NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-10

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It’s the most wonderful time of the sports year. March Madness is in full swing, MLB’s Opening Day is right around the corner, in case you couldn’t tell, and NFL Draft season is finally upon us. This article will focus on the latter proposition.

In this post, we’ll take a look at picks one through ten. There has already been one trade within these ranks, and in this article, we’ll raise the possibility of another hypothetical one.

So without any further ado, here is a first look at the top ten picks of next month’s NFL Draft.

1. Cleveland Browns

Josh Allen (QB/Wyoming)

Measurables are a surefire way to get NFL teams to salivate over your talent.

Want a guy who’s 6’5″, 230 pounds and can throw the ball 80 yards on the fly? Josh Allen’s your man. Allen has all of the arm talent of the league’s best quarterbacks and easily has the biggest upside of any signal-caller in this draft. But now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the negatives.

Against two Power 5 opponents last season (Iowa and Oregon) Allen was less than impressive. He went 33-of-64 for 238 yards and three interceptions in those two games, and he only completed 56% of his passes last season. He is talented enough to make any throw on the field, but he also makes some horrendous decisions and misses some easy throws.

Now, of course, we need to acknowledge the changes the Browns have made in both their front office structure and roster in the past few weeks and months. The team has added quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, cornerback Demetrious Randall, and wide receiver Brandon Coleman. Cleveland’s new general manager, John Dorsey, seems to have a clue as to what he’s doing, and that’s already an improvement over most previous Browns’ front offices. Fans of the team — who, at this point, probably feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football — are rightfully getting excited over a unit that still shouldn’t be good enough to compete for a playoff spot.

If the team takes Allen here, he likely would not be Cleveland’s Week One starter. That honor would belong to Taylor, a perfectly fine and competent NFL quarterback that the Buffalo Bills decided to bench for Nathan Peterman in November of last season. Taylor will protect the football and give the Browns mobility out of the pocket, and he’ll be far better than anyone Cleveland trotted out at quarterback last season. Allen doesn’t look like he’s ready to play next season, and the Browns, as crazy as this sounds, have the best personnel (head coach Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and Taylor) for him to learn from.

An NFL team will talk itself into Josh Allen early in the first round of the draft, even though he’s only the third or fourth-best quarterback available at the top spot. If Dorsey decides that Allen is the Browns’ quarterback of the future, he may very well pull a Lucy on the entire city of Cleveland.

And Browns fans might let out a collective “oh, good grief” in response.

2. New York Giants

Saquon Barkley (RB/Penn State)

Saquon Barkley is a once-in-a-generation talent.

He rushed for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons at Penn State, and that is hardly the only upside he brings to the table. He is a running back with shiftiness the likes of which we have not seen in some time, and he also has strength to boot; he weighed in at the Combine at 233 pounds and did 29 reps on the bench press. He also ran a 4.4 40-yard-dash and had two kick return touchdowns last year.

The guy has it all. He’ll run you over. He’ll jump over you. Sometimes, he’ll do both on the same play. He also has enough speed to run around you.

The Giants were the most disappointing team in the league last season. A year that started with high hopes and championship aspirations quickly turned into a 3-13 season and the #2 overall pick. While the team should start seriously thinking about replacing quarterback Eli Manning, their priority here should be to get the best player available.

And with Barkley, he’s not just the best player available. He could be the best running back we’ve seen in several years.

When I watch Barkley play, he reminds me equally of Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk. He’s that good. Here’s to hoping the Giants make the right choice if Barkley is available with the second pick.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)

Josh Rosen (QB/UCLA)

Josh Rosen is the best quarterback in this year’s draft class. He’s also not for the faint of heart.

To be clear, his off-field distractions have nothing to do with the legal sort. He hasn’t been arrested and many of his extracurricular troubles are of the inane, albeit concerning, kind. Rosen’s greatest hits at UCLA include wearing a “F— Trump” hat on one of the President’s golf courses, taking multiple shots at the NCAA, and, my personal favorite, putting a hot tub in his freshman dorm. Of course, these things are, in the grand scheme of things, not that important and, in the case of the hot tub, legitimately hilarious. However, to be the face of a franchise, you need to bring as few distractions along with you as possible.

