Photo: Kelvin Kuo | USA Today Sports
The Need: The Browns have an obvious need at the quarterback position and this draft is loaded with talent. The DeShone Kizer saga in Cleveland ended shortly after it began and their willingness to give up on their most capable pro-style offense quarterback USC product Cody Kessler was indicative of their belief in the disparity between the natural talent of the two players. New GM John Dorsey will want to establish his era with the franchise with a fresh start at the quarterback position. If it doesn’t work out this year, Hugh Jackson’s hot seat may start to burn before the season’s end.
The Pick: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen is the most natural passer in the draft and is the most NFL ready of the top quarterbacks. He has good size and arm strength that will carry him at the next level. I think Sam Darnold has a higher ceiling, but a lower floor. Ultimately, Rosen’s openness about wanting to avoid Cleveland may land Darnold in this spot, but I can’t ignore Rosen’s big performance against crosstown rival USC, and the come from behind victory over Texas A&M.
The Need: Coaching changes often come with a desire to bring in personnel that will define the future of a franchise, and Giants new Head Coach Pat Shurmur might as well be a miracle worker for how he handled the quarterback situation in Minnesota. Not only did he have three quarterbacks competing for the starting job, he and Viking Head Coach Mike Zimmer ignored media and fan pressure and played the guy they thought would give them the best chance to win. Injuries played a huge role in that decision-making process, but he managed to maximize production from quarterback carousel while the Offensive Coordinator in Minnesota. New York is a different animal though, and Quarterback Eli Manning has two rings and the respect of the fan base backing him up. Reports from New York is that Manning was instrumental in the development of rookie Quarterback Davis Webb, and drafting a quarterback with the second pick could be a great opportunity for a young QB to learn good habits from one of the best in the game. Bottomline, the Giants underperformed this year and another opportunity to draft a quarterback in the top five next year with Manning under center is unlikely.
The Pick: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
If Josh Rosen is the most natural passer in the draft, Sam Darnold is without a doubt the most impressive. Darnold has all of the intangibles that you look for in a starting quarterback. Great size, arm strength, leadership qualities, attitude, and knowledge of a pro-style offense. His only downsides are inconsistent throwing mechanics and hand size. Sam Darnold has the type of personality that a big market team like New York wants, and if he gets the opportunity to sit behind Eli Manning for a year or two to learn the system he will have all the tools necessary to keep the Giants in a position to be a competitive football team. On a side note, a quarterback room with Eli Manning, and UCLA products Josh Rosen and Davis Webb would be a fun one to watch in camp.
The Need: If only we knew what was really happening with Andrew Luck. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Colts are in the market to grab the best talent available, and I tend to agree. This team struggled to pressure the quarterback, and while I think they will inevitably draft a quarterback in this draft, it won’t be at three. There’s one player in this draft that has the capability to completely transform a front seven.
The Pick: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year Chubb has elite tools and the type of size that requires opposing teams game plan around him at the point of attack. Having originally joined NC State to play the linebacker position, Chubb has the type of speed and burst from the line of scrimmage that will make him an effective pass rusher. For those that put stock in pedigree, his father played for the Patriots, his brother Brandon Chubb played for the Rams and Lions, and his cousin is standout Georgia Bulldog Running Back Nick Chubb (who will likely be a day two selection in this year’s draft).
Cleveland Browns (From Texans)
The Need: Its hard to imagine that with all the needs the Browns have they stay at four when the value of Josh Allen could drive a bidding war for this pick. But, the Browns have five picks in the first two rounds and own two additional picks in round four and five which could indicate that they select the best player available. After the Trent Richardson bust, Browns fans may shy away from selecting a running back with this pick, but Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have had trouble staying on the field, and Crowell is entering Free Agency. Johnson is invaluable in the passing game, but they could use another running back to drive the offense through. After watching the success rookie runners had last year in Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Carolina, and Cincinnati, the Browns may look to follow suit with a running back selection at 4.
The Pick: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Saquon Barkley knows how to get the ball into the end zone. He totaled 43 touchdowns his last two seasons at Penn State and averaged over 220 rushing attempts in his three years. He’s also an underrated pass catcher. Last season, he caught 54 passes and showed improved reliability in the passing game from his previous campaigns. In nearly 800 touches, he only put the ball on the ground 4 times during his career at Penn State. Cleveland could use reliability, and preventing short field is a good start.
The Need: Let’s not fool ourselves, Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian are not the future signal caller for the Denver Broncos. I was waiting for the team to give Ole Miss and former Last Chance U product Chad Kelly the nod when things started going downhill. The team is constructed to win now, and if they don’t land a veteran quarterback in free agency expect them to launch themselves after the most NFL ready available quarterback in the draft.
The Pick: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
I struggled with this one. Wyoming’s Josh Allen is widely regarded as a better quarterback and is drawing comparisons to John Elway, something Bronco fans desperately want. Josh Allen has the height, size, no character concerns, and an underdog story that makes you want to watch Dodgeball. With all that being said, Baker Mayfield flatout knows how to win. He doesn’t have the same ceiling as Allen, but he played on a bigger stage under intense media pressure and always came to play. He’s the type of guy that makes me think of Bruins Forward Brad Marchand. He might not be the biggest guy, but I certainly don’t want to be targeted by him. Mayfield might also be the most accurate passer in the draft, and putting the ball on numbers moves the sticks. I may have talked myself into changing this to Allen, but let’s see where this takes us.
