Q: I am a bit surprised that we drafted Baker Mayfield. While I was good with having whoever we drafted at #1 sit and learn this year, my question would be is sitting the entire year still in the cards for Baker since he is 23 compared to if we had drafted a 20-year-old Sam Darnold? I understand that Hue and the front office can say one thing, but …
— Justin Nalley
A: I’m with you, I think drafting Baker Mayfield changes the plan, regardless of what coach Hue Jackson and general manager John Dorsey are saying.
The plan remains to stick with Tyrod Taylor as the starter, but if Mayfield learns and impresses quickly, it will be difficult to keep him out of the lineup. He was trumpeted as the most “NFL ready” of the top quarterbacks in the draft, so I believe he has less to gain by sitting. Jackson has been burned by rushing rookies into the huddle the last two years, so he’ll be cautious with Mayfield — perhaps overcautious. That could keep Taylor the starter for Week 1 against Pittsburgh, but unless wins come early, the itch to switch to Mayfield could become too much to resist.
Q: If Baker Mayfield starts over Tyrod Taylor at all, did GM John Dorsey waste the third-round pick to get him?
A: I can see why you would ask, but I’m going to say no.
Obviously if Mayfield starts much of the season, in hindsight paying Taylor $16 million and trading a third-round pick would seem regrettable. But this season is about winning, and an experienced quarterback with an above .500 record was necessary after the Browns went 0-16. Dorsey determined Taylor was the best option and did what it took to get him.
With a ton of salary cap space and a load of draft picks, the price wasn’t too expensive for the most important position in the game. Especially with coach Hue Jackson’s demand to add a quarterback or two with NFL wins on his resume.
Q: When Baker Mayfield wins the starting job before the season starts, does Tyrod Taylor make it to the trade deadline, or will we be able to move him a la Sam Bradford?
A: A lot of interest in this subject.
If your scenario happens — and I like the chances — I believe GM John Dorsey would try to trade Taylor as quickly as possible. And Taylor would welcome the move. Drew Stanton could serve as the backup to Mayfield, with a young quarterback put on the practice squad.
A Bradford-type trade would be the ideal, but it would hinge on another team being desperate. That means a preseason injury.
Q: I’m shocked the Browns’ top two picks were my two favorites in the draft. I’m even more surprised that the Browns (or Broncos or Colts) didn’t get compelling trade offers from QB-hungry teams. Do you think the remaining QBs were too risky for teams to make strong enough offers?
A: I, too, was surprised. I thought with two quarterbacks left, it would spur quality offers for the No. 4 pick.
Instead, it seems that with two quarterbacks of the top four remaining, the Bills and Cardinals didn’t feel the pressure to move into the top five or six. They still moved up — Buffalo from No. 12 to No. 7 and Arizona from No. 15 to No. 10 — but didn’t have to part with the king’s ransom the Browns sought.
The flaws of Josh Allen and Josh Rosen could’ve factored in, but more likely were the Bills and Cardinals reading the draft correctly.
Q: Can we still assume Hue Jackson & staff controls who plays and who’s inactive? What factor does John Dorsey have in final 53-man cutdown?
— Ken Douglas
A: The front office has continued to say that it will provide the players and the coaching staff will decide how to use them.
So Dorsey will set the 53-man roster, and Jackson and staff will pick the gameday roster and the starting lineups. However, I would expect Jackson to be more willing to listen to Dorsey’s suggestions than he was with former head of football operations Sashi Brown.
Q: How does Roderick Johnson fit in the left tackle opening?
A: I don’t think he does. Plan A was to shift Shon Coleman from the right side to the left side to compete with Spencer Drango and Donald Stephenson. Then Austin Corbett was drafted with the No. 33 pick, with the hope he can stay at left tackle, where he played four years at Nevada.
Johnson, a fifth-round pick last year, spent last season on injured reserve after a knee injury. The lasting memory is watching No. 1 pick Myles Garrett run past him consistently during training camp. He would have to surprise to earn a roster spot this season.
Q: Now that the draft is over, the Browns have a bunch of holes filled with “maybe” players. Is free safety actually the weakest fill? Damarious Randall hasn’t played NFL safety, yet they’re hoping he regains collegiate form. Free safety was a sore spot last year, too.
A: If Randall isn’t the answer, then, yes, free safety is the weak spot.
Jabrill Peppers could slide back there if the coaches are desperate, but it was obvious last year he belongs at strong safety. Briean Boddy-Calhoun will probably get the first chance to back up Randall.
But the hope is Randall will excel at free safety. It’s his position of preference, and the front office members that came from Green Bay believe it’s the best spot for him.
To me, left tackle is a bigger question mark, despite the pile of candidates.
Q: It seems to me we neglected the defensive tackle position in the draft. Are we waiting for June 1 cuts or do you get the sense that we are set?
A: I was a bit surprised the Browns didn’t draft a defensive tackle, but I do feel that speaks to their confidence level in the group. As did the trade of former first-round pick Danny Shelton.
The group is young and has potential. Trevon Cooley was a starter last year in his first season on an active roster and exceeded expectations. As rookies last year, Larry Ogunjobi looked like a keeper and Caleb Brantley flashed. The rock of the bunch is Jamie Meder.
I think the Browns will see how the youngsters look in OTAs and minicamp before deciding whether a veteran is needed.
Q: How many cornerbacks have been drafted in the top five over the last 20 years?
A: Fewer than I thought. Denzel Ward, whom the Browns took at No. 4, was only the fifth. The others were No. 5 picks — Jalen Ramsey in 2016, Patrick Peterson in 2011, Terence Newman in 2003 and Quentin Jammer in 2002.
Q: We all know now Baker Mayfield was the pick and why. What turned them off on Sam Darnold and Josh Allen specifically to ignore their enormous potential and go with the little guy?
A: Some around the league questioned Darnold’s ability to read coverages, as he reportedly struggled on the board during meetings with teams. Allen’s issue was never a secret — he just wasn’t accurate enough.
The question that will follow the Browns is whether Darnold, 20, could’ve improved enough in that area to catch up with all the other things he does well.
Q: Which defensive end is on the hottest seat? Would we carry five-plus DEs?
A: Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and third-round pick Chad Thomas are locks to make the team. Chris Smith, signed as a free agent, is almost a sure thing. That leaves Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard, along with any undrafted rookies or late free agent pickups, fighting for what would likely be the fourth and final spot.
I think Nassib is most vulnerable. He just hasn’t done enough to impress me.