Several teams are looking for a franchise quarterback in this draft. And gee, what team is most likely to inherit a total circus in the largest media market in the country? That’s right, it’s the New York Jets!

The J-E-T-E, Jets thought they had their quarterback with Geno Smith, just four years after thinking they had their guy in Mark Sanchez. The Jets’ history is a Sistine Chapel of awful draft picks, perhaps none more glistening than their 1997 draft, when they traded out of the first overall pick — which later became Hall of Famer Orlando Pace — then traded down the board again and out of the sixth pick, which the Seahawks used to select future Hall of Famer Walter Jones. In the span of six picks, the team fumbled their way out of two of the best offensive linemen in history and stumbled into James Farrior, who left the team after five seasons and played most of his career with the Steelers. And the mastermind behind all of that was none other than Bill Parcells!

Anyway, Rosen is the best quarterback available at three and could go a long way towards fixing the Jets’ quarterback issues. He, like Allen, can make any throw on the field and has decision-making concerns, but Rosen is far more accurate than Allen and can be plugged into the starting lineup for Week One. The Jets could also take Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield if Rosen gets taken before their pick here. More on Mayfield later.

For now, the Jets look to fix their years-long quarterback nightmare, but they’ll have to take a hot tub and some distractions with them if they do.

4. Cleveland Browns

Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB/S/Alabama)

In the eyes of many, Minkah Fitzpatrick is the best defensive player available in this year’s draft. He’s also one of the safest choices this early on.

He has a very high football IQ, which is most easily translatable in his ball skills as a safety at Alabama (he nabbed six interceptions last season) and is a very versatile defender as well. The Browns, provided they take Fitzpatrick, can plug him in as a safety, slot corner, or even an undersized linebacker in certain situations.

In my view, the Browns could use more help at corner than at safety, as the team drafted Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers last season and acquired Randall from the Packers two weeks ago to cover the other safety spot. Fitzpatrick is a rock-solid defender who would likely be able to get immediate playing time for a defense that surrendered the second-most points in the league last season.

Another option for the Browns with this pick would be an offensive lineman, likely Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, to shore up their offensive line after the retirement of Joe Thomas. However, Fitzpatrick is the best player available with the fourth pick, and my bet is that Dorsey, the general manager of a team that still has a lot of needs, will simply grab the most talented player available and take his chances.

5. Buffalo Bills (from Denver Broncos) NOTE: This trade is simply a proposal; it hasn’t actually happened and the Broncos are still the owners of the fifth pick as of now.

Baker Mayfield (QB/Oklahoma)

A trade involving the Broncos at five makes sense; the team signed Case Keenum, mainly based on 14 starts last season, to an $18 million deal earlier in the offseason and no longer need a quarterback, unless they want to be the Chicago Bears and pay Keenum that money to back up an unproven rookie. Therefore, we pivot to a team that does need a quarterback: the Buffalo Bills.

Enter Baker Mayfield.

The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner was penciled in as my number-three quarterback before the NFL Combine, and his impressive performance there coupled with Sam Darnold’s confusing and perplexing decision not to throw at that venue bumped him up to number two. The problem here, though, is that many are ragging on Mayfield for only being 6’1″, and while those concerns are valid, they also completely discount the existences of Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Fran Tarkenton, and Johnny Unitas, all of whom either are or were shorter than Mayfield and still had wildly successful careers. Mayfield should not be compared to those men, but he can definitely succeed in the NFL.

Beyond his success in college, he is an accurate passer who has improved his deep ball tremendously and is also mobile enough to extend plays with his feet. He has several flaws (poor feel for the rush in the pocket, suspect footwork) but he can work through those and be successful in the NFL. And even though Mayfield brings his own baggage (most significantly, a DUI last February) he looks better and better the more you watch him on tape.

