General manager John Dorsey is the new man on the spot in Cleveland.
The franchise, since being re-incarnated after the departure to Baltimore of the original Browns, has struggled mightily to land a franchise quarterback.
The Browns, who own the first and fourth overall picks, will control the top portion of the NFL draft, which is set for April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas. They will have two prime opportunities to select a quarterback.
Dorsey, who was named the Pro Football Writers