An Open Letter to the Cleveland Browns: Don't Overthink the 2018 NFL Draft

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 24, 2018

Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey answers questions about the draft during a news conference at the NFL football team's training camp facility, Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

John Dorsey

c/o Cleveland Browns

76 Lou Groza Blvd

Berea, Ohio 44017

Mr. Dorsey,

For most of the last two decades, the loyal and beleaguered citizenry of Browns Nation have entered draft week filled with equal parts hope and dread. Hope because each year's draft is a time of renewal—a time for NFL teams to cast off the shackles of mediocrity and take a big leap forward as a franchise.

And dread because no organization in the National Football League has more consistently and thoroughly loused the draft up in recent years. Rather than a leap forward, the Browns have almost always stumbled backward.

In just the last five years the Browns have drafted a safety who can't tackle in Jabrill Peppers. A wide receiver who can't stay healthy in Corey Coleman. A lineman who can't block in Cameron Erving. A cornerback who couldn't cover a bed with a sheet in Justin Gilbert. A pass-rusher who struggled at rushing the passer in Barkevious Mingo. And the cherry on top of a stink sundae in Johnny flipping Football. 

That series of swings and misses wasn't your fault personally. You only just took the Browns job in December. Your history as a personnel man in places like Green Bay and Kansas City indicates you have a keen eye for talent and a knack for drafting well.

But if you are going to succeed where others have failed and dig the Browns out of the league's basement, it's paramount you avoid the pitfall that has claimed the likes of Sashi Brown and Ray Farmer.

Don't try to be the smartest guy in the room. Don't get cute on April 26.

Don't overthink things.

It all starts at the top. Thanks to the second 0-16 regular season in NFL history, the Browns possess the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. It's a pick that anyone and everyone believes will be used to address the proverbial elephant in the room.

Dating back all the way to the franchise's re-inception in 1999, Cleveland's quarterback situation has been a dumpster fire. And while Tyrod Taylor's in town now as a "bridge" starter, the Buffalo Bills thought so much of him after Taylor led the Bills to the playoffs a year ago that they traded him for a third-round pick.

Nothing sends a ringing endorsement quite like a shove out the door.

At least, from all indications, you intend to actually make the pick at No. 1. In each of the last two drafts the Browns have traded down when they had an opportunity to take a quarterback. In 2016 it was Carson Wentz at No. 2. Last year it was Deshaun Watson at No. 12.

Wentz and Watson would likely have been the NFL's MVP and Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 had they not gotten hurt.

Oops.

Most of the recent speculation has centered on the Browns selecting Wyoming's Josh Allen, the 6'5", 237-pounder with the cannon for a right arm. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com theorized your comments regarding hand size (Allen's are largest of this year's top options) indicated you were leaning in Allen's direction.

Josh Allen
Josh AllenGregory Payan/Associated Press/Associated Press

"You all laugh at me when I say it, but I think hand size is important,'' you said. "With that being said, hand size in November and December, when it's snowing, raining, it's getting muddy. We all know the elements in Cleveland are going to play a role.''

However, now Peter King of the MMQB is positing that Allen may not be the guy after all.

"We’re all prisoners of the people we know in this league," King said. "And someone I trust, who is very often right and is very well-connected, told me Sunday it’s not Allen."

Here's hoping that King's right. While USC's Sam Darnold had turnover problems, UCLA's Josh Rosen had some injury issues and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma is just over six feet tall, each of those young quarterbacks has one quality that Allen lacked in college.

Accuracy—a trait that's pretty important for a quarterback in the NFL.

Allen completed just 56.3 percent of his passes in 2017 and 56.0 percent the year before. His stats against "Power 5" competition at Wyoming were awful. And in the overwhelming majority of cases. Inaccurate college quarterbacks go on to become inaccurate NFL quarterbacks.

Sure, Allen may have the highest ceiling of the group, but he also has the lowest floor.

And given Cleveland's luck in drafts over the last 20 years, hoping to hit on the former at the risk of the latter flies in the face of years of history.

If King's final pre-draft mock is right and Darnold's the guy at No. 1, the Browns will be off to a solid start. Yes, Darnold turned the ball over 37 times in 26 career games at USC, but he's got an arm that's both strong and accurate. Cutting down on fumbles is a lot easier than goosing a completion percentage 10 points.

Sam Darnold
Sam DarnoldGregory Payan/Associated Press/Associated Press

Drafting the first quarterback at No. 1 since Tim Couch in 1999 is only the beginning of the job though. Thanks to that trade with the Texans last year, the Browns also have the No. 4 pick in this year's draft.

Woo-hoo!

Before we go any farther, if you have considered taking a position player first overall and then circling back for a quarterback at No. 4, don't. Put the thought out of your head. The Jets are taking a quarterback at No. 3. There's no guarantee that the New York Giants wouldn't pounce on Darnold at No. 2.

Getting cute here would be the most Cleveland thing ever. That's not a compliment.

Since one of the New York picks is absolutely going to be a quarterback, it means that one of this year's top-two non-signal-callers will be on the board at No. 4. A real difference-maker like Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley or North Carolina State edge-rusher Bradley Chubb.

It's a chance to have your cake and eat it too. Add two impact players on one day.

Either young man would be a fine pick. Barkley has all the tools to be a dominant ball-carrier at the NFL level. Chubb and 2017 No. 1 pick Myles Garrett could act as bookends on Cleveland's defensive line for years to come.

Bradley Chubb
Bradley ChubbGregory Payan/Associated Press/Associated Press

A trade down is also a possibility here. The Buffalo Bills have two first-round picks (No. 12 and 22) and a gaping hole at football's most important position. But passing on a player like Chubb or Barkley makes little sense unless the price is right. It makes less sense unless the Bills are willing to offer both of those picks and then some.

Even then, it may not be worth it. The Browns, in their infinite wisdom, have traded back many times in the recent past. In addition to Wentz and Watson, the Browns could have had Julio Jones in 2011. And Khalil Mack in 2014.

The list of players Cleveland acquired with the extra picks in those deals is too long and depressing to mention.

There's been a lot written recently connecting Barkley and the Giants, so right now a Darnold/Chubb double-dip would appear the most likely and obvious course of action.

It would also be the best first round the Browns have had in a draft since the team grabbed Joe Thomas third overall in 2007. Better, even—Cleveland's second first-rounder that season was wasted on Brady Quinn.

It's just that simple. Two relatively obvious selections. Make those, and you're playing with house money the rest of the way. With three second-round picks the Browns can add a tailback on Day 2. And some offensive line help. There should still be some solid young corners on the board.

Just go the best player available route and let the draft come to you.

Mr. Dorsey, you may be new to town, but you've probably already discovered that Browns fans are as passionate and loyal as any in the NFL. But they are also anxious as the draft approaches—and understandably so.

This is a fanbase that has endured "Red Right 88." "The Drive." "The Fumble." "The Move." And more terrible drafts since 1999 than they care to count.

David Richard/Associated Press

This iteration of the Browns, as their winless season in 2017 plainly shows, needs work. A lot of work. The team needs players on both sides of the ball.

What Cleveland most especially does not need is a big-bodied quarterback who can throw a ball 70 yards but not hit open receivers. Or the umpteenth trade back to stockpile picks that turns into a large pile of nothing.

So, take the road less traveled in Cleveland by doing what makes sense for once. Don't overthink the path in front of you. Sometimes the smartest course of action also happens to be the most obvious one.

Get this draft right, Mr. Dorsey. Don't overthink things.

Because even more than the Browns need impact players, Cleveland's long-suffering fan base needs hope.

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