The Buffalo Bills signed A.J. McCarron earlier in the offseason but are still in the market for a quarterback. Making a splash move up to the fifth spot in the draft will get them the second-best one in this year’s rookie class.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)

Bradley Chubb (DE/NC State)

The Indianapolis Colts did a very smart thing by trading the third overall pick to the Jets. Chubb is the top defensive end coming out of college this year and could be a game-changer for one of the league’s worst defenses a season ago. With the team likely getting Andrew Luck back off his shoulder injury, the Colts should look to improve their defense. Because they don’t need a quarterback, Indianapolis could afford to trade down in the draft and get several later-round picks to draft more talented defensive prospects. The Jets, who do need a quarterback, were willing to surrender these picks in the name of getting one, and the Colts should look to use them on an ailing defense. Chubb, who may have been taken by Indy with the third pick, anyway, can make an immediate difference for Indianapolis.

He posted the highest vertical jump among defensive ends at the Combine (36 inches) and at 6’4″ and 270 pounds, he is someone the Colts could plug into their starting lineup immediately. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only team that got fewer sacks than the Colts did last season and the team’s pass rush was the weakest link on a defense that ranked 30th in points allowed.  In that regard, Chubb can make an impact from day one, as he put up back-to-back seasons with ten sacks his last two years at NC State.

Bradley Chubb is a top-five player in the NFL Draft and if he is still available with the sixth pick, the Colts would be foolish to go in another direction.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Denzel Ward (CB/Ohio State)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a truly horrendous defense last season.

The team’s defense was last in the league in total yards, passing yards, and yards per play. Things went south quickly for the Buccaneers in 2017, as they finished 5-11 after a 2-1 start. The offense still has plenty of talent; while Doug Martin left to sign with the Raiders, Tampa Bay still has Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and tight end Cameron Brate. Where they truly need help is on defense.

Denzel Ward can help the Buccaneers improve on that side of the ball. Ward led all corners at the combine in 40-yard-dash time (4.32), vertical jump (39.0 inches), and broad jump (136 inches). While he is just 5’10” and naturally gives ground to taller receivers, his athleticism and talent make up for his challenges in stature.

While Ward may not be enough to salvage the Buccaneers’ defense, he will help a secondary unit that gets the pleasure of facing Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton twice a year. He’s the top cornerback coming out of college, and he’ll look to do what Marshon Lattimore did coming out of Ohio State in 2017; win Defensive Rookie of the Year and greatly improve a previously horrific defense.

8. Chicago Bears

Quenton Nelson (G/Notre Dame)

The Bears have a new head coach.

Matt Nagy comes over after serving as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. The Bears, under his leadership, may have something going for next season; the team has signed wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel from the Jaguars and Falcons, respectively, and will hope for improvement in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s second season. However, the team lost guard Josh Sitton to the Dolphins in free agency and should look to protect Trubisky at all costs.

The way they can do that is by taking Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, the best offensive lineman on the board, with the eighth overall pick.

Nelson stands at 6’5″ and 325 pounds, and his athleticism should make him ready to start as soon as the season begins. Nelson played guard on the left side of Notre Dame’s offensive line last season alongside Mike McGlinchey, and the Irish had arguably the best offensive line in the country because of that combination. The Bears have made some questionable decisions under GM Ryan Pace, but they are having an objectively good offseason. They signed Robinson, Gabriel, backup quarterback Chase Daniel, and even the guy who threw the touchdown on “Philly Special”. I bet you had to look up who that was.

But anyway, Nelson is tied for the second-highest grade on’s draft tracker; he sits behind only Saquon Barkley in that category. Nelson is another safe bet for a team looking to contend in a talented NFC North next season.

He’s the best fit for the Bears, and they should look to scoop him up with the eighth pick.

9. San Francisco 49ers

Calvin Ridley (WR/Alabama)

The 49ers have found (and secured) their quarterback of the future.

After trading a second-round pick to the Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo and going 5-0 with him as their starter, the team inked Jimmy G to a five-year, $137.5 million deal that, at the time, made him the highest-paid player in the NFL. After a 1-10 start, the team finished the year with six wins and will look to build around Garoppolo to compete for a playoff spot in the very near future.

