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2018 NFL mock draft: The Browns find their QB ... again

For the 12th year, the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock is back and the Cleveland Browns have the top choice

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Every year around this time we bring together all 32 SB Nation NFL team sites, and put together a mock draft. This is the 12th year of the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft, and it’s always a fun exercise mixing disparate opinions and perspectives. For this year’s version, we’re only doing one round. The first two picks run today, but starting on Monday we’ll have three picks each weekday.

As he did last year, Chris Pokorny of Dawgs by Nature gets us going with the first overall pick owned by the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns have a whole new front office, featuring General Manager John Dorsey, and he hasn’t been shy about making moves. This offseason, the Browns acquired wide receiver Jarvis Landry, defensive back Damarious Randall and quarterback Tyrod Taylor via trade. They also signed cornerback T.J. Carrie, tight end Darren Fells, offensive tackle Chris Hubbard and running back Carlos Hyde in free agency. But after trading former second-round pick DeShone Kizer, the Browns don’t have a quarterback of the future. Pokorny gets one at No. 1 overall.

1. Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Pokorny: There comes a point where your franchise needs to just commit to the fact that no matter what, they are selecting a quarterback at No. 1 overall. This is that year. The last time the team selected a quarterback at No. 1 overall was way back in 1999 (Tim Couch). Since then, they’ve tried their hand at multiple later first-round quarterbacks like Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. It hasn’t worked out.

The past two years, the Browns were in position to draft players like Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky. They passed on all of them. This is where the organization puts its foot down and says, “We’re getting a quarterback, period.”

Regarding Darnold specifically, I hate to call him a safe pick, but that is what I view him as compared to the other top quarterbacks in this year’s class. I feel he is the least likely to be a flat out bust, and I’m optimistic about the quarterback he can become. Darnold can sit for a year behind Tyrod Taylor, and then the coaching staff can see how things look in 2019. There will be a great sense of comfort that the team finally pulled the trigger on a top young quarterback. Also, the team will still be able to draft a blue-chip player at No. 4 overall. How incredible is that?

Analysis: It is pretty incredible. Almost every year it’s said that Cleveland will finally turn its franchise around in the draft. With two top-five picks slated for the first round, maybe that could finally be true. Whichever quarterback the Browns pick first overall, the hope is that they don’t play at all in 2018. Still, that doesn’t make the selection wholly irrelevant.

It’s true that Darnold is probably the safest of the bunch. He doesn’t have the high upside/high risk of Josh Allen of Wyoming, but that’s fine. Some other team can gamble on him. Darnold can be a quarterback for Cleveland that is hopefully, at worst, a good starter for years to come. The chances are, though, that he’s much more.

Dan Kadar’s top five players remaining

  • 1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
  • 2. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
  • 3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
  • 4. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
  • 5. Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State

The next pick in the 12th annual SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft is coming up at 11 a.m. ET courtesy of Ed Valentine of Big Blue View, picking for the New York Giants.


What grade do you give the pick of Darnold to the Browns?

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