The process of identifying the best quarterback in the draft began even before general manager John Dorsey was hired in December. He had already watched hours of film and seen Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield play in person.
Since Dorsey became head of the Browns’ personnel department, the work has intensified with months of film study, the Senior Bowl, the scouting combine, pro days and private workouts.
The final step — and it’s a big one — before the Browns sit down to finalize their plan for the No. 1 pick will be the quarterback visits to team headquarters in Berea over the next two weeks.
The front office and coaching staff will spend quality time with each of the top candidates — USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Mayfield. The quarterbacks will again be tested on their ability to retain information, and the decision-makers will get a better feel for their personalities.
“That’s another piece of information for us,” coach Hue Jackson said last week at the owners meetings. “That’s probably the last piece of the process for us to bring them to campus and have an opportunity to sit down with them in a different environment and talk through the things.”
Each team is permitted 30 prospect visits before the draft. Players who grew up in the area or attended local colleges, including Ohio State, don’t count against the limit.
Mayfield will kick off the string of quarterback visits. He was scheduled to arrive Monday night, according to a league source, and the meetings will be Tuesday.
Undersized at shy of 6-foot-1, Mayfield would be an unlikely choice with the No. 1 pick. Michael Vick, No. 1 in 2001, was the last quarterback shorter than 6-2 to be drafted in the top 10.
But Dorsey and Jackson continue to insist he’s in the discussion. They recently put Mayfield through a private workout in Norman, Okla., as they scouted the four quarterbacks back-to-back-to-back-to-back.
“I think he’s outstanding,” Jackson said last week. “I have a different appreciation for Baker. Spending that time with him, what a leader, tremendous person.
“He is important in the community. I think he’s important to his teammates. I kind of feel like he’s the Pied Piper of Oklahoma football.’”
Allen (6-5, 237 pounds) has the best size and the strongest arm, which could trump his 56.2 completion percentage in two years as the starter at Wyoming. Darnold has long been considered the favorite to be picked No. 1, but Allen remains a key figure in the discussion.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote in a column Monday that a friend of Dorsey expects him to take Allen at No. 1 and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 4.
King’s column also had an interesting quote about Rosen, from a noteworthy source.
“Josh, I think, without a doubt, is the No. 1 quarterback in the draft,” said former UCLA coach Jim Mora, who had Rosen for three years. “He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored. He’s a millennial. He wants to know why. Millennials, once they know why, they’re good.
“Josh has a lot of interests in life. If you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire. He has so much ability, and he’s a really good kid.”
Rosen responded by tweeting: “Why? #why”
Mora began making headlines last week when he said on NFL Network that Darnold would be a better fit in Cleveland with his “blue-collar, gritty attitude” and Rosen would be better off with one of the New York teams.
Mora returned to NFL Network on Monday to further explain himself.
“I don’t think I’ve made a statement in the negative about him. This is a tremendous young man who is a great player. He is dedicated to the game. I’ve tried to be very clear about how I feel,” Mora said. “It’s interesting that a statement that one player may be a better fit for a team than another can be construed as negative. I love this young man. I think he is going to be a great player.
“Being a young man that needs to be intellectually challenged is a positive. That says he is very, very smart, and he wants to understand the game.”
Mora didn’t back off his initial statement that Rosen would benefit from being taken by the Giants or Jets at Nos. 2 or 3 rather than the Browns.
“Hopefully we can all put it to bed. Do I think he’s the best quarterback in the draft? No — I think he’s the best player in the draft,” Mora said. “Does that mean I think he’s a fit for every team? No. I think that being schooled by a Pat Shurmur — great fit for a guy that’s as smart as Josh Rosen. To be in a room with Jeremy Bates — great fit for a guy like Josh Rosen. I think he’ll excel.”
Mora said he wasn’t speaking for Rosen who, according to an ESPN report in December, was hesitant about playing for the Browns. Rosen has since denied that.
“Of course, he wants to go No. 1, so I’m sure when I said maybe we take Sam Darnold No. 1, I’m sure it got under his skin a little bit,” Mora said. Obviously it raised some eyebrows around the country.”
The Browns have discussed the issue with Rosen and appear satisfied.
“He was outstanding,” Jackson said. “People made the statement that he didn’t want to (go to Cleveland), and we didn’t get that feeling at all. I think he’d love to be in Cleveland.”