Adding a wide receiver like Calvin Ridley would be a big boost to the Niners’ offense. Ridley is the only receiver in this draft class with the complete combination of speed, route-running ability, and hands. I actually like the upside of receivers such as Oklahoma State’s James Washington or SMU’s Courtland Sutton more than Ridley’s, but the Alabama product is the safest choice out of this year’s wide receiver class.

He would add to a receiving core whose best receiver, as of the moment, is Marquise Goodwin. Ridley would become a solid second receiver opposite Goodwin’s speed on the outside. The 49ers have their franchise quarterback, but they need to surround him with talent at the skill positions in order for them to have sustainable success on offense.

10. Oakland Raiders

Roquan Smith (LB/Georgia)

This one just feels right.

Roquan Smith is the best linebacker in the 2018 Draft, and a gap of about three-and-a-half-miles separates him from the number-two choice. Smith’s tape doesn’t “pop”; it explodes. He’s an athletic linebacker with a nose for the play, as he’s often involved in pass coverage or making a tackle. He won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker this past season and ranked in the top ten in the country in total tackles. Smith has it all; his one weakness is that he is undersized (6’1″, 236) but he compensates for that with elite effort and tremendous discipline.

The Raiders, who were one of the worst defenses in the league a season ago, could use a little of both.

Smith is versatile; he could help the Raiders, under new (old?) head coach Jon Gruden, in pass coverage and in the run game. He’s a slightly underrated prospect; I have him in the top five and he should be taken by a team in the top ten next month. The way things look right now, that team is the Oakland Raiders.

Smith would be a tremendous help for a team looking to jump back into contention in the AFC West. He’s also one of the best players in this year’s draft, and he would be an absolute steal for the Raiders at ten.

Are the Browns the Worst NFL Team Ever?

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You may be aware of this, but the Cleveland Browns are very bad at football.

On Sunday, Cleveland’s 16th loss of the season, one that came at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, clinched the team’s place in NFL infamy as just the third team in the Super Bowl era to go winless in a full season and just the second to do so over the course of 16 games. Ironically, Sunday’s tilt was one of the Browns’ better performances this season, and Cleveland had a legitimate chance to win given that none of the Steelers’ three best players (Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown) were playing.

The Browns had the ball with under two minutes to go at the Steelers’ 27-yard line on a fourth-and-two. Quarterback DeShone Kizer rolled out of the pocket and found a wide-open Corey Coleman near the sideline. Coleman, in the most appropriate ending imaginable, literally dropped the ball and let the Browns’ best chance at a 2017 win slip right through his hands. This ending to the Browns’ inglorious season is even more perfect when you consider the series of events that led to Coleman being in a position to throw away the Browns’ last chance at a victory:

  • April 21, 2016: the Browns trade the second-overall pick and a conditional fifth-round pick to the Eagles in exchange for a first-round, third-round, and fourth-round pick in that year’s draft. Philadelphia uses the second pick to select Carson Wentz, who was well on his way to being this year’s NFL MVP had he not been injured in Week 14 against the Rams.
  • Draft night, 2016: the Browns trade their first-round pick (8th overall) and a sixth-round pick to Tennessee for the Titans’ first-round pick (15th overall), a third-round selection, and Tennessee’s 2017 second-round pick. With the 8th pick, the Titans select Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Conklin, and Conklin is selected as a first-team All-Pro offensive lineman at the end of the 2016 season. With the 15th pick, Cleveland takes Corey Coleman, who has played 20 games in the last two seasons and currently has 718 career receiving yards.
  • However, because the Browns drafted Coleman, they had one too many wide receivers in training camp. To combat this problem, they decided to waive Taylor Gabriel. The Falcons picked him up shortly thereafter, and you may remember Gabriel for completely dusting Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler before all hell broke loose in Super Bowl LI.

All of this, of course, happened before Executive VP of Football Operations Sashi Brown was mercifully axed on December 7 after nearly two years on the job. We could devote another four or five full posts to his front office’s incompetence, but just know that they were driven by analytics (or something) and had no idea what they were doing or why they were doing it, which partially explains why they traded out of first-round picks that other teams used to draft Carson Wentz, Jack Conklin, and DeShaun Watson in the span of two years. Even worse, Brown was hired to run the front office by Paul DePodesta, the team’s “chief strategy officer”. So yes, the Browns owe their current incompetence to the guy Jonah Hill’s character in Moneyball was based on. I don’t know if that’s bad, but I don’t think it’s good.

