Actually, that’s not true because unless your team’s a Super Bowl contender who managed to swing a huge trade, having either or both of those picks means enduring about 364 days of heartache leading up to the draft.
Still, if you’re a Browns fan or front-office official, this upcoming draft has to be rather exciting since it could go a long way towards shifting the team’s fortunes for the good.
Unless they screw it up.
Of course, having the first overall pick, it would be hard for Cleveland to “screw it up” initially, save for a reach of epic proportions.
Coming off an 0-16 2017 campaign--one that piggybacked a 1-15 2016 campaign--nobody would blame the Browns if they went out and drafted a quarterback number one, likely USC’s Sam Darnold.
In football terms, it would be like a coach punting on fourth and one early in the game after his offense stalled out just shy of the 50 yard line. Conventional wisdom says you don’t go for it in that situation, and nobody is going to question a coach if he plays things conservatively--until perhaps weeks or months later.
Yes, what if the team loses a heartbreaker?
How different would the outcome have been, had the coach decided to roll the dice early in the game?
As it pertains to Cleveland’s draft strategy, I believe Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the equivalent of going for it on fourth and one on your side of the 50 early in the game. It goes against conventional wisdom, but what if you make it?
And there is no question the Browns--or any team, really--will “make it,” if it selects Barkley--a more can’t miss prospect, I haven’t seen in quite some time.
Right, but couldn’t the Browns get Barkley with the fourth overall selection?
Yes...unless someone else comes along and takes him with the second or third pick.
You might think the Giants and Jets, drafting second and third, respectively, may both be in the market for one of the “Big Four” quarterbacks expected to go early--namely Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Darnold. And you’d be right, expect for the Giants, I mean.
Of the two professional football organizations that call New York home, if I had to pick one that may be a bit torn between looking for the next Eli Manning and finding a weapon to complement the current Eli Manning, well, it would be the team that resides in the NFC.
The Giants are in a unique situation, where they can get really good in a hurry--franchise quarterbacks are always the great equalizer--and a player like Barkley could be the Terrell Davis-like shot in the arm Manning, 37, needs at this stage of his career.
Therefore, it wouldn’t exactly be a shocker if the Giants quickly snatched up Barkley moments after Cleveland decided on its next quarterback of the future.
This is why, if I’m the Browns, I roll the dice on Barkley with the first pick and then take my chances on whatever quarterbacks happen to be left at number four--in my scenario, Cleveland would have the choice of at least two of those prospects.
All drafts are crap-shoots, but there’s a reason Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Mayfield are bunched together, while Barkley is head and shoulders above every other running back in the draft.
And, man, how much of a difference can a running back make right out of the gate?
Look at what Ezekiel Elliot did for Dak Prescott--and the Cowboys entire offense--two years ago.
Look at what Leonard Fournette did for Blake Bortles--and to the Steelers entire defense--one year ago.
I truly believe this quarterback class can be something special--think 2004 and Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Manning--and no matter who the Browns wind up with, he will likely be very good.
But there is no special running back “class” in this 2018 draft--at least in my opinion.
This is why the Browns can’t allow Saquon Barkley to last past the first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
They can wind up with the best of both worlds, or they can wind up with even more regret.