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Padanilam: Cleveland’s choice at top of NFL Draft is clear

| Monday, April 9, 2018

We are less than three weeks away from the NFL Draft getting underway, and my Cleveland Browns have the first overall pick.

Now that they’ve traded DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, with Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton coming in on the flip side, it’s clear the Browns are set on a fresh start in the quarterback room. They’ve also made it clear that the position which has caused them so much pain for decades is the position they will be targeting with that No. 1 pick.

Now, if I was running the show, I would use this draft capital to build a team around Taylor for the next few seasons, trading out of the slot to a team (hello, Buffalo, Arizona or even Miami) desperate for their choice in a too-close-to-call quarterback class — thereby taking advantage of that fact — and taking at least one of Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb or Minkah Fitzpatrick in that first round while adding more capital in the future. Building around the position when you have the least risky commodity you’ve had in years at quarterback right now will give you the ability to wait and ensure the safe development of that franchise guy starting next year or the year after.

But if the Browns are dead set on taking a quarterback, I know exactly who it should be.

Here’s the profile of one quarterback connected to the Browns: “His footwork for such a big quarterback was surprising. He was nimble in his dropbacks, rolling out and throwing on the run. The ball just explodes out of his hands. … He’s like a video game. There’s not a throw he can’t make and there’s some he can make I’m not sure anyone else can make.”

Oh wait, I’m sorry. That’s the profile to JaMarcus Russell, not Josh Allen. However, at least Russell completed over 60 percent of passes his sophomore and junior seasons at LSU. Accuracy isn’t important though, is it? Next.

What about this college statistical comparison between one current NFL quarterback and another prospect in this year’s draft for the two seasons they started most of their teams’ games, whose physical tool set and strength/weakness comparison in pre-draft analyses are eerily similar.

Player A: 27 games played, 65.3 completion percentage, 50 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 153.9 quarterback rating

Player B: 27 games played, 64.9 completion percentage in, 57 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, 155.6 quarterback rating

Player A was Blake Bortles, while Player B is Sam Darnold. Enough said, so moving on.

A third quarterback prospect has drawn comparisons to Eli Manning with his polished, pro-style skillset coming out of college. There’s no doubt the talent is there with him, and he’s certainly notorious for being intelligent — some may say “too” intelligent. It would be a shame, however, if this quarterback did to the Browns what Manning did to the Chargers and just refused to play for Cleveland. Wait, there are reports Josh Rosen desperately wants to avoid Cleveland and, like his pro comp, prefers New York? And his college coach has been making TV appearances essentially vying for Rosen to end up in New York? Yeah, pass on that one, too.

You know who does want to be in Cleveland, or at least is the only one who has fully embraced the possibility, however? The fourth prospect deserving of that top overall pick: Baker Mayfield.

Let’s look at the raw numbers. No one at the college level has ever been as efficient as Mayfield. He’s got the accuracy and decision-making necessary to be a great NFL quarterback. Oh, and Pro Football Focus grades him out as the top prospect since, you know, college production should still matter when evaluating success at the next level, while other advanced numbers say he’s got the best odds of any of this year’s quarterbacks of being the NFL’s next star.

But you’ll say, “What about the last time Cleveland took a Johnny Manziel-type quarterback?” Well, that comparison is ludicrous in the first place. Being shorter, mobile, white and confident aren’t enough to make Manziel a good comparison for Mayfield. Manziel himself admits he never worked hard, and his attitude toward the game was abhorrent. Mayfield, however, as a walk-on at two different Power-5 programs, never had it handed to him. He had to earn it and work hard for it to find his success, proving himself along the way.

So who does Mayfield actually compare to? Well, those “advanced numbers” I cited early show his best comparison is actually Russell Wilson. You know, a quarterback who also had “height concerns” that dropped him to the third round before he became a Pro Bowler with a Super Bowl ring in Seattle.

So yeah, Cleveland’s best option if it’s taking a quarterback at No. 1 is Mayfield.

And frankly, it’s not even close.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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