Could the Cleveland Browns consider drafting a quarterback in the first round?

How many QBs will go in the first round of the NFL draft? (1:44)

Todd McShay isn't projecting any quarterbacks to be among the top 10 picks in the draft, but he believes there is plenty of first-round talent at the position. (1:44)

MOBILE, Ala. -- The Cleveland Browns have not drafted a quarterback since selecting Baker Mayfield with the top overall pick in 2018.

Could they snap that streak in 2022?

Cleveland has a major decision coming up on Mayfield, whether it happens this offseason or the next. The Browns had lofty expectations this past season, fresh off their first playoff victory in 26 years. Mayfield was a big reason for that postseason run, as he finished 10th in the league in QBR. But in 2021, Mayfield struggled through an injury-plagued season and finished 27th in the league in QBR. Now, he’s entering the final year of his contract.

The Browns publicly have declared that they are moving forward with Mayfield, who is rehabbing from last month’s surgery that repaired the torn labrum in his non-throwing left shoulder. Privately, however, the team is sure to examine all options, especially considering the Browns boast a roster that is ready to compete for a Super Bowl now.

That could include trading for a veteran quarterback. It could also include selecting a quarterback with the No. 13 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Last week, several Browns front-office officials were in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl where a cast of intriguing quarterbacks dominated the storylines. Among the Cleveland brass in attendance included general manager Andrew Berry, vice president for player personnel Glenn Cook and director of player personnel Dan Saganey.

To be sure, the Browns scouted and interviewed a host of players at other positions. But they also got a close look at this year’s quarterback class, highlighted by Senior Bowl starting quarterbacks Malik Willis of Liberty and Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh, as well as North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.

Willis turned the most heads during Senior Bowl week, flashing the talent and upside that might have gone under the radar playing at Liberty.

“The way the ball just explodes off his hand is different than the rest,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay wrote, comparing Willis to the other quarterbacks. “Arm strength can be overrated at times, but Willis' snap-of-the-wrist effortless velocity on his throws was impressive all week long. A lot of times he has zip on his throws outside of the pocket despite not even having his feet under him. And that's another thing: With Willis' escapability, NFL defenses will need to constantly spy him. He can get out of trouble with ease, turning a 5-yard sack into a 5-yard gain.”

All of that was on full display in Saturday’s Senior Bowl game, exemplified by Willis’ electrifying 28-yard scramble in the first half.

Ridder threw a game-high two touchdowns in the Senior Bowl game. But Pickett had his moments, too, throwing a touchdown on a swing pass on his opening drive. The Heisman finalist struggled at times during a rainy practice week in Mobile. But indoors Thursday, he shined.

“He was in control, excelling with his reads and getting the ball where it needed to go on time. The red zone work was outstanding,” McShay wrote. “That's where things get tight and the reads get faster, and it was interesting to see him really put on a show there. The bottom line is you know what you're getting with Pickett. He's more polished than Willis, but his ceiling might be lower.”

From Pickett’s polish to Willis' athleticism, drafting a quarterback in the first round -- or even the second -- would allow Cleveland to straddle the fence on Mayfield’s future.

Instead of jettisoning him while committing other significant assets in a quarterback trade, the Browns would be giving Mayfield another shot in this scenario to prove 2021 was simply an injury-riddled aberration. And, if Mayfield did bounce back big in 2022, Cleveland could still extend him, or even franchise tag him, effectively making Mayfield its quarterback of the future. But if he flopped, the Browns would have a young alternative to turn to instead for the 2023 season.

Such a plan, however, would have its downside. Cleveland’s championship window is now. And while young star quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow remarkably reached a Super Bowl in their second seasons, they are the exceptions. Usually, young quarterbacks need time and experience before they’re ready to spearhead playoff runs.

If the Browns believe that Willis or Pickett, or another, like Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, have the potential to be that special, then they should do whatever they can. But for whatever promise showed last week, this quarterback class is hardly being hailed as a generational one.

On top of that, expending the 13th pick on a quarterback this year would negate Cleveland’s chance to bolster a receiving corps in need of a talent infusion. At pick 13, Cleveland has a prime opportunity to grab a desperately needed potential future No. 1 receiver, like, say, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson.

All of which underscores the complicated predicament the Browns find themselves in at quarterback going into a crucial offseason.

Do they bank on Mayfield rekindling his 2020 form? Do they push in their chips for an Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, provided either actually becomes both available and willing to come to waive a no-trade clause? Do they pursue a second-tier passer like a Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo? Or, do they gamble on drafting another potential quarterback of the future?

Off a losing season, the pressure is mounting again in Cleveland. When it comes to quarterback, Berry and the Browns are sure to leave no stone unturned.