The NFL Draft has long been one of my favorite events to watch and analyze. I remember pestering my parents to get cable when I was ten years old, wanting to be able to watch the NFL Draft on ESPN. I vividly recall the intrigue of Bernie Kosar in 1985 manipulating the system to allow the Browns to pick Kosar in the NFL Supplemental Draft. And of course, I have my fondest memories of interning with the Washington Redskins during the summer of 1996, giving me first-hand experience on what life as a NFL scout could have been like for me, if I had decided to stay with that career course.
Ever since the Cleveland Browns came back to the NFL in 1999, the team has been mired in the basement of their division, unable to make positive progress. While blame can be laid in multiple areas for the team's failures (ownership impatience, poor coaching/front office hires), the common theme always comes back to the Browns being unable to find a quality quarterback, the critical position for long-term NFL success.
North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky is the latest rumored quarterback target of the Browns. Like Bernie Kosar, Trubisky grew up in the Cleveland area (Mentor), dreaming of playing for the Browns - who wouldn't want to come home and become a hero in their hometown? As a boy, I used to pretend being Brian Sipe, pulling out a miraculous victory in the closing seconds. I can completely relate to Trubisky wanting to be a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Browns fans can lament the number of first round draft choices invested through the years ~ 1999, with Tim Couch as the first pick of the new Browns. Brady Quinn in 2007, who grew up a Browns fan in Dublin, Ohio. Brandon Weeden in 2012. And in 2014, I exclaimed a number of profane phrases that I won't repeat when the Browns selected...him. 😡
While I understand that the Browns need a quarterback, and can understand why the fans want to draft a quarterback in the first round...I am here to say - don't do it.
Please hear me out. This has nothing to do with Mitchell Trubisky, or Deshaun Watson, or anyone else who may be on the board when the Browns pick.
The reality is none, and I do mean, none of these quarterbacks, are truly worth a first round draft choice. Trubisky has long-term potential, but only has thirteen starts to his college career. Watson has winning intangibles, but is coming out of an offense that has not traditionally translated to immediate ability to play well in the NFL. And those are just two examples from this draft class.
Think about Baltimore. For years, the Ravens tried, and tried, and tried to solve their quarterback woes, until finally being successful with the selection of Joe Flacco in 2008. What did the Ravens do in all of those other years, without Flacco? Draft the best player available - Ed Reed in 2002. Terrell Suggs in 2003. Haloti Ngata in 2006 (a player the Browns could have had themselves, but I digress).
How about Pittsburgh? Yes, the Steelers picked Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, but the Steelers were like the Ravens, picking the best player available in the years preceding Roethlisberger - Casey Hampton in 2001. Troy Polamalu in 2003.
The quarterback is key, but the Browns have forced the issue so many times. Just pick the best player, and the team can get better in all areas. A case in point - Bernie Kosar struggled as a rookie in 1985, but the Browns had a strong defense that kept the team in the game. As Kosar improved in 1986, that is when the team took off, and became a Super Bowl contender.
For those of you saying that the Browns made a significant move to acquire Bernie Kosar in 1985, that is correct. Here is the point - Kosar had demonstrated on the playing field his worthiness of the significant investment that the Browns had made in him, having won a national championship as a redshirt freshman in 1983. Kosar had played in a pro-style offense at the University of Miami that had truly prepared him for the NFL, while the quarterbacks in this year's draft class all are coming from spread offenses that will require any and all of them to sit significantly before they are ready to play for the team that selects them.
In a selection process where there are truly no guarantees for future greatness, why not just go for the seemingly best option, versus reaching for a lesser player, just to fulfill a need? All the Browns need to do is look into their past, and think about how the team had a stretch of greatness that had the city enthralled with football. There are truly no sure things in the NFL Draft, but sometimes a team can position themselves to be competitive by just taking the best player when the opportunity presents itself. Here's to hoping that the Browns have that mindset when the NFL Draft begins at 8pm on Thursday night.
(For those of you who are curious ~ yes, I will offer up a mini-mock draft as it gets closer to 8pm)