Cleveland Browns’ Hail Mary Draft Pick: Baker Mayfield

When a team is coming off an 0-16 season, it would seem that virtually any help that they can get would be an improvement. However, when that same team has two selections among the first four of the draft, the moves that team makes should be eye-popping. That is what Cleveland Browns fans were hoping for, but were left scratching their head after the team took Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first selection of the 2018 National Football League draft.

Cause for Concern Before Draft Occurred

If fans of the Cleveland Browns were skeptical entering the draft, it was with good reason. Since 2004, the Browns have had nine picks in the top 10. What that means is a lot of really bad seasons, including having the No. 1 overall pick the last two years.

In fact, Cleveland had three selections in the first round last season. With that many early picks it would only seem natural that a team would see some dramatic improvement, but the Browns managed to become only the second team in NFL history to lose all 16 of their contests.

The trouble for Cleveland is that they have been looking for that elusive franchise quarterback who would turn their fortunes around, a Tom Brady, a Aaron Rodgers, or a Drew Brees. Heck, they would probably settle for a Phillip Rivers or a Tony Romo.

Since 1999, when Cleveland was awarded an expansion franchise, the Browns have chosen a quarterback in the first round five times, including with the first pick in their inaugural season (Tim Couch). Any guess on how successful the first four were? Tim Couch made 59 starts, going 22-37. Brady Quinn (No. 22 pick in the 2007 draft) was 3-9 in his 12 starts, and Brandon Weeden (No. 22 pick in the 2o12 draft) was 5-15.

Johnny Manziel was supposed to be the solution to all of Cleveland’s problems, taken with the 22nd pick in the 2014 draft. However, the team ignored all the warning signs of a kid who was enjoying the party lifestyle of college far too much, and he quickly fizzled out, making just eight starts (2-6) before being released by the team.

With those four first round selections, the Cleveland Browns got just 99 starts. As a contrast, Tom Brady came into the league a year after the Browns were restarted as a franchise, and he has made 251 starts  since then.

A History of First Round Failure

Maybe Cleveland Browns fans should feel more confident because their first round selection was not a No. 22 pick. Three of their four first round busts were taken with that selection, so maybe that pick is jinxed somehow.

Sadly, there are not many of their first rounders who have become Hall of Fame material. Running back Trent Richardson was taken with the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, but was dealt to the Indianapolis Colts a few seasons later, never living up to his “potential.” Wide Receiver Corey Coleman was taken with the No. 15 pick in 2016 and had a decent rookie season, but he broke his hand early in 2017 and sat out over half the year.

Of the 24 first round picks that Cleveland has had since 1999, only four are names that most fans would recognize – Kellen Winslow III, Braylon Edwards, Joe Thomas, and Joe Haden. This team simply does not know how to make picks in the first round.

Was Baker Mayfield a Reach?

That brings us to 2018 and the selection of QB Baker Mayfield out of Oklahoma. There is a lot to like about this kid. He is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and had a very successful career with the Sooners.

He is also a tough kid. Leading up to the draft, there were numerous stories about how he was not given a chance at Texas A&M and so he transferred to Oklahoma, eventually earning the starting quarterback position as a walk-on. Non-scholarship quarterbacks don’t become Heisman Trophy winners, which says a lot about his work ethic and toughness.

These are the Cleveland Browns though. They not only have a tendency to highlight the warts a player has, but it is likely that if Mayfield plays even five seasons in Cleveland that he will have three different head coaches. Since 1999, no Browns’ coach has lasted longer than four seasons and current head coach Hugh Jackson is 1-31 in his two years at the helm. Let this team start out 0-6 and his tenure will soon end.

(Note: It was reported that Jackson was not even consulted by the General Manager about the selection of Mayfield prior to the draft, which is not a good indicator of potential longevity with the team.)

Destined for Failure?

If Cleveland Browns fans seem a bit perplexed by the selection of Mayfield it is understandable. The team had acquired QB Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills in early March, and he seemed like he had the stuff to be a success in Cleveland, allowing the team to select someone like Penn State All-American RB Saquon Barkley with the No. 1 pick. However, that is just not the Cleveland way.

The Browns brain trust opted to roll the dice and go with the big name quarterback, hoping he would be the team’s messiah. Let’s just hope the team’s fans don’t want to nail him to a cross within the first three seasons.

Featured Image by Brent Deerling/Getty Images

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