Dwight Howard

Here Come the Moneyball Browns

Two years ago the question, “What are the Browns going to do?” barely even crossed our minds. I mean, they’re the Browns, the NFL’s immortal downtrodden team who’s most famous fan is their star running back from the 60’s. Not even Ohio’s beloved son (LeBron) claims them.

A year ago that same question mutated from, “What are the Browns going to do?” to “What are the Browns doing???” They had just passed on Carson Wentz, overlooked Dak Prescott, totally whiffed on Cody Kessler, then used their 2017 first overall pick on Myles Garrett because it was a no-brainer, but confusingly traded all the way back from twelfth to twenty fifth to gamble on that draft’s biggest boom-or-bust prospect.

You couldn’t make this up, the Browns were getting more Browns-ier. On top of that, they moved back into the first round to grab the third tight end available without a good quarterback on their roster. Hold on, I’m scratching my head just like you. It was like they hired someone off the street who had no previous football experience to run their organization… WAIT, THEY DID!!!!!!!

None of this makes sense, right?

Why wouldn’t you just grab your franchise quarterback (Wentz) that first year, then build around him like Seattle did with Russell Wilson? Maybe they didn’t trust that Wentz was a franchise quarterback, understandable but huge mistake. He was solid, but nothing special coming out of college like Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning, right?

Before free agency kicked off, with the most options available at quarterback in over a decade and with a treasure chest of picks and a whopping near $108 million to throw around everything came full circle. Instead of chasing after Kirk Cousins (really hard to get), Case Keenum (attainable), or Nick Foles (easily trade-able for), the Browns did something strange. Their GM announced they were shopping the first overall pick, and they just traded for Tyrod Taylor.

WAIT, WHAT!?

You’re telling me instead of at least trying to sign Keenum or the Super Bowl MVP (Foles) or even beginning contract negotiations with one of the top four available quarterback prospects, they just traded for Tyrod Taylor – someone who’s had moments but never would you think you can win the Super Bowl with. WHY???

And then that’s when it hit me…

I don’t think they’re drafting a quarterback with that first pick. I think they’ll keep “rolling over” their first rounders like they were on old school cell phone plans rolling over their unused minutes except that instead of minutes they’ll roll over the first rounders while amassing a treasure chest of second/third/etc rounders along the way. And really, that’s what you’d want to do if you’re turning around a franchise – treat your first rounder as a goose that lays golden eggs. It’s brilliant, right!

This is the second year in a row they can pretty much pick whoever they want in the top five and trade away their other first rounder.

Tangent: Once upon a time, Jimmy Johnson was coming off a bleak 1-15 season with the Cowboys, and decided he needed to turn the team around. So he thought the best way for him to turn it around was trading one of his star players. He kicked around the idea of trading Michael Irving but was soon talked out of it by Al Davis (surprising). He finally came up with the genuis idea of trading Hershel Walker to Minnesota for a first, second, and sixth rounder plus a slew of conditional other picks based on their players playing time. So he of course cut the players and cashed in the picks which got him back two firsts, two seconds, and a third rounder which resulted in building the Cowboys Dynasty of the 90s.

How much do you think Cleveland’s Braintrust looked back at that trade and thought to themselves, “Actually, that’s what we should do!”

They knew it’s going to take time to build a contender, that’s a given, but stockpiling talent like the Cowboys did, that’s something that can be replicated even if they didn’t have a Hershel Walker on their team. Their Hershel Walker was that 2016 first rounder they keep rolling over, which they’ve just started to reap the benefits of: Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, and  Demarious Randal.

A good haul for just third, fourth, and seventh rounders with pick swaps in the fourth and fifth rounds, while also ridding themselves of “Half Brady/Half Cam Newton” DeShone Kizer in the process.

Did I mention their brilliant Brock Osweiler Trade, and how they received a second and sixth rounder for salary cap they already had loads of?

Everything smells of brilliance. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.

I would have drafted Wentz that first year, and then figured the rest out later. It’s not often you see a pro style system quarterback that solid as Wentz was coming out of college.

Of the past notable quarterbacks drafted, I would rank them like this (with % being their likelihood to succeed in the NFL):

Andrew Luck – 99%

Carson Wentz – 85%

Marcus Mariota – 75%

Dak Prescott – 73%

Mitchell Trubiski – 65%

Davis Webb – 75%

Teddy Bridgewater – 65%

Jared Goff – 70%

Jameis Winston – 60%

Paxton Lynch – 60%

Blake Bortles – 55%

Johnny Manziel – 40%

Deshaun Watson – 60%

Patrick Mahomes – 65%

… Tied for last – DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler

I loved Andrew Luck, and thought he was the most sure quarterback prospect ever coming out of college. You might see a college quarterback audible every now and then, but how many times do you see one audible without input from his head coach?

Wentz though, already had that pro quarterback look and feel, with a nice floater and feathery touch on his throws coming into the draft. You could also add to his resume, he was a f****** warrior. The same way everyone came away feeling about Elway after his first Super Bowl win, is the way I felt watching Wentz’s 2014 Championship Game – running through defenders, fighting for extra yards, and possessing a never die attitude.

Just know, I would’ve totally bombed on Deshaun Watson, the jury is still out on Davis Webb, but just about everything else is spot on.

But this year’s quarterback prospects are a mystery bag of who knows what you’re going to get. Sam Darnold is the most polished, but how great do you ever feel taking the safe pick? Baker might be the best, but how often do you see a quarterback misbehave the way he does? Josh Rosen’s arm isn’t near those other two, and Josh Allen’s is but his accuracy is the worst. Here’s how I graded them:

Sam Darnold – 75%

Josh Rosen – 70%

Baker Mayfield – 72%

Josh Allen – 60%

If you’re wondering though, I like Mayfield the best. But like Dak Prescott, their college offensive systems make it tough to evaluate them. You have to go just based on the small things – using their feet to go through their progressions, head movement (looking off the safety etc.), and accuracy.

Unlike Dak though, I don’t hear about Mayfield’s hard work ethic. Dak lost his mom in college and a couple of days later he was back at practice preparing for his next game.

Again, no one knows what this quarterback class is. Half could be good, or one could be great and the rest aren’t, or maybe Lamar Jackson sneaks up and bests all of them, or maybe they all suck. Who knows.

If it’s me, I’m grabbing Saquon Barkley because he’s the best running back since Adrian Peterson, trading that fourth pick for extra picks, and figuring out the rest along the way.

Just imagine though, having Adrian Peterson on offense and Jadaveon Clowney (Myles Garrets closest comparison) on the other. How awesome would that be?

But I’m not the Browns. Recent history says they’ll take the most they can get for their firsts, and trade back. But in a draft filled with questions marks all around, maybe their best bet is Barkley. Regardless, tonight’s going to be fun!

2018 NFL Mock Draft (With Trades)

  1. Browns: Saquon Barkley
  2. Giants: Bradley Chubb
  3. Jets: Sam Darnold
  4. Bills (via Browns): Baker Mayfield
  5. Broncos: Quenton Nelson
  6. Colts: Mike McGlinchey
  7. Bucs: Vita Vea
  8. Bears: Calvin Ridley
  9. 49ers: Marcus Davenport
  10. Raiders: Denzel Ward
  11. Dolphins: Josh Rosen
  12. Browns (via Bills): Josh Jackson *also receiving the other #1 via Bills
  13. Skins: Josh Allen

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