Todd McShay NFL Mock Draft 2018: Sam Darnold Goes No. 1 to Browns

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2017

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold (14) passes against Stanford during the second half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

ESPN's Todd McShay released his first 2018 NFL mock draft Wednesday, projecting the Cleveland Browns to select USC quarterback Sam Darnold.

He wrote: "I believe [Josh] Rosen is the more polished quarterback right now, but Darnold has the higher ceiling at the next level. ... It isn't easy to turn down guaranteed money and the potential of being the No. 1 pick, but most talent evaluators think he'd benefit long term from another year at USC."

The Browns will have a variety of options should they choose to address the quarterback position in the first round. Alongside Darnold and Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph may also be off the board in the first.

There is little consensus on No. 1. B/R's Matt Miller, for instance, believes the Browns should select Rosen:

"If UCLA signal-caller Rosen declares for the draft, [John] Dorsey and Hue Jackson shouldn't have to deliberate for long about who the pick should be. Rosen's right arm is a beautiful sight to see. He's poised, accurate, intelligent and has the tools to be the franchise's foundation. Rosen won't crack under the pressure of being the next Browns quarterback.

"Rosen does have some warts—he's been injured often and is a little skinny—but he's the closest thing this draft has to a franchise quarterback prospect."

Darnold has been considered one of the top options since his excellent 2016 season that saw him throw for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes and led the Trojans to nine straight victories to conclude the campaign.

He was shakier at times in 2017, though his stats were still solid: 3,787 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 63.7 percent completion rate, 11-2 record, Pac-12 title.

Darnold has a ton of natural gifts and a penchant for playing at his best in the clutch.

For the Browns, DeShone Kizer has been mediocre in his rookie season, and the team hasn't had a franchise signal-caller since Bernie Kosar in the early '90s. 

The Browns have fielded 28 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. To put that in perspective, since that time the New England Patriots have started just five quarterbacks: Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Stability at quarterback is a precursor for success. Until the Browns find one, they'll continue to struggle.

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