With all of this being said, however, the Browns are not, in terms of talent or statistics, the worst team in NFL history. That title still belongs to the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 1976 Buccaneers were a brand-spanking-new expansion franchise coached by former USC legend John McKay. And by all accounts, McKay was less than thrilled in his new situation; this is a real quote he gave to Sports Illustrated about the difference between coaching in college and the NFL:

I don’t know what this pro football mystique is. I’ve gone to the pro camps. They throw the ball, they catch the ball. Many of them are ex-USC players. I’m not amazed at what they do. I’ve watched the pros play. They run traps, they pitch the ball, they sweep. What else is there?

What ensued in the 1976 season would not surprise you; the Buccaneers lost every game en route to an 0-14 record, becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to pull off that feat. The team still holds the record for the worst point differential in NFL history (-287) and was shut out in six of its 14 games. Additionally, the Bucs lost each game by an average of nearly 21 points; this was before the era of high-flying offenses and consistently good quarterback play. Speaking of quarterbacks, Tampa Bay was spearheaded that season by former Heisman Trophy winner and future NFL and college head coach Steve Spurrier.

But the Buccaneers were an expansion team that was expected to be terrible. Tampa Bay followed the franchise arc you would expect from an expansion team; they didn’t get their first win until the penultimate week of the 1977 season, but by 1979, they were in the playoffs. McKay and his zany persona left Tampa Bay after 1984, but he made two more playoff appearances before leaving the job. The Buccaneers knew what was ahead of them and, in some ways, made the best of their situation. The same cannot be said about the Browns.

The Browns were terrible for the sake of being terrible. Their front office had no plan for success and they also had the talent-evaluating abilities of most of their fans. They had multiple chances to fix their quarterback situation over the past two seasons; instead of doing so, the best answers they came up with were DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, and Robert Griffin III. If those are your “answers”, don’t even show me the question.

You could make a case for the 2008 Detroit Lions as the worst team in the history of the NFL, and that would make sense. They had a worse point differential than this year’s Browns and had one more double-digit loss than Cleveland did this season. However, Detroit started three different quarterbacks that season, and not by choice, as starting signal-caller Jon Kitna was placed on IR just five games into the season. The next week, backup QB Dan Orlovsky started for the Lions and gave us one of the dumbest and funniest plays in the history of sports when he ran out of the back of the end zone in a game against the Vikings. In case you were wondering, the final score in that game was 12-10 in favor of Minnesota, which means that Orlovsky forgetting any and all concept of location was the difference in that game.

When the Lions figured out that Orlovsky was not up to the task of being an NFL starting quarterback, the team signed former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper, despite having Calvin Johnson in Detroit, was not the same player he was in Minnesota, and he injured his shoulder in Week 14, forcing the guy who forgot where he was to start the last three games of the year. Shockingly, the Lions won none of the games started by Culpepper or Orlovsky. The year before, Kitna started every game and the team went 7-9. No one could have foreseen Detroit being that bad, and part of their futility was due to circumstances beyond their control. While none of this excuses the fact that they went an entire season without winning a game, it does at least somewhat explain why it happened.

The Browns’ explanation for their lack of success is simple: their roster was mostly devoid of talent and lacked leadership at quarterback. After Sunday’s loss, coach Hue Jackson boldly declared that no one else could have done the job he did, which is further proof that some jokes write themselves. Before the season, Jackson also said he would jump in Lake Erie if the Browns went 1-15 for the second season in a row. The good news is he won’t have to that; the bad news is that only the Cleveland Browns could make 1-15 look like a high water mark.

