When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the Cleveland Browns have the No. 1 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.
Who would you pick and why?
TOP 5 NEEDS
- Left tackle: This is the biggest need, but that doesn’t mean it is the one that will be addressed first. Joe Thomas, who started 167 straight games until a torn triceps suffered Oct. 22 ended his amazing streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps, retired on March 14 – the first day of free agency. Just how well Thomas played was made apparent by the trouble his replacement, Spencer Drango, had. Moving right tackle Shon Coleman to the left side without a backup plan is a risky proposition. Despite making three trades to kick off the league year, the Browns still retained their top five picks – 1, 4, 33, 35 and 64. General manager John Dorsey could use one of those second-round picks on a left tackle.
- Quarterback: Neither Tyrod Taylor or Drew Stanton is the long-term answer at quarterback. The Browns, with the first choice in the draft, obviously have the pick of the litter. There are things to like and things to worry about with every quarterback in this class; Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield are considered the top four. Whichever one Dorsey picks will have time to learn and correct flaws. The plan is for Taylor to start and the rookie to watch and learn. We’ve heard that one before, though, and the rookie ends up starting. If it happens again, at least the rookie will have a veteran to help. Last year none of the three quarterbacks – DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan – had ever won in the NFL.
- Edge rusher: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams got much needed help with four new defensive backs since the start of the league year, but he still would like to add a pass rusher to book-end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft. The Browns could use the fourth pick on defensive end Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State. That would allow Williams to mix and match with Chubb, Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah on passing downs.
- Free safety: The Browns traded quarterback DeShone Kizer to the Packers for safety Damarious Randall, but they could still look for a safety in the draft. Trading for Randall allows Gregg Williams to move Jabrill Peppers, entering his second season, to strong safety. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick was on the Browns’ radar and still might be. He isn’t the priority he was before Randall was acquired, but another safety could be a Day 2 pick.
- Defensive tackle: The Browns traded 2015 first-round pick Danny Shelton to the Patriots and at some point in the draft will try to replace him and make him part of the rotation. The run defense improved dramatically last season. They don’t want to take a step backward, so adding an interior defender on the third day would make Gregg Williams happy and give him another tool to work with.
–BEST FIT: Sam Darnold, QB, USC: The Browns could get cute and take Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the first pick and then get their quarterback with the fourth choice, but then they would risk losing their preferred quarterback. All the quarterbacks have flaws. The question for the Browns becomes which flaw is the easiest to correct? Darnold turned the ball over 22 times last fall – 13 interceptions thrown and nine fumbles lost. Josh Allen of Wyoming had a 56.2 completion percentage in college. Teaching Darnold to grip the ball with two hands in the pocket might be easier than repairing the mechanical flaws that lead to Allen’s issues.
–Rob Rang: Sam Darnold, QB, USC. An argument could be made for any of the top-rated quarterbacks to lead off the draft but none of them check more boxes than USC’s Darnold, who combines prototypical physical size and talent to go along with ideal intangibles for the position. Darnold may wind up essentially redshirting his first season as he plays caddy to veteran Tyrod Taylor but fans in Cleveland should be excited: their long-awaited franchise quarterback is finally on the roster.
–Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State. While the Browns’ quarterback woes have earned plenty of attention, their need for a pass rusher opposite last year’s No. 1 overall selection Myles Garrett is also a significant cause for concern. Garrett struggled with various injuries last season but still managed seven sacks, nearly double that of any other member of Cleveland’s defense. Chubb is a proven playmaker who enters the NFL with even better technique and consistency than the freakishly athletic Garrett, giving aggressive defensive coordinator Gregg Williams the tandem to terrorize opponents.
–Dane Brugler: Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Dating back to the day after the 2017 draft, I have slotted Darnold to Cleveland in every single mock draft I have done. The Josh Allen-to-Cleveland rumors are getting louder, but I’m sticking with Darnold, who is the best quarterback in this class.
–Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State. With multiple quarterbacks available, this pick is a prime spot for a trade, but Cleveland might see more value in staying put, especially if the draft’s top pass rusher is still on the board, giving the Browns a ferocious tandem of Chubb and Myles Garrett.
FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD
OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.