I admit it: I have faults. I am super forgetful, constantly needing to-do lists and reminders despite having the mental capacity to remember, beat-for-beat, Albert Belle’s batting walk up and batting stance. I have the tendency to be lazy. Just the other night, while my wife was at play practice,1 I sat around and played WoW for longer than I should have while neglecting a sink full of dishes and laundry to be done. More to the crux of the issue, I am not a college football guy and therefore not much of a draftnik when it comes around to the #NFLSZN. But I know this much is true: this year, more than most, the Cleveland Browns must do everything in their power to not screw up this draft.
It should be foolproof. Two top four picks, three selections in the second round and the first pick of the third. That’s a total of six Day 1 and Day 2 picks for a team that is in need of a talent influx. Even if you take two of those picks out for possible trades—and I’m talking trades to get veterans, not draft day trades—that leaves you with four new players at or near the top of a loaded draft that can influence the course of this franchise for years to come. At the helm of those picks is new GM John Dorsey, new assistant GM Eliot Wolf, new VP of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith as well as one of the few holdovers, the underrated Andrew Berry. All of these things should give me a sense of calm heading into free agency, where they have the most cap space and the ability to fill some spots on the roster so as to not reach in the draft. So why do I fear this will just be another year where they bungle picks and trades?
The whole kit and kaboodle starts where most everything starts: at the top. A winless season guaranteed the top pick in the draft, a draft with no less than four worthy contenders for that No. 1 overall selection. You have Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Minkah Fitzpatrick…all players who could lead a team to infinity and beyond, to quote Buzz Lightyear. But with a roster such as Cleveland’s, the no-brainer, make-the-pick-with-your-eyes-closed selection should be a quarterback, right? We can argue for millennia over which quarterback is the one that should be selected,2 but it should be a quarterback. We know the story: the jersey, the never-ending clown car of flops that have been behind center for the Browns. Just pick a quarterback, throw a dart at the wall for goodness sakes if you don’t know which to choose, but the pick should be a QB. Especially when you consider that there are only two picks before you have the opportunity to choose again. Why then are we seeing clamoring by fans and the media for Barkley at No. 1? Don’t screw this up.
I get it. Barkley amazed at the combine. Outlifted linemen, outran wide receivers, out jumped almost everyone. The explosiveness of the Penn State product gave fans and media members heart-eyed emojis as they thought of him running through what was and still is a rather stout offensive line3 in the orange and white. His offensive production in college has almost unrivalled and inserting him into the gritty AFC North is exactly the type of football Browns fans want to see. However…he’s not the right pick at number one. Take the quarterback and plan on Barkley at No. 4. It can happen that way, it should happen that way. Don’t screw this up, Dorsey.
The value of a running back, even a generational one like Barkley arguably is, to a team is significantly lower than the value of a good quarterback. You can win with a game managing quarterback and a great defense, as many will point to this year’s champs Philadelphia Eagles with Nick Foles at the helm. Let’s not forget, though, who was their quarterback for most of the season: Carson “Should Have Been A Brown” Wentz. Out of the last 15 Super Bowls, only two can claim they won with “game managers” at quarterback: 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2013 Baltimore Ravens. Even the Ravens victory ended up spurning out “is Joe Flacco elite?” articles for years to come, becoming a meme in the process. Every other year, the winner of the Super Bowl had a top 10 or better quarterback leading the team: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, even Eli Manning. The league will forever be a quarterback league. Just please, John Dorsey, don’t screw this up. My sanity screams for it.