For the past two decades the Cleveland Browns have been one of the worst football organizations in the entire NFL. In the past two seasons combined they have amassed an alarming 31 losses to go along with only one win. Yes, you read that correctly, just one win. Probably the most shocking statistic is that the Browns have started 27 different players at the quarterback position since the beginning of the 2000 season. After years of finishing at the bottom of the league Cleveland’s GM, John Dorsey, altered the franchises outlook.
The Browns spent much of the weekend shaking up their offense and trading draft choices in return for proven talent. This past Friday the Browns traded a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick in exchange for Miami Dolphins All-Pro wide-receiver Jarvis Landry. Cleveland also sent a third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in return for quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Their last offensive shakeup was moving former 2017 second-round pick, DeShone Kizer, to the Green Bay Packers in exchange for cornerback Damarious Randall. Kizer started 15 games at quarterback for the Browns in 2017.
Dorsey’s recent trades have shifted the dimension of the first-round in the upcoming NFL Draft in April. With Cleveland owning both the first-overall and fourth-overall draft selections it was almost a certainty that they were going to take a quarterback first. By acquiring Taylor, and shipping Kizer to the Packers, the Browns’ first priority might now be shifted to Penn State All-American running-back, Saquon Barkley.
Barkley tore up the NFL combine last week and improved his draft stock more than any other player competing. He is an elite talent that can step in right away and produce significantly running the ball, while being able to catch and make plays in the open field. The question now is: do the Browns select Barkley first-overall or take a quarterback and let him develop behind Taylor?
The New York Giants hold the second-overall position behind Cleveland. If the Browns do in fact take Barkley, than the Giants will most likely take a quarterback second. With rumors circulating that New York was possibly willing to trade back in the draft or take a quarterback; those rumors escalated even more after Barkley’s surprising combine performance. If Cleveland decides to draft for the future and selects one of the premier quarterback talents such as Sam Darnold (USC) or Josh Allen (WYO), then the Giants could possibly steal Barkley second-overall.
The third-overall selection belongs to the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have an elite quarterback in Andrew Luck, but his health is a major question going forward after coming off of shoulder surgery on his throwing arm that sidelined him for the entire 2017 season. Finishing 30th overall in total team defense last season, Indianapolis will most likely look on the defensive side of the ball or even trade down in the draft as well to acquire more selections. However, if both the Browns and Giants take a quarterback, then the Colts will not hesitate to take Barkley third. With a premier talent available at running-back there is no reason to take anybody else third-overall even with Luck’s unforeseeable future.
Now this is where things get even more interesting. Cleveland has the fourth-overall selection and will either use this pick as trade bait or base it off of their first selection. Passing on Barkley first-overall and praying that he drops to you at four is definitely not going to happen. However, taking Barkley first could hinder your ability to draft either Allen or Darnold. If Barkley goes as the top pick, then presumably the Giants will take a quarterback to develop behind Eli Manning. With Allen or Darnold available at number three, then Arizona, Denver or the New York Jets will possibly trade with Indianapolis for the third pick to acquire a quarterback. Cleveland would miss out on a potential franchise quarterback in the 2018 draft if this scenario plays out.
The Denver Broncos and New York Jets are drafting at five and six respectively and are making a strong push to sign free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins. If either of these teams fails to land the former Washington Redskins starter in free-agency then the likelihood of them trading up in the draft to acquire an elite quarterback talent is high.
Does Dorsey trust his future draft selections enough to make Barkley the 2018 first-overall draft choice? That remains to be seen. If he truly believes that Taylor can help the Browns win games this season, with the addition of Landry and getting Josh Gordon back from suspension, then taking Barkley first makes sense. If Taylor is not a part of the long-term plan in Cleveland then Dorsey must go with a quarterback.
Whatever the Browns decide to do, their most recent trades have altered the direction of the first-round altogether. Will Barkley go first-overall or will the Browns elect to develop a quarterback for their future? Dorsey’s decisions will have a lasting impact on the rest of the league and the Giants will be right there waiting on their decision.