Sports Today: Can the Browns go wrong with the NFL draft’s first pick?


The obvious answer is yes, but hear me out…. 

I already posted my seven takeaways from NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock’s annual pre-combine conference call yesterday, so check those out if you would.

Here’s something else I found interesting: His top two quarterbacks both have pretty sizable red flags, at least if you are talking about using a high first-round pick on them. 

That of course could present quite a conundrum for the Cleveland Browns, who have the No. 1 and 4 picks in the draft. 

(Maybe they should make it easy on themselves and take Penn State running back Saquon Barkely with the first pick then be happy with whoever falls to them at four, but I doubt that is going to happen.) 

Mayock has USC’s Sam Darnold on top of his quarterbacks board with Wyoming’s Josh Allen second. 

Different physical attributes are the reason. In the case of Darnold, it is his ability to extend plays and find the open man. 

For Allen, that magical right arm has everyone drooling. 

The problem is Darnold turns the ball over too much and Allen has accuracy issues. 

These, of course, are the two worst things a quarterback can do on the field, so it’s hard to dismiss either of them no matter how much you like the other things you see. 

Adding much intrigue to this is Lamar Jackson. The Louisville quarterback could end up being the draft’s ultimate wild card even though the big question about him is probably more solvable than those about Darnold and Allen. That would be, “Can you run an offense in which Jackson can thrive?” 

The answer to this should be yes, but likely few NFL teams are willing to make that bet on themselves even as they would be willing to risk turning their franchise over to a guy who might never protect the ball adequately (Darnold) or another who perhaps can’t make it go where he wants consistently (Allen). 

Weird, huh? 

I’m not sure how the Browns will play this. 

They could end up liking UCLA’s Josh Rosen or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield better than any of those other three. 

(I’ve already laid out the case for the Bengals taking Jackson, by the way, and if Mayock’s prediction he goes somewhere in the second half is correct, there could still be an opportunity to trade back up and snag him after addressing the offensive line at No. 12.) 

Monday was a pretty good day for Ohio State basketball. 

Chris Holtmann was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in men’s basketball while the player of the year honors went to a man and a woman from the Scarlet and Gray. 

(He was wise to snap that up this year since the Buckeyes will likely be too good for him to be considered in future seasons because voters are a bit too committed to that line of thinking.)

Keita Bates-Diop and Kelsey Mitchell earned those honors, marking the third time OSU had the top player in both genders since 2006. 

In 2006, it was Jessica Davenport and Terence Dials while Evan Turner and Jantel Lavender were so honored in 2010.

Mitchell (who shared POY honors with Megan Gustafson of Iowa) is Ohio State’s third three-time Big Ten Player of the Year on the women’s side since 2007, joining Davenport and Lavender (who actually won the award all four years she was a Buckeye). 

Ohio State center Stephanie Mavunga also made the All-Big Ten first team. 

A late-season injury may have cost Middletown’s Vincent Edwards a spot on the all-conference first team, but the Purdue senior still landed on the second team… 

Sticking with Ohio State, Mayock covered five Buckeyes in his pre-combine conference call yesterday: 

“I think they're tied with Alabama for 33 players invited to the combine in the last three years. Kind of crazy,” Mayock said.

“(Cornerback) Denzel Ward to me is a top 10 pick in this draft. Billy Price, the center/guard, is a late 1 to mid 2, a solid plug-and-play guy. The defensive end, (Sam) Hubbard, is not flashy, but he's going to come in and start immediately for somebody. Probably second round, worst case, third round.

"I already mentioned (Jerome) Baker, the linebacker, who I think is going to light up this combine. He's got some good days and not so good days, but I think his physical specifications match up with today's NFL. The left tackle, Jamarco Jones, probably a third or fourth round type of guy. Very solid player.

“The free safety [presumably Damon Webb] I think is more of a third-day guy.”

Earlier in the call, he predicted Baker will impress scouts with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at 225 pounds, and later he said Hubbard “checks off all the boxes” scouts want to see and could become more of a sure-thing first-rounder if he runs something like a 4.5 in the 40. 

He also said he worries if Ward is too “light and lean,” which seems a bit odd. 

Perhaps most noteworthy were his thoughts on the Ohio State quarterback in this draft class. 

“J.T. Barrett is a hard one for me because I love the kid,” Mayock said. “I got to meet him a little bit at the East-West game. You can see the leadership attributes. Everything you want in the quarterback he has, except for the high-level talent.

“So from my perspective, he's probably going to be a later third day guy, and somebody's going to buy into him because they love the kid and what he brings to the table in the meeting room and try to give him a chance to develop over time. He's an ideal back-up or third quarterback, and I think he'll play in the league for a lot of years.” 

Sounds a lot better than the chances he’s been given up to this point, but then almost all draft speculation prior to January is pretty much worthless. 


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