Less than a month remains until the start of the NFL Draft.
Browns general manager John Dorsey is well aware that April 26 is looming, as he’s seemingly been on the clock since he took the job in December. He told reporters at the owners meetings this week his focus has shifted from free agency and trades and will be almost entirely on the draft for the next four weeks.
He vowed to hunker down, ignore the reports, rumors and speculation in the media and finalize the best draft board for the future of the Browns.
With Dorsey heading into isolation, it’s a good time to examine where the Browns stand on a few key issues.
JUST DO IT
Dorsey still won’t rule out a trade, but coach Hue Jackson reiterated this week what has always made the most sense: The Browns need to sit at No. 1 and take a quarterback.
The plan should’ve been cemented when the Jets traded up to No. 3 to presumably take a quarterback. The Browns can’t let other teams dictate their fortunes at the game’s most important position, as they’ve done way too many times in recent years.
Dorsey and Jackson may like all four quarterback candidates — USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield — but the position is unique and there’s no way they view them equally. If Dorsey hasn’t settled on a clear favorite already, he certainly will by the night of the draft.
Making the task easier is that the quarterbacks are plenty different, each with obvious strengths and weaknesses.
Much of the legwork has been done. Dorsey was joined by owner Jimmy Haslam, assistant general manager Eliot Wolf, Jackson, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese on a tour of college campuses last week to see the foursome.
All that’s left are visits to team headquarters and making a decision. The expectation here is Darnold.
He’s been considered the top contender for months and has done nothing to hurt his stock.
“We get to kind of dictate this thing on how we want it to go,” Jackson said at the owners meetings. “There are four guys, but within the four guys, we’ve got to determine what is the best fit for us moving forward.”
NOW IT GETS INTERESTING
With his quarterback in hand, Dorsey can get creative with the No. 4 pick and should consider all options, including trading down.
The tricky part will be making the decision while on the clock. No team will want to move up to No. 4 before knowing which players are available, so Dorsey must spend a good chunk of time preparing for the numerous and enticing scenarios.
If quarterbacks are taken Nos. 1, 2 and 3, the Browns could sit tight and get the top quarterback and top position player in the draft. That’s a touchdown any year.
The decision then becomes: North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick or Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4.
Barkley is the popular choice with fans and many experts, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dorsey passed and waited for a running back later in the draft.
Would the Browns take Chubb, who’s considered by many the best defender, after taking defensive ends early the last two years — Myles Garrett at No. 1 in 2017 and Emmanuel Ogbah at No. 32 in 2016?
The depth of talent at the top of the draft would allow Dorsey to feel comfortable sliding back a couple of spots if a team is desperate to move up for whatever quarterback’s left at No. 4.
The thought of trading for Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is intoxicating. The reality could be sobering.
The Giants are listening to trade offers and reportedly want a pair of first-round picks. He’s spent four years with the Giants, so they know everything about him. Why would they be willing to let such an immense talent leave, especially when he’s only 25?
Beckham can be headache. He’s been injured. He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract and wants a new deal that makes him the highest-paid receiver in the league.
The Browns have their own inside information from new receivers coach Adam Henry, who had Beckham at LSU and with the Giants. Beckham also played with newly acquired receiver Jarvis Landry at LSU, so this could be the right situation for him.
A trade seems unlikely, because the Browns would probably have to part with picks Nos. 4 and 33 and Landry and Josh Gordon are candidates for contract extensions. But Gordon and Beckham lined up outside and Landry in the slot would be fun to watch — and would transform the offense.