Do you smell that? Yeah, that’s the smell of hope and optimism surrounding the Cleveland Browns. The Browns had a very eventful offseason with a slew of players coming in and out of the organization. Under the direction of John Dorsey, the Browns have done a drastic overhaul of the roster. One of the biggest changes has happened in the quarterback room. The position has been a constant problem for the Browns since coming back in 1999. But, could Cleveland have solved this position this offseason? Let’s take a look at what the Browns have at the quarterback position going into the 2018 NFL season.
Major Additions: Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, and Drew Stanton
Major Subtractions: DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, and Kevin Hogan
This is a completely different position from just a year ago. The front office decided to completely clean house, bringing in three new quarterbacks through three different avenues. After another wretched season for the cavalcade of quarterbacks the Browns brought out in 2017, priority No. 1 was to address the most important spot on the team. And Cleveland did not fool around with this position. They were aggressive in finding quarterbacks with their two biggest additions coming through a trade and the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The odds-on-favorite to win the starting quarterback job is Tyrod Taylor, who the Browns acquired from the Buffalo Bills. Dorsey stressed early on that the team needed a veteran presence who could start for the Browns right away. The team’s choice was to target Taylor who had a really good year last season for the Bills, leading Buffalo to a playoff berth. The addition of Taylor settles the position down immediately and it allows the Browns to not have to rush rookie Baker Mayfield, who I will get to in a bit. In just a short time already, he has become a leader of the team with the maturity to lead by example.
On the field, Taylor brings the same temperament that he shows off it. He deals with pressure well, completing 51.4% of his passes under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. That was the seventh-best mark in the NFL last season. He does not make a lot of risky throws, allowing him to limit turnovers at an impressive clip. He had just eight turnovers last season, with four interceptions and four fumbles. The quarterback also adds value through his legs. He is able to create plays running the ball, making a dual threat under center. Taylor does not have great arm strength and will not be a quarterback who will test a defense with deep passes. He is best in a quick decision, short passing offense that uses his mobility to fool a defense.
But, the Browns gave Taylor strong competition in the form of No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was the most accurate passer in the entire 2018 draft class. He completes passes to all levels of the field with the arm strength to make any pass on the field. His IQ on the field is one of the things that set him apart. He is able to quickly read a defense and make the right decision before the defense can recover. Mayfield also has the mobility to move around the pocket and the field to create throwing lanes. His mobility is best used to aid his passing, but he can also make plays as a runner.
Mayfield, though, has some things to work on. His footwork is not consistent enough yet and he can sometimes create pressure. He was also blessed with a great offense at Oklahoma in which he was given huge windows to complete passes. That will be a difference he will see in the NFL. But, I believe his accuracy is good enough to be able to transition smoothly. He has shown that he can fire passes through tight windows.
The Browns are set up pretty well at the quarterback position. They have a veteran, who has shown consistent success in the NFL, and a young quarterback, who can be the future face of the franchise with loads of talent. Cleveland also has a third quarterback in Drew Stanton who has played in numerous NFL games. I cannot remember the Browns being in a better position then they are right now.
Biggest Strength: Starting Level Quarterback Depth
Get this. The Browns biggest strength is that they have numerous options to start at quarterback. After years of having no good options to start a game, the Browns have Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. Both of these players I believe have the talent to start for the Browns. Taylor has shown this ability in Buffalo over multiple seasons. Mayfield has the talent to be a really good quarterback and a possible franchise quarterback. His skill set is able to start right away. Hey, Drew Stanton is not a horrible option to start a game if the Browns really need it. The depth of starting level talent at quarterback is a blessing to see as a Browns fan.
Biggest Question Mark: Experience in Haley’s offense
The biggest weakness, in my opinion, is the lack of experience the quarterbacks have in Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense. Neither Taylor, Mayfield nor Stanton has played in Haley’s offense before. So, there will be a bit of a learning curve for the Browns quarterbacks in getting to know the offensive system. How quickly can Taylor get comfortable with the offense is a question mark. But, the biggest question mark is how quickly Baker Mayfield can learn the offense. He is the future. How long will it take for him to transition to the NFL and in particular Haley’s offense?
Key Player: Baker Mayfield
The future of the quarterback position is Baker Mayfield. So, the key player at the position will be Mayfield. How soon will he be ready to take over the reigns of the starting job? Mayfield is the quarterback with all the expectations and hopes for the future of the franchise. He has the most talent of any of the quarterbacks on the roster and quite frankly, its not even close. He has the talent to elevate the quarterback spot to its highest height. Only Mayfield can settle the position for the next ten to fifteen years. That is why he is the key player of the quarterback position.
Top Training Camp Battle: Tyrod Taylor vs Baker Mayfield
It seems like a foregone conclusion that Tyrod Taylor will be the starting quarterback for the beginning of the regular season. The entire organization is reiterating that they expect Taylor to be the starting quarterback. But, Baker Mayfield is the more talented player, in my opinion. It all depends on how fast he can acclimate to the NFL and get comfortable at the new level. If Mayfield bursts out during training camp, can the coaches really hold him back from starting? That is why this is an underrated battle. It looks like a done deal for Taylor, but what if Mayfield outperforms the veteran quarterback?
I am so excited for the quarterback position in 2018. This is the most excited I have been about a quarterback situation in Cleveland since 1999. I love that the front office has given the team multiple options. Tyrod Taylor is an excellent player for the Browns. He gives them a good starting quarterback to rely on right away, but also a player who can lead the team and help teach the young Baker Mayfield. I think the success of the Taylor in 2018 depends on how well Todd Haley can weave the offense around the abilities of Taylor. Mayfield has the talent to be the franchise quarterback and I think he will be just that. I believe Taylor will start out the season as the starting quarterback. I even think the Browns will try their hardest to keep him in the entire season. But, will Taylor end up doing that? I say no.
Baker Mayfield will start at least four games this season and show that he is the future of the position.