The 2018 NFL Draft is now in the history books and it was full of excitement, suspense, and surprises. With five picks in the first 67 selections, the Cleveland Browns were a major part of what made the draft fun to watch. For months, speculation as to whom the Browns were going to take first overall focused on quarterbacks Josh Allen or Sam Darnold.
Browns general manager John Dorsey was keeping the pick such a close secret that he was not even telling his wife. Nevertheless on the day before the draft, rumors started swirling that the Browns choice was going to be Baker Mayfield.
When that moment came and the draft card was handed to the commissioner, the name on the card was indeed Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma. But the Browns and Dorsey did not rest there. With Mayfield in the fold, they had eight more selections to make. Here is their complete list:
First round, First overall: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
First round, Fourth overall: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St.
Second round, 33rd overall: Austin Corbett, G, Nevada
Second round, 35th overall: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Third round, 67th overall: Chad Thomas, DE, Miami
Fourth round, 105th overall: Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Fifth round, 150th overall: Genard Avery, ILB, Memphis
Sixth round, 175th overall: Damion Ratley, WR, Texas A&M
Sixth round, 188th overall: Simeon Thomas, DB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Browns 2018 Draft Grade: 9/10
Cleveland Browns 2018 NFL Draft Review an Reactions
The Best Player: Baker Mayfield
It is a rare opportunity for one NFL team to capture the best player at two positions in one draft, but the Browns made it happen. The choice for best player comes down to Denzel Ward or Baker Mayfield. Ward plays a very important position at cornerback, but the quarterback is the most important position on the field.
Combine that with the fact that the last quarterback to start consecutive seasons with the Browns was Vinny Testaverde (1994-95), and it is clear that Mayfield is the most important selection the Browns have made in a long time. For this category, the best player is Mayfield.
How He Got Here
Mayfield’s college career was not a typical one. He was a walk-on at Texas Tech in 2013, quickly rising through the ranks to earn the starting quarterback job when the season opened. Through some interesting circumstances and injury, Mayfield decided to transfer to Oklahoma at the end of that season. Forced to sit out the season in 2014, Mayfield quickly won the Sooners’ starting job in 2015.
A three-year starter at Oklahoma, Mayfield led the NCAA in completion percentage, passing yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, and passing efficiency in 2016 and 2017. He also led the NCAA in passing touchdowns and total yards per play in 2017. Mayfield finished fourth in the 2015 Heisman voting, third in the 2016 voting, and finally won the Heisman in 2017.
How Soon Will He Play?
The Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor in the off-season, and at this moment, they are moving forward with Taylor as the starter. Mayfield will start the season as the understudy. When he does get on the field, Mayfield will have a plethora of talent around him.
The Browns acquired Jarvis Landry from the Dolphins during the off-season. Landry is a reception machine and a perfect match for Mayfield’s accurate arm. They have Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman on the outside. While Coleman may only be an average receiver, Gordon is elite if he can keep out of trouble. Up-and-coming tight end David Njoku has the potential to be a top-five player at his position. Running backs Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde have complementary skills from the backfield.
It does not end there though. In the draft, the Browns added running back Nick Chubb and controversial receiver Antonio Callaway, both of whom have a chance to be exceptional starters in the NFL.
The skill position players that surround Mayfield are as good a group as can be found anywhere in the league. If Mayfield struggles, it will not be for lack of talent on offense. The biggest question the offense has is who will cover Mayfield’s back with all-world tackle Joe Thomas‘ retirement.
The Honorable Mention
Cornerback Denzel Ward deserves an honorable mention as the best player. At only 5’11” and 183 pounds, he plays bigger than he is, and has the potential to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. It is highly likely that Ward will be one of the Browns’ starting cornerbacks Week One of the 2018 season.
The Head-Scratcher: Why no left tackle?
The Browns had Joe Thomas at the left tackle position for 11 years. Thomas retired at the end of 2017, leaving the Browns with Shon Coleman as the potential starter. If the Browns are comfortable with Coleman as the starter at left tackle, then there may not be an issue. If Coleman cannot keep his quarterback’s blind side covered, it will be easy for critics to question why one of the second round picks the Browns had was not spent on a tackle.
The Surprise: Antonio Callaway
Before and during the draft, there was a great deal of speculation about wide receiver Antonio Callaway going undrafted. Callaway has a history of legal infractions, including a season-long suspension in 2017 as part of an investigation into felony credit card fraud. The troubled receiver also has a citation for marijuana possession and he embarrassingly failed the drug test at the NFL combine, testing positive for marijuana. Callaway was also part of a Title IX investigation in 2016 for alleged sexual battery.
At Florida, his talent on the field was largely outmatched by his penchant for getting into trouble. If the Browns cannot help him get clean and stay out of trouble, there will be questions about spending a fourth-round pick on him. If Callaway can keep himself clean however, he could be one of the best fourth-round picks of all time.
The Steal: Austin Corbett
Coming from a smaller school like Nevada, Corbett is underrated. Corbett had private workouts with 15 different teams before the draft, where scouts saw his potential. At Nevada, Corbett played tackle and played it very well. However, most NFL experts view him as an interior lineman in the pros. He is a talented player, with a workmanlike attitude that garners respect from his teammates.
The Browns liked him so much, they felt he was worthy of being the 33rd overall selection in the draft. They currently have a couple of studs at guard in Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler, so Corbett will have some time to learn as he adjusts to the pros.
Most Likely To Turn Heads in Training Camp: Nick Chubb
The Browns second selection in round two has a chance to become an exceptional running back in the NFL. Chubb has good size at 227 pounds to go along with a 4.52 40-yard dash. Chubb is strong, with 29 reps at 225 pounds at the combine. The only real question about him heading into the draft was his ability to cut on the surgically repaired left knee.
The Browns scouts at the combine must have been satisfied with what they saw to take him in the second round. Chubb has the potential to take over the backfield in Cleveland, with Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde becoming the fill-ins.
Defensive end Chad Thomas is tall and fast. He is a potential edge rusher with an opportunity to create havoc in the opposing team’s backfield. Genard Avery will have a chance to crack the 53-man roster as an inside linebacker with a likely role on special teams.
Damion Ratley is 6’3” and 190 pounds, which is good size for a receiver. He will have trouble making the roster due to the impressive depth the Browns now have at the position. Ratley could be a practice squad player. Simeon Thomas has prototypical size for a cornerback, but he is a bit too slow to go up against most outside receivers (4.62/40). He could be a special teams player too.
The Browns had a lot going for them in the 2018 draft in terms of both position and the number of picks. Dorsey made the most of it, addressing needs up and down the roster without having to reach for players. The Browns have some potential heading into this year. Their fans, for the first time in quite a long time, have a good reason to be optimistic. It will be interesting to watch this team come together. If they do, they could be a playoff team very soon.
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