Mike Freeman's NFL Draft Notebook: Browns Blow It, Again and Of Course

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 27, 2018

The Cleveland Browns select Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The Browns still can't get it right. Josh Allen's racist tweets mean he has work to do in the Buffalo locker room. J.J. Watt wins social media, and Ryan Shazier wins our hearts.


1. Browns blow another draft

It's sometimes too easy to pick on the Browns. But dear God, do they make it easy.

This was the draft where the Browns could've turned things around, and done it quickly with the first and fourth overall picks. They could have taken Saquon Barkley and Bradley Chubb. In fact, one day, we might look back at this draft and say Barkley and Chubb were the best players in it.

But no. No. No, no, no.

These are the Browns. They took Baker Mayfield with the first pick.

Baker. Mayfield.

Once again, people around the league are laughing at the Browns. Literally, laughing.

There was really only one way for them to blow this draft, and they found a way to do it.

"That organization ruins even the smartest front office guys," said one NFC executive.

Meaning John Dorsey, who is one of the more respected front office men in the sport, who worked in Seattle, Green Bay and was the Chiefs general manager, goes to Cleveland and the Browns infect him with the Brownsian Virus, the way a zombie from The Walking Dead spreads zombiness with a bite.

There is no way in hell Mayfield should be the first overall pick. No way in hell.

There's a reason almost no one in the media, or the league, had Mayfield going No. 1 until this week. It's not that the Browns were just good at keeping secrets. It's because no one in the league thought they'd be that stupid.

The Browns took Mayfield, a massive quarterback project who is short (6'0 ⅝") and relies on his mobility but is slow (ran a 4.8-second 40-yard dash) and at times acts like a jerk (he was arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing).

The Browns had numerous better ways to go than Mayfield with the first overall pick. They could have taken Sam Darnold at No. 1 (a much better prospect) and then stuck with Denzel Ward at 4. 

Hell, taking Barkley at No. 1, and then Ward, would have been smarter.

This isn't to say that Mayfield can't play. It's that he's not worth that high a pick, by a long shot.

The bottom line with the Browns is the reason they are, well, the Browns, is they blow key opportunities like this one. Teams cannot waste top picks and still survive as a franchise.

Maybe one day, maybe even next year, I will be writing an apology to the Browns and Mayfield.

It's more likely we'll be saying: same old Browns.


2. Josh Allen must win Bills locker room

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

By now, you've probably heard about the racist tweets from 2012 and 2013, first reported by Yahoo, from quarterback Josh Allen, who was drafted No. 7 by Buffalo. There are many things to examine about this story on numerous levels.

The place to begin is with reaction around the league. I spoke to several different league sources, including players, assistant coaches and front office executives.

First, we need to acknowledge the weird world we inhabit, in which we are talking about the tweets of a high schooler. But this is the draft world in which we reside.

Also, it was extremely sloppy that Allen, or his reps, didn't go through all of his tweets and delete the offensive ones. There's a solid chance that if they did, we wouldn't even be discussing this.

The strongest reaction to Allen's tweets came from two players, both African American, who said Allen will have initial problems in the locker room because of his use of the N-word.

"He's going to be viewed with suspicion by a lot of black players," said one player, "at least in the beginning."

Another black player compared Allen to Riley Cooper, the former Eagle who was videotaped using a racial slur at a concert.

There was also the case of former NFL quarterback Kerry Collins, who was initially alienated by teammates after he was taped using a racial slur. What happened to Collins is instructive for Allen. Collins was eventually forgiven by most players. 

One team executive noted that Allen wasn't truly using a racial slur. The executive said the quarterback was saying "n---a" instead of "n----r," and that there's a difference. (Yep, that was said.)

Besides, the executive said, black rappers use the N-word all the time. Why can't Allen? (Yep, that was said.)

One white player said Allen would get a fair look from players on his new team. "If we drafted him, I'd check him out," said the player. "My wife is Southern. She was raised in a white town. When we met, she'd say some stupid racist stuff at times. It was rare, but I told her it was inappropriate.

"Then we started traveling and hanging out with teammates, and she's liberal now and tolerant of others. So it's hard for me to get outraged at this type of stuff, because when you're young, you say stupid stuff."