Cleveland needs a quarterback. The leader in passing yards for this incarnation of the Browns is Tim Couch, and he wasn’t good at all! In case you weren’t sure of how the Browns have tried to fix the quarterback position through the draft, here is a list of all the QBs that Cleveland has taken since 1999:

  1. Tim Couch (1999)
  2. Spergon Wynn (2000)
  3. Luke McCown (2004)
  4. Charlie Frye (2005)
  5. Brady Quinn (2007)
  6. Colt McCoy (2010)
  7. Brandon Weeden (2012)
  8. Johnny Manziel (2014)
  9. Cody Kessler (2016)
  10. DeShone Kizer (2017)

This list says nothing of the fact that the Browns have trotted out 28 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. They need to fix the position, but it’s hard to do that when you have the reputation of a team that screws up every quarterback you’ve ever had. If you want an example of irony, in the new Browns’ only playoff game, their starting quarterback, Kelly Holcomb, threw for 428 yards. Go figure.

This is why I would argue for this year’s Browns as the worst team in NFL history. The Lions made the playoffs three years after going winless because they drafted Matt Stafford in the subsequent draft (Stafford is still their starting quarterback). The Lions found their way out of the mess they were in by drafting Stafford and building around him. From 2011 to 2016, Detroit went to the playoffs three times while the Browns went 24-72. The Lions have now gotten to the point where they can fire their head coach for going 9-7 and not look like complete idiots.

The 2017 Cleveland Browns may not technically be the worst team in the history of the NFL; that is a title the 1976 Buccaneers may own forever. But due to circumstances they can only attribute to themselves, they may very well be the most pathetic. The reason is that being successful in the NFL, just like in baseball, is a process, one that no other team in the history of the sport has ever executed this poorly.

Draft a Quarterback at Your Own Risk

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If you think you’re having a bad week, consider this: an NFL team may risk everything next week and draft a quarterback in the first round.

To be fair, a team may draft a quarterback and make it work. After all, I’ve been wrong before. But the organization that pulls the trigger first on its franchise QB in round one better be right. If not, they could be setting themselves back for the next five to ten years. It’s sports’ equivalent of Russian Roulette, and sometimes, it’s even more of a life-or-death game.

For a look at all the teams who may be looking for a quarterback early in the draft, we must obviously start with the team that has needed one as long as I’ve been alive: the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have the first and twelfth overall selections in the draft and it would make perfect sense for them to try to trade up from the latter spot. There was a buzz in the league last week when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Cleveland is torn between Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the #1 pick. Trubisky started for one season at North Carolina and threw for 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. Garrett was a three-year starter at Texas A&M and looks like one of the best defensive prospects to come into the draft in a very long time. Charley Casserly, who knows a thing or two, says that Garrett is the best defensive prospect he’s seen in fifteen years. Your choice, Cleveland. Of course, the Browns could be conjecturing to get a Godfather offer for the first pick. I’m going to sincerely hope that’s what’s really going on here.

There are other teams who could potentially take a quarterback early in round one. The 49ers sit with the second pick but may trade back for more picks later in the draft. The Bears have the third pick but they signed Mike Glennon to an absurd $15-million-per-year deal earlier in the offseason and probably aren’t looking at a quarterback. The team we turn to next, then, is the New York Jets.

Bypassing the Titans and Jaguars, neither of whom should be looking seriously at a quarterback in the first five picks, the Jets represent the most likely team to fall for the QB ruse. After all, this is the team that once fell for Johnny “Lam” Jones. And Roger Vick. And Kyle Brady. And Blair Thomas. And Vernon Gholston. And Mark Sanchez. The list goes on and on.

But just remember this: GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles are likely in make-or-break years after last year’s 5-11 trainwreck that saw the Jets’ five wins come against four different teams with 18 wins between them. If you’re new to the NFL or mathematics, that’s not good. Drafting Trubisky, most likely the first quarterback to go off the board in this year’s draft, would be a last-ditch effort at saving both of their jobs. Incompetence, desperation, and the Jets’ needs are meeting in the exact same place. This never ends well. The Jets actually have needs at most of their positions, so drafting a quarterback makes little to no sense for them. But, if Trubisky is still available at six, don’t be stunned if the Jets pounce.

