WFNY has spent the past few weeks attacking the options for the Cleveland Browns for the 2017 NFL Draft from a mock draft perspective. The Top 2 rounds have been dissected to demonstrate what types of players the fans might expect the Browns FO to obtain. However, there is a lingering need that demands attention. The quarterback situation for the Browns remains in dire shape.
The Buffalo Bills are reportedly attempting to renegotiate with Tyrod Taylor. Kirk Cousins is all but assured to remain in Washington. Tony Romo is rumored to want to land on the Houston Texans. Jay Cutler is reported to either be able to choose the team of his destination or he might retire. The New England Patriots continue to utilize the local media as shills to oscillate between making crazy demands for Jimmy Garoppolo (No. 12 plus No. 33 as a starting point) or stating that they will keep him for 2017.
Even if those situations settle themselves as described, the San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, and Denver Broncos would remain with the Browns as teams desperate to find their franchise quarterback. The Browns might hold the ultimate trump card with the No. 1 overall pick, but there is not a signal caller worth such a valuable selection.
The Browns are left to navigate the field of quarterbacks in the draft. While there is not any players who would find themselves in a normal Tier 1 for a draft, there are as many as four players who can make an argument that they belong in the second tier. Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer, and Patrick Mahomes III each have significant flaws, yet incredible upside. Choosing will separate the wise from the foolish.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson will be the most controversial choice in the entire NFL Draft no matter where he is selected.
He is the quarterback who beat Alabama with a fantastic comeback in the national championship. He has a seven part NFL Network series called “One Shot” that details his journey to the NFL. He is the one being bold with his proclamations that he will be selected in the Top 5 of the draft. Watson is even bold enough to jokingly say the Browns should trade No. 1 overall to the Dallas Cowboys for Dak Prescott. Yes, he was joking (playing off the Myles Garrett joke video) and had no issue taking the media to task who took him seriously. On and off the field, Watson is a leader and a quarterback who has shown an ability to make the plays needed.
Watson is also the quarterback who struggled mightily for most of the regular season with accuracy and reading defenses. His 17 interceptions were not a fluke nor was the fact that Alabama kept him in check until the mere number of plays wore their defense out late in that game. Other quarterbacks have their non-NFL offense brought up frequently as a negative. Having the offensive genius of Dabo Swinney design plays around some amazing wide receiver talent needs to be noted as well.
Mock drafts have Watson going anywhere from No. 1 overall to the middle of the third round. He is a similar prospect to Teddy Bridgewater who went late in the first round, but the lack of top-end quarterback talent and that new championship smell probably lifts him a bit higher. If the Browns want him, then they would have to use the No. 12 pick to obtain him. If he makes it past the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, and New York Jets.
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
Playing for Mentor and becoming a local-legend earns him bonus points. Don’t argue that it shouldn’t. There’s a reason that Bernie Kosar is beloved even more than his brief stint as an elite NFL quarterback allows. In a conference with two of the Heisman trophy favorites in Watson and Lamar Jackson, there were many scouts who believed that Trubisky was the best prospect. He has the size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds), the background (Mr. Ohio Football, top dual-threat quarterback of his class in nation), and the tools (every single game there would be a few throws that would make even an unbiased observer say “Wow!”). Trubisky’s ability to move in the pocket while waiting for plays to develop downfield is a true gift that few quarterbacks have.
However, being an Ohioan cannot be a reason he is drafted. He is not guaranteed success for such otherwise Charlie Frye or Brady Quinn would still be the starting quarterback of the Browns. Even throwing out the Hurricane Matthew weekend, Trubisky struggled with consistency within games and week-to-week. He played in an offense that had a ton of screens, run-pass options, and was almost exclusively from the shotgun. There was also an issue with his deep ball routes in that he puts way too much air on them, which allowed defenders recovery time even when the receiver was initially open. Also, starting only 13 games has left him without much proof that he can adjust when defenses figure out his tendencies.
Mock drafts have him going anywhere from the 49ers with the No. 2 overall pick to the early second round. He is most like Derek Carr in terms of a prospect so that makes sense. Expecting some of the same initial struggles from Trubisky would be smart; the question is if he also can overcome them. If the Browns want him, then they would have to use the No. 12 pick to obtain him if he is still there.
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
Do you like your quarterbacks to be 6-foot-4, 230 pounds with a laser rocket arm? Well, have I got the guy for you. WFNY discussed the eye test earlier this week, and Kizer would be the Eye Test QB of this NFL Draft. There are times on the field when he threads a beautiful pass down the field into the perfect window for his receiver. After the play, the viewer realizes that throw was 30 yards down the field and Kizer didn’t change his motion to put that low-traveling spiral to the spot. Squinting and prognosticating to the future it is possible to see Kizer morphing into a Ben Roethlisburger clone.
All is not well with whom many had predicted would be an obvious No. 1 overall selection at the beginning of the college season. Even beyond Notre Dame finishing 4-8 were some rather obvious flaws in his play. He has a hitch with his feet that prolongs his throws at times. He wants open receivers rather than throwing them open. Kizer gets locked onto his first read and is perhaps the worst in this class at looking off the safeties. He has the best foundation for greatness, but he also needs the most work to get there.
Mock drafts have him going anywhere from the Bears with the No. 3 overall pick to the third round. Scouts and analysts are all over the map on Kizer as some have fallen in love with the tools, while others fear the production and weaknesses. There is a chance that Kizer could fall to the Browns at No. 33, but they would probably want to trade up into the 20s if he did start dropping in the draft.
The Kizer Conundrum was summed up by Inside the Pylon’s Mark Schofield well.
Patrick Mahomes III, Texas Tech
Mahomes is the best athlete of any quarterback in this class. If he had chosen to pursue a career as a professional baseball or basketball player, then he would likely have made it to MLB or the NBA (he played both through high school and baseball for Texas Tech). His movement in the pocket and on the run demonstrates his athletic gifts as he is smooth with every motion. Watson gets notoriety for his swagger and confidence, but Mahomes is not lacking. He has already stated that he will be going to the NFL Combine and competing in everything (except bench press) to demonstrate he deserves to be the No. 1 overall pick. He has had a refreshing admittance on where he needs to work (been working a ton on his footwork since he played in an Air Raid system), and is known to be one of the grindiest grinders off the field. The tools are there as he has the capability of making every single throw, buys time with movement in the pocket, and can run when needed. Oh, and did we mention 700+ yards against Oklahoma yet?
Then there are the issues. Mahomes trusts his athleticism too much. He is a true gunslinger who wants to throw receivers open down the field even when there are easier plays to be made short. He throws from some strange arm slots that can get him into accuracy issues, and he tries to throw the ball with odd trajectories to squeeze it into windows that do not exist. He also will need to work on his drop back footwork a ton as he- like the other quarterbacks in this class- does not have experience there.
Mock drafts seem to agree the highest Mahomes will be picked is No. 6 to the Jets. The player many are comparing to Brett Favre (good and bad) will need a team whose coach is strong enough to correct him but nurturing enough to let him be who he is. Mahomes should be there at No. 12 and if Hue Jackson is in love with the kid, then he should take him there. Mahomes will probably not make it past the contending teams in the 20s, so if the Browns want him later, then they would be wise to trade up from No. 33.
Other players for consideration
Nate Peterman, Pittsburgh
Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
Davis Webb, California
Brad Kaaya, Miami
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss