Allen completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.