There was a big announcement made on Tuesday night that the entire country was geared up to hear. However, everyone should have already known that Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor would receive his first AL Gold Glove Award. So, let’s use this early morning slot to discuss something a tad more in question.1
The Cleveland Browns have kept up their end of the bargain towards obtaining the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The franchise’s ability to obtain the pick and target an elite quarterback could prove to be essential in the rebuilding efforts of the front office in building a consistently competitive team moving forward.
Unfortunately, the college signal-callers have done the Browns no favors as there has yet to be a quarterback to seperate as an obvious candidate for the pick. In fact, the entire class has fallen upon their collective faces since the last time WFNY took a peek. So, the draft is shaping up to be quarterback weak near the top though there are a few options that might be tempting for desperate clubs.
This tier is reserved for the Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck class of quarterback where there is little question they will become a longtime starting NFL quarterback who can elevate the play of those around them.
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
6-foot-4, 230 pounds
Mitch Trubisky – UNC
6-foot-3, 220 pounds
The fact that Kizer has remained at the top of the quarterback prospect lists despite leading Notre Dame to a 3-6 record is a tells the narrative about this class. No, a quarterback alone is not wholly responsible for a team’s record and it seems the Irish would have at least one more win (Texas) if head coach Brian Kelly would have merely gotten out of Kizer’s way. Still, falling beneath bowl eligibility in college is a pock mark.
Kizer’s profile has not changed as the season has progressed. He still has the perfect size and athleticism combination that NFL teams crave. He is capable of making every throw and doing so with great touch and accuracy. But, his mechanics can still be a mess, which makes him inconsistent in his results. Not to mention that the Irish have gone to more conservative throws as the season has progressed (hard to decipher if it is an adjustment due to Kizer or one that Kelly made that might be holding Kizer back).
Trubisky has burst onto the scene in 2016 and shot up many draft boards. The Ohio native has dominated the ACC competition though there are many weak pass defenses in that conference and the Tar Heels are using an offense that utilizes components of the Air Raid system. Trubisky has demonstrated great accuracy alongside an ability to take care of the football. He is capable of making quick reads through his progressions, while stahing in the pocket. However, he also is more willing to check down than take any risks downfield (either by design or his own choice). Scouts were scouring FCS for the next Carson Wentz, but Trubisky seems to be the surprise quarterback prospect who happened to be sitting in a Power Five conference.
Brad Kaaya, Miami Hurricanes
6-foot-4, 215 pounds
Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers
6-foot-2, 205 pounds
After some great early successes, college defenses seem to have the book on Kaaya. He has a picturesque release and is able to work through progressions relatively quickly as long as his pocket is clean. Forcing him to move the pocket or collapsing it around him has made him skittish and lose his feet on throws. Despite running from a pro-style system and being an accurate passer, scouts might deem him too big of a risk unless he ends up being fortunate enough to be drafted onto a team with a great offensive line as Dak Prescott was in 2016.
Watson probably does not deserve to be ranked as highly here anymore. The bloom has fallen off his rose, withered on the dirt road, been trampled by traveling horses, and digested by insects. Despite Clemson continuing to roll, Watson has looked lost as he has continually had issues with his accuracy and reads. The Tigers make their system as easy as possible for the signal caller, but Watson has had a tough time even putting wide receiver screens and short route passes where the pass catchers and earn YAC. He is still an incredibly gifted athlete with the tools to be a NFL quarterback, but he is looking more like Robert Griffin III after his rookie season than that ROY player.
Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech
6-foot-3, 219 pounds
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
6-foot-5, 235 pounds
Luke Falk, Washington State
6-foot-4, 205 pounds
Davis Webb, Cal
6-foot-5, 230 pounds
As with Jared Goff going with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, these quarterbacks need to be evaluated with their particular toolset in mind with the expectation that they might take longer than the other quarterbacks on this list to learn the intricacies of being a NFL quarterback. Each of these quarterbacks plays in some variation of the Mike Leach Air Raid offensive system, which makes it incredibly hard to evaluate.
Mahomes put up 734 yards (and five touchdowns) against Oklahoma this season. He put up more than 500 yards against Kansas and Arizona State as well (all three of those games the Red Raiders lost because their defense is truly that horrific). He has the arm, the athleticism, and the accuracy. His biggest concern (other than the Air Raid offense) is a propensity to gamble, which has led to a higher amount of interceptions than his counterparts. Mahomes could prove out to be a Derek Carr type second round steal.
Rudolph is the biggest of the quarterbacks with the strongest arm. He will likely get some Ben Roethlisburger comparisons, and they won’t all be unwarranted. His biggest issue though is touch and accuracy on his shorter throws alongside a sometimes inability to get off of his first read.
Falk is an interesting prospect, but he is rail thin and does not have the strongest of arms. He has good accuracy and is among the better quarterbacks I watched at going through progressions, but the Browns would have to truly convince themselves of what he projects to do better than Cody Kessler.
Davis has done well enough, but don’t give him the straight comparison to Goff just because he dons the same helmet. His passes don’t have the same zip, he tends to have bad feet, and his reads are note quite as crisp. He would benefit greatly from returning for his last year in school.
Given the entirety of the needs of the Cleveland Browns coupled with the worrisome trends of these quarterbacks, the team might be best served flipping the No. 1 overall pick asset for even more draft picks (as if holding a probably 13 picks for the 2017 NFL Draft were not enough), while staying high enough to select the utility defensive marvel from Michigan, Jabrill Peppers. Or, simply staying put and selecting Texas A&M defensive end and athletic wunderkind Myles Garrett.
If the Browns are willing to wait until Round 2 (or Round 3) to take their quarterback, then they can still obtain a player worth developing. Cody Kessler can hold down the fort (perhaps even Josh McCown can be retained?), and Hue Jackson can bring whoever they draft along slowly. Going this route, Mahomes seems an obvious candidate to target as he most approximates a Derek Carr style player for this role.
Sadly, the hopes of tanking for the No. 1 overall pick and taking the obvious quarterback does not seem possible for the Browns in 2017. To improve, the front office will need a bit more ingenuity.