Of course, part of the Jets’ current problem is ownership. Team owner Woody Johnson will soon turn over day-to-day control of the organization to his brother once he is officially appointed as President Trump’s ambassador to Great Britain, a move that was reported as early as mid-January. It remains to be seen what attitude (and how much patience) Johnson’s brother, Chris, will have with the team. Crazy as it sounds, that may dictate what the Jets do with the sixth pick, and whether or not Bowles and/or Maccagnan are in their current roles at this time next year.

But then, there’s this: if Trubisky (or any other quarterback, i.e. DeShaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, or Patrick Mahomes) bombs in the NFL, the team that drafts him, particularly if they do so in the first round, will face major consequences.

In 2002, the expansion Houston Texans, the NFL’s equivalent of the state of Hawaii, were making their first pick in franchise history at the very top of the draft. They had a choice between North Carolina defensive end and basketball standout Julius Peppers and Fresno State quarterback David Carr. Houston’s general manager who, ironically, was Charley Casserly, chose Carr. It took the expansion Texans ten years to make their first playoff appearance; granted, part of the problem was Peyton Manning’s unwavering presence in the AFC South, but another significant part of it was the selection of Carr over Peppers. Two years later, Houston took South Carolina corner Dunta Robinson with the tenth pick in the draft. With the next pick, the Steelers took Ben Roethlisberger. To say that Casserly speaks from a place of experience on Myles Garrett is an understatement.

In 2007, the Oakland Raiders possessed the first overall pick and had a choice between LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and Wisconsin offensive lineman Joe Thomas. You know how that went. Thomas is still in the league and Johnson may be enshrined in Canton in a few years. Russell has tried and failed two comeback attempts, including one in which he offered to play on a one-year, $0 contract. No one took him up on the offer.

Of course, there are also examples of teams getting it right with quarterbacks later in the draft. For example, the 2014 Raiders took defending Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack with their fifth overall pick. The organization then waited for their second round pick and took David Carr’s brother, Derek, at pick number 36. The lesson? Instead of reaching for Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, or Teddy Bridgewater earlier in the draft, the Raiders patiently waited for the right time to draft Carr, the quarterback they had wanted throughout the draft process. While they were waiting, they may very well have drafted the best linebacker in football. Those two picks are the reason why the Raiders are currently one of the best teams in the league, no matter where they play.

That is the opportunity awaiting the Cleveland Browns next Thursday. While Garrett may be a bust, his hypothetical lack of success would be far less damaging to the franchise’s plans than someone like Trubisky’s. And if Garrett lives up to his potential, he could change the direction of the Browns’ franchise, even if they don’t resolve their quarterback situation this year. Also, don’t forget that Cleveland also has the twelfth pick and could use it on Trubisky, Watson, Mahomes, or whoever they are set on as their next franchise quarterback. Another option that exists for the Browns and every other team is to wait until later rounds to snatch a quarterback like California’s Davis Webb or Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman. The Patriots selected their franchise quarterback in the sixth round of the 2000 Draft. He’s still going, seventeen years and five rings later.

The Browns, Jets, 49ers and others have the opportunity to draft their franchise quarterback if they so choose. But they face a daunting gamble:

Get it right, and be successful for the next ten years. Choose incorrectly, and not sniff the playoffs for at least the next five.

Is that a risk worth taking? One team may be about to find out.

The Browns May Actually Know What They’re Doing

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The standards for the Cleveland Browns and their front office are not exactly high.

The Browns have made bad decision after bad decision since their return to professional football in 1999. The team has cycled through nine coaches in the last 18 seasons and only one (Butch Davis) reached the playoffs. Most amazingly, Cleveland has started a whopping 26 different quarterbacks during the franchise’s most recent incarnation, and the debate over which one was most successful is likely a two-horse race between Kelly Holcomb and Derek Anderson. The Browns have had so many quarterbacks that someone made a jersey with all of their names but retired it because, well, there was no more room. So it’s easy to understand why one would be skeptical of just about any move the Browns would make.

Their most recent decision, though, shows that they may have a clue as to what they’re doing.