3. A reminder: The draft is dirty business

The best part of the draft is watching young men see their dreams actually happen. Most of the players you watch have imagined this moment since they could first throw a football.

But we also saw the ugly side of the draft with the Allen situation. The event can be nasty and cutthroat.

Allen's tweets may have been old, and they may have even been known to teams before this week, but most people had no clue about them. I certainly didn't know.

Which means someone may have brought these tweets to the media's attention. This would have been purposeful and strategic—leaked to injure Allen. They wanted to drive down his draft position. If you don't believe that, you don't know the draft.

The question is who (or whom) and why? Many times, it's one agent trying to drive down the stock of a competing player. In other instances, it's a team, hoping the player slips to them.

We see this often. In fact, it happened two years ago with Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil when a video emerged of him wearing a gas-mask bong (only the second time ever I've written those three words) while smoking weed. His social media account had been hacked.

The draft can be one of the greatest moments in these players' lives.

But thanks to the sport's ugly side, it can also be a nightmare.


4. Raiders WR group could dominate

Martavis Bryant
Martavis BryantKeith Srakocic/Associated Press

The Raiders' trade for wide receiver Martavis Bryant gives them a potentially nasty receiving group in Bryant, Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson.

Cooper had a terrible year in 2017, and it's unlikely he'll be that terrible again this season. Nelson still has something left, and Bryant remains one of football's most physically gifted players.

So why did the Steelers trade him?

"Good luck coaching him," a team source said.

Bryant missed the entire 2016 season because of a suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse program. Last year, he requested a trade.

He got his wish.


5. Meanwhile, no WR taken in top 20

It's the first time since 2010 no wide receiver was taken in the first 20 picks in the draft. That's a remarkable thing considering we are in an era where receivers dominate the sport.

One scout told me the reason for the lack of first-round wideouts was a simple one: Teams just weren't as impressed with this class of receivers as maybe some of us (including me) thought they'd be.


6. Ozzie Newsome's last draft

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Newsome's drafts in the past few years haven't been good. The way he and the Ravens handled the Ray Rice situation was worse.

Still, overall, not only is Newsome (already) a Hall of Fame player, but he should also be remembered as a Hall of Fame general manager as he works his final season before retiring.

Just a few of his picks include Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Jamal Lewis and Joe Flacco. Thursday, the Ravens also got the best quarterback in this year's draft, Lamar Jackson, with the last pick in the first round.

Newsome wasn't perfect, but he is still one of the best to ever do it.


7. 49ers were sold early

San Francisco took offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey at No. 9, and his selection is an interesting one because McGlinchey had no idea the 49ers were truly interested in him.

Did you have an inclination that the 49ers might take you when they did?

"No, I had no idea," he said, according to a transcript from the 49ers. "It's definitely a shock, but absolutely thrilled to be a part of the San Francisco 49ers organization, and my family and I couldn't be happier."

So in this age of teams over-interviewing and overanalyzing, the 49ers met with McGlinchey once—at the scouting combine—and that was it. 


8. Space, the final frontier

Defensive end Bradley Chubb, chosen fifth by the Broncos, on his nickname, the Astronaut:

"It was my brother [who gave it to me], and his favorite rapper is Future," said Chubb, in quotes distributed by the team. "Future calls himself 'Astronaut,' and my brother started calling himself one. He called me Astronaut Jr., and it just took off from there. We just kept using it. It started out as a little joke, and it ended up being a name we called ourselves."


9. Best draft tweet ever?

JJ Watt @JJWatt


Sometimes, simple is best. And the tweet from Watt showing how much some people hated the fact that he was drafted 11th in 2011? It's perfect.

It's also yet another example of how little we all know this complicated thing called player evaluation.


10. Ryan Shazier in the spotlight

The Checkdown @thecheckdown

.@RyanShazier just walked out on the #NFLDraft stage to announce the @steelers pick 🙏🙌 https://t.co/0q6q0TJFAD

Last season, Steeler Ryan Shazier suffered a devastating spinal injury in a game against Cincinnati. He's vowed to walk and play again.

He walked onto the stage around 11:10 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night to announce the Steelers' pick of safety Terrell Edmunds.

It was a stunning vision. It will, in fact, go down as one of the best moments in draft history.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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