This will be one of the most interesting Cleveland Browns offseasons in years. The team has a new front office, $110 million or so in salary-cap space and the first and fourth picks in the NFL draft.
In the draft, the emphasis will be on the quarterbacks. The Browns have DeShone Kizer and uncertainty at the position.
We’ll regularly run down developments, chatter and thoughts on the position as the draft approaches, starting with five items to consider:
The general consensus has USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the top prospects. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield lurk in the background as legitimate options if the Browns take a quarterback with the fourth pick instead of the first. Wyoming’s Josh Allen is a wild card who will join Mayfield at the Senior Bowl, which will be closely scouted by the Browns. CBSSports.com, though, does not have any of them as its top-rated quarterback. Its top-rated quarterback: Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State. He’s 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, and he threw for 12,765 yards, 86 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his three seasons as a starter. CBSSports gives him the draft’s highest ranking; some consider him a second-round pick. Rudolph will have a great chance to help his standing at the Senior Bowl.
It’s an interesting ranking, especially given that Oklahoma State quarterbacks haven’t exactly set the NFL world on fire. CBS has Darnold as the 22nd-best player and Rosen at No. 17. ESPN Insider’s Scouts Inc. has Darnold as the No. 3 overall player and Rosen at No. 1. Rudolph is the sixth-ranked quarterback and 53rd-ranked player. That’s quite a variation.
It’s next to impossible to see the Browns trading out of the first overall pick and extremely difficult to see them trading out of the fourth pick. A team that has a history of trading down and failing to select receiver Julio Jones and quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson -- a team that now has some hardcore football folks running the front office -- probably won’t deal again. However, it’s not tough to think that teams might make a move to trade up. One team to keep in mind that will look to find a quarterback: the Buffalo Bills, who have two picks in the first and second rounds if they want to trade up to the fourth spot.
Another possible trade could involve the first overall pick. It could only happen one way, though: If the Browns know the New York Giants prefer the quarterback they do not want, they could trade down a spot, get an extra pick or picks and still draft the quarterback they want. For instance, if it is evident the Giants want Rosen and the Browns like Darnold, a trade down one spot would give the Browns extra picks and allow the Giants to get their guy and the Browns to get theirs.
There will be increasing chatter as the draft approaches that the Browns should take running back Saquon Barkley or another position player with the first pick. There will be questions about whether Darnold or Rosen, or whoever, is more worthy of the fourth pick than the first. This might be 100 percent true when it comes to evaluations, but it doesn’t hold water when the importance of the quarterback position is factored into the equation. Two years ago, the word on Jared Goff and Wentz was that neither was worth a top-two pick, and perhaps not even a top-10 pick. They went 1-2. Last year, the word was that none of the quarterbacks were ready to play or worth a high pick. Three of them went in the top 12: Mitch Trubisky (second), Patrick Mahomes (10th) and Watson (12th). It’s worth noting that the Chiefs' general manager who engineered the trade up to get Mahomes was John Dorsey, the man now in charge of the Browns' front office. And it’s also worth noting that Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson both liked Mahomes. Dorsey has conceded that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and his top priority is finding the team’s quarterback(s). The importance of the position precludes another position being selected, or a trade down lower than the No. 2 pick.
Editor’s note: CBSSports' list originally was incorrectly attributed to Dane Brugler, but has been fixed.