The Browns hold the Nos. 1 and 4 picks in the NFL Draft that starts Thursday night, and the pool of players includes USC quarterback Sam Darnold, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.
Here are the most likely scenarios for the Browns in the top five, ranking them in order of what I think is best for the Browns.
1. Darnold at No. 1 and Chubb at No. 4
The Browns get the best quarterback in the draft and the best defensive player. That’s a pairing to celebrate.
General manager John Dorsey should resist the temptation of Allen and Mayfield with the top pick. Allen’s lack of accuracy and Mayfield’s lack of height make them risks compared to Darnold, and the No. 1 pick isn’t the spot to gamble.
The Browns have Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah, so defensive end isn’t a pressing need. But rushing the passer is the top priority on defense, and that makes Chubb worth the premium pick.
2. Darnold at No. 1 and a trade down from No. 4
Many fans are tired of watching the Browns trade down after years of failing to capitalize on the extra picks acquired in the deals. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the right move this time.
Depending on which quarterbacks are available after the first three picks, the Browns could receive an offer for No. 4 to good to refuse. That would most likely come from the Bills, who could offer Nos. 12, 22 and next year’s first-rounder. If Dorsey can get a haul, including a 2019 first-rounder, the deal makes sense.
3. Darnold at No. 1 and Fitzpatrick at No. 4
Darnold is the constant in these scenarios, showing how strongly I feel it’s a necessity to take a quarterback with the pick and that he’s the best of the bunch.
If Chubb goes No. 2 to the New York Giants, which is a real possibility, Fitzpatrick would be the best choice at No. 4. Many fans would argue Barkley, but a running back in the top five doesn’t make sense, especially in a year deep in backs.
4. Darnold at No. 1 and Barkley at No. 4
There’s no denying Barkley has special skills and could be electrifying in the NFL with his big-play ability.
I’m not convinced Barkley is the generational talent that makes a running back worth a top-five pick, but if Dorsey believes he is, he could do worse than adding a franchise quarterback and Pro Bowl running back.
5. Allen at No. 1 and Chubb at No. 4
UCLA’s Josh Rosen is my second choice at quarterback, but he doesn’t seem to be in the mix for the Browns. Dorsey must take a quarterback first, and if he doesn’t like Darnold or Rosen, Allen should be the choice over Mayfield. Allen’s size, arm strength and athleticism provide immense potential.
6. Mayfield at No. 1 and Barkley at No. 4
This tandem is way down my list and would make me question Dorsey.
Quarterbacks under 6-foot-1 don’t get drafted No. 1 unless they’re Michael Vick, who was a one-in-a-million athlete. Mayfield may turn out to be great, but he shouldn’t be the No. 1 pick when there are other quarterback options.
Dorsey would then compound the mistake by overdrafting a running back.