The 2018 draft was driven by the Cleveland Browns’ two selections inside the top four overall picks. The consensus was that a quarterback was going to happen at the top of the draft, but what they chose to do with number four could swing the direction of the entire draft behind them. Contrary to many predictions, the Browns decided against trading back and made their selections at both one and four, finding their quarterback of the future and an anchor to their defensive backfield.
Round 1 Pick 1: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Rumors throughout the week of the draft pointed toward Sam Darnold being the selection at one, but the night before and morning of the draft, things shifted to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. In the end, Mayfield was the selection of the Browns’ front office, led in their effort by new General Manager John Dorsey and his team of Eliot Wolf, Alonzo Highsmith, and Scot McLoughlin. Mayfield has the best blend of on-field tape and analytics to support a quality transition to the next level. He has the ability to diagnose and act quickly.
Mayfield is an outlier for a top selection due to his size. He measured at 6’0 5/8, 209lbs, but he is not short on either the athleticism or the big arm strength that is needed for shorter quarterbacks to excel at the NFL level. He throws with anticipation and an ability to make big throws downfield with a moment’s notice.
The selection of Mayfield will without a doubt cause a stir in a Browns fan base that is just finally healing from the scars left by Johnny Manziel. While Baker is far from the person Manziel was, he will have to continue to show maturity off the field to win over this fan base. The on-field product is different, but I expect some fans will have a hard time separating them. The faith placed in Mayfield by the front office speaks volumes, and the plan for his ascension into the starting role should be carried out with patience. The Browns did a nice job of setting up their future with the Mayfield selection.
For an in-depth look at Mayfield, check out his full scouting report here:
Round 1 Pick 4: Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Quickly after the Mayfield pick, the Browns were on the clock again at four with a big decision to make. They decided to pass on not only trading back, but also N.C State defensive end Bradley Chubb, for secondary help in the form of corner Denzel Ward. Dorsey and co. showed a preference in improving an uncertain position group at corner over help on the defensive line. Ward was the top corner in this class, so the fit made plenty of sense. Height isn’t a problem for Ward, but his weight has raised some red flags, as he weighed in at 183 pounds at the combine and declined to weigh in again at Ohio State’s Pro Day. If Ward can settle in around 185 pounds, he will be able to handle duty against the bigger physical receivers he will be tasked in matching up with week in and week out.
Ward has the ability to match up anywhere on the field and his closing speed, mixed with quick twitch stop and start, make him ideal in man coverage situations.
He is quick off the jam and in his backpedal. Ward will fit in well with what Gregg Williams plans to do with his corners in 2018.
Ward’s combine was filled with elite numbers, including a 4.32 40 yard dash and explosive numbers in the broad jump and vertical jump. His excellent tape matches with the explosion seen in Indianapolis, and it was too much for the Browns to pass up.