Browns won't play rookie quarterback immediately, coach Hue Jackson says

Jackson: Quarterback is Browns' missing piece (1:56)

Browns coach Hue Jackson says quarterback is his team's biggest need but DeShone Kizer will still compete for the job. (1:56)

The Cleveland Browns aren't drafting a quarterback with the intention of playing him right away, coach Hue Jackson said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine.

"Would we have to [play him]?" Jackson told reporters. "I would hope not."

Jackson then mentioned free agency as an opportunity to add a quarterback to go with players already on the roster. That comment points to free agent A.J. McCarron -- whom Jackson declined to comment on -- and DeShone Kizer, who played in 15 games for the Browns during their winless 2017 season.

The Browns are expected to draft a quarterback with the first overall pick, but Jackson said it is too soon to say who that will be. This week will start to answer a lot of "whys" about the available quarterbacks.

Southern California's Sam Darnold will not throw at the combine, but Jackson said that will not affect the team's assessment of him.

"We wish he would throw, like to see him throw," Jackson said. "But at the same time, there's going to be other times for us to have an opportunity to watch him work out and do those things. But again, do I wish he was throwing this weekend? Yes, I do, to watch him compete with the other guys. But at the same time, that's not going to hinder us making a decision about what kind of player he is for our football team."

The Browns will talk to Darnold to find out as much as they can about his 21 fumbles in 27 college games.

"You got to see where that's coming from," Jackson said. "Is it because the guy is not protecting the ball? Maybe somebody is hitting him on the arm? Maybe it's his grip. There could be a lot of different reasons why those things are happening. But again, as you just mentioned, it's something we have to find out about."

The Browns coach said he likes a quarterback with a large hand size, a measurement that will be important for Darnold.

Jackson also shrugged off the report that Josh Rosen would prefer not to play in Cleveland. ESPN reported in December that Rosen was privately expressing concern about winding up in Cleveland and would prefer to play for the New York Giants. This week, Rosen told NFL Network that he had never said he didn't want to be with the Browns.

"Obviously we'll ask him that question and he'll be able to answer it," Jackson said.

The Browns also will try to dive into Josh Allen's collegiate completion percentage.

"We're going to find out why it was 56.2 percent," Jackson said. "I think that's what you have to do. I think that's why we're here at the combine, and that's what we'll be doing over the next month or two, is to find out why those things are happening. And again, have the player give us an opportunity to get an understanding from him and for us to keep digging into this things."

Baker Mayfield's height will be important. He has been listed at 6-foot-0, and Jackson has said he prefers a taller quarterback, someone at least 6-2.

"There's always outliers, right? I did say that," Jackson said. "There's still guys in the league that are playing that are below 6-foot-2 and have played really well. There's always that one player who's going to be special, and this young man may be that. But we don't know that yet, so we'll find out as we go."

The combine will be Jackson's first chance to meet with Mayfield.

Jackson said the Browns believe there are a few players who can be good NFL quarterbacks, and the decision comes down to a basic point: Can he play? Jackson was direct in saying the Browns' goal is to add a veteran as well as a drafted player to join Kizer.

"That's kind of how you want your room set up," Jackson said. "You want a guy that's been a veteran player that's played in the National Football League that's had a chance to win. You'd love to have a young player that you're developing, maybe two of those kind of players in your room. And again, the veteran is somebody that those players can learn from. To learn the National Football League, so they can understand what the rigors are. When they're ready to play, the veteran kind of moves on. That's what you hope to have."