Browns stress competition, but draft road map leads to Robert Griffin III at QB

There was one clear winner in the Cleveland Browns' three-day draft of 14 college players, and that was Robert Griffin III.

Never has it been more evident that the 2016 season belongs to Griffin, that the quarterback job is his to lose, and that the Browns will rise and/or fall with Griffin at the helm.

That truth became evident when the Browns traded out of the second spot in the draft to move down to No. 8. Goodbye, second-pick quarterback. It became more evident when the Browns did not trade up to late in the first round to take another quarterback. Goodbye, second-tier quarterback. And it was driven home with a sledgehammer when the Browns took their quarterback in the third round and the quarterback was Cody Kessler. Hello, RG III.

Kessler is widely viewed as a backup -- far more Colt McCoy than Ben Roethlisberger. ESPN's Kevin Seifert offered that the Browns had found their "backup of the future" before they had their long-term starter. Kessler, of course, could prove people wrong and work his way into a starting spot, but that doesn't figure to happen in training camp his rookie season.

The Browns insist that nothing about the opening-game starter is written in pencil, much less etched in stone. Vice president of football operations Sashi Brown even offered that he would "not sleep on" Kessler.

"The best quarterback for us is going to start -- period," Brown said. "I don't think there is a need to compare contracts or longevity in the league or anything like that. We'll roll the ball out and see who's the best at throwing it."

Brown isn't being disingenuous. There are enough questions about Griffin, as he comes off not playing a down in 2015, to challenge him. Griffin lost his job in Washington with poor play, and Kirk Cousins retained it with good play. Even so, it would take a pretty serious stumble on Griffin's part for him to lose this job.

A team can't prepare five guys to start, and there will be a pecking order for practice. Griffin figures to be at the top of that order. He has the full affection of coach Hue Jackson, who was behind Griffin's signing, and he has a $15 million commitment from the Browns for the next two seasons.

"Robert understands -- and we had extensive conversations with him throughout the process when we had him in for a visit and prior to signing him -- about where he is in his career," Brown said. "I think he's very realistic about that. He's very serious about competing.

"We look forward to giving him an opportunity to do that here. There is no reason he can't, but this is going to be a competition. We would not have made the investment we made in him if we didn't feel like he was capable of being our starter."

Brown said the team wished all its quarterbacks the best. The Browns have five, and Brown said there are no short-term plans to reduce that number. The most likely three to make the team are Griffin, Josh McCown and Kessler. The only two virtually certain to make the team are Griffin and Kessler.

Connor Shaw and Austin Davis might prefer an early release so they can catch on with another team. McCown is in a weird limbo as he waits to see what will happen; the team could keep him as veteran insurance.

But sharing reps and running quarterback competitions has been completely counterproductive for the Browns in the past. One guy has to come out of the spring as the starter and take the starter's reps in training camp.

The job is in Griffin's hands. All he has to do is hold onto it.