The Need: Ageless Josh McCown may be back in New York in the offseason, but that doesn’t mean the Jets aren’t looking for quarterback play. Their last high selections at quarterback haven’t worked out in New York (Smith, Petty, and Hackenberg), and there is no indication that volume isn’t their strategy. Steve Young said it best, “if you don’t have a quarterback go get one,” and I think they will do just that. Though I have my doubts he gets by Denver, if he’s there and the Jets haven’t already made Kirk Cousins the highest paid quarterback in NFL history, this selection is easy.
The Pick: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Don’t let a quarterback coming from a weak conference scare you, Carson Wentz’s productivity alleviated a lot of concerns about quarterbacks coming from outside of the power five conferences (SEC, PAC 12, ACC, Big 10, and Big 12) when he was drafted second overall from an FCS school. Josh Allen got his college career started at JuCo and rose to one of the most sought after quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft. There’s no doubt he is competitive, and his 6’5” frame should provide a lot of confidence to GMs that want someone who is durable and can survey the field. Allen doesn’t have as much tape against FBS opponents as some of the other quarterbacks in the class, but he has shown enough to get him near the top 5. Some mocks have him going as high as one, and while I think the talent might be there, I’m not sure he’s as safe a pick as Darnold or Rosen. He very well might be the second or third quarterback off the board though, especially if he performs well at the combine and during interviews.
The Need: The Tampa Bay Bucs continue to be an enigma to me. They are fellow Couch GMs contributor James’ favorite team and I’ve enjoyed the roller coaster ride he endures year in and year out. Jameis Winston’s leadership on Hard Knocks inspired a lot of hope in fans this past year, but his play did not. Neither did the secondary when Brent Grimes wasn’t on the field (and he’s a free agent this year). Hargraves appears to be a corner that with a little more consistency will continue to line up outside against teams second receivers and adding another defensive back might be the safest pick. Even though the running game became relevant again last years, teams that made deep playoff runs had prolific passing attacks. Stopping that should be their priority. I see the Bucs adding a defensive weapon at seven. Chubb would’ve been the most logical pick, but I don’t see him making it this far. Especially when factoring that one of the teams selecting a quarterback may land Kirk Cousins and look for a need elsewhere.
The Pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick played on a Nick Saban defense. Historically, players from the Alabama defensive unit have fared well in the NFL and I have no reason to doubt the playmaking ability of Fitzpatrick. LSU might be the SEC defensive back producer but Fitzpatrick has the ability to step in and make a difference on day one. He has the versatility to safety or corner, and with the departure of Grimes looming the Bucs could use another starting quality defensive back.
The Need: The Bears let their star wide receiver walk last offseason, and have seen their young athletic receiver Kevin White plagued by injuries. Josh Bellamy has been a pleasant surprise, but the Bears need a true number one wide receiver for Tribusiky to throw to. I expect that they will pursue one of the top free agents at the position, but if they fail to attract a veteran receiver with a young quarterback I expect them to draft someone to fill their need.
The Pick: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
I can see why most mocks have Calvin Ridley here, but I look at Sutton as a big bodied receiver who can fight and come away with most jump balls. Chicago struggled in the Red Zone last year, and adding a big target like Sutton could alleviate some of those problems. I have a lot of confidence in his ability to keep contested balls out of defenders hands, and his large size hasn’t detracted from his speed down the sidelines. He did play against lesser competition at SMU than Ridley did at Alabama, but Sutton looks like he can become an elite Red Zone threat at the next level and that’s something the Bears desperately need to support their young quarterback.
The Need: If you ask a San Francisco fan right now, they might tell you that if the team doesn’t sign or pick anyone they would still come away as the victors this offseason. The signing of Jimmy Garoppolo paired with Head Coach Kevin Shanahan is enough to make any 49ers fan giddy. Shanahan is well-respected as an offensive mind in the NFL for developing quarterback play and he now has a guy that he feels can run his system effectively. Their defense on the other hand needs help, and while they could use another interior lineman, there are enough of those players in Free Agency where the 49ers will look to sure up their defense. They were close in a lot of games last year, but their defense lacked a lockdown corner that could matchup against top-tier wide receivers. I expect them to address that need one way or another this offseason.
The Pick: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward has been high on some mocks and low on others, which surprises me, as the Junior was a consensus All-American and a member of the First-team All-Big Ten. Ward is the type of athlete that will turn heads at the combine. He can jump out of the gym and may set the bar for defensive backs in the 40-yard dash if LSU cornerback Donte Jackson doesn’t have anything to say about it. Where he struggles is at the line of scrimmage, veteran receivers will be able to use their physicality to gain position on him early in routes and keep ward from being able to make a play on the ball. I expect him to match up well against smaller receivers and may be relegated to covering underneath receivers in the NFL.
The Need: New Raider Head Coach John Gruden will be looking to build on a strong foundation out in Oakland. The team underperformed after projecting to be a playoff team just last year, and Chucky will try to get them back on track by improving on the defensive side of the ball.
The Pick: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Smith is a talented versatile linebacker that can fill a gap in run support and drop back into coverage. He had a standout performance at Georgia this season, showing that he has the ability to pursue sideline to sideline. With the development of Reuben Foster’s pending legal troubles San Francisco could take him before Oakland gets the opportunity, but if he’s available for Gruden at 10, I expect the Raiders to take the talented linebacker as a building block for their new defense.