Yesterday, the Texans traded 72-million-dollar quarterback Brock Osweiler to Cleveland in exchange for the Browns’ fourth-round pick in this year’s draft. The Browns also acquired a second-round pick in next year’s draft and a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft. The move frees up $18 million in cap space for the Texans to try to get Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who happens to be a massive upgrade over Osweiler. It’s what the move does for the Browns, though, that makes this trade so interesting.

As for Osweiler’s future in Cleveland, the Browns are reportedly expected to trade or release him before the start of next season, meaning that Osweiler will never play a snap for the Browns. As for his $16 million salary in 2017, the Browns will have to pay some portion of it even if Osweiler does not play for the team this season. If he is traded, the team that acquires him will likely pay part of his salary with Cleveland footing the bill for the difference. If he is cut and signs with another team, the Browns would pay the difference between his $16 million salary for this season and his new salary (likely much lower) with his new team. And if you don’t think the Browns can pull this off, just remember that they are literally sitting on over $100 million in cap space.

So, to recap: the Browns took Osweiler’s salary off Houston’s hands, acquired two draft picks in the process, and will never have to deal with Osweiler’s mind-numbingly bad quarterback play. Not bad at all when you think of it in those terms.

Last January, the Browns hired longtime baseball executive and analytics guru Paul DePodesta to head their front office as Chief Strategy Officer. At the time, the moved seemed like a desperate shot in the dark, and frankly, it probably still is. After all, why in the world would you hire a baseball executive to head a football front office? The logic seemed shaky at best, but for a franchise that, at the time of his hiring, had won only 30.5% of its games over the course of nearly 20 years, bringing in DePodesta signified that the Browns had very little to lose.

Sure enough, just like DePodesta’s teams did in baseball, the Browns have embarked on a rather unconventional approach to rebuilding their team. In last year’s draft, Cleveland led the league with 14 selections, and this was in no small part due to their trading of the #2 overall pick to Philadelphia. The Browns have also avoided reaching for quarterbacks in both the draft and the free-agent market, and it’s hard to argue with this strategy; after all, the Browns have needs at just about every spot on their roster and reaching for another potentially disappointing quarterback would set the franchise back for years to come.

This year, Cleveland has the #1 pick in the draft. Pretty much every report out of Cleveland says that the team will take Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with their selection. Personally, I would do the exact same thing if I was Cleveland; Garrett posted one of the best Combine performances in history and looks like a surefire choice at number one, assuming he doesn’t tell the Browns he wants to play for the Cowboys. Assuming they do take Garrett, the Browns could potentially be getting a franchise-altering game-wrecker who could single-handedly improve a defense that ranked second-to-last in the league in total defense a season ago.

Yesterday’s trade pretty much falls in line with what DePodesta and General Manager Sashi Brown are building with the Browns. Acquiring Osweiler for basically nothing allowed the team to stockpile more potential assets for this season and beyond. The Browns know that they are still at least another year away from contention and their strategy of building assets for the next couple of years seems prudent. Yesterday’s trade was merely a means to that end; Osweiler has no future in Cleveland and the Browns only used him so they could acquire selections in the next two drafts.

In fact, it’s probably easier to think of yesterday’s deal in basketball terms. Many times, contending teams, particularly at the trade deadline, will trade away players to give up cap space to make other deals. The team acquiring that player will then immediately release him, as they have no real place for him on their roster. That is what the Browns are doing with Osweiler. The deal works out for everyone except Osweiler, but it’s hard to feel bad for him when it’s blatantly clear he is not worth one-third of his current salary.

This trade is one that only the Browns front office would even think of making. After all, it would probably make Sam Hinkie blush. The Browns’ strategy here is similar to Hinkie’s as GM of the 76ers; stockpile assets for the future, don’t be in a rush to win, draft well, and be very patient. Hinkie was removed as General Manager last season but many of his decisions (i.e. drafting Dario Saric and Joel Embiid) have paid off, and Philly’s new front office has reaped the benefits of Hinkie’s genius.

But Hinkie didn’t get to see his process through. Hopefully, the Browns’ front office team does.

After all, it’s clear they just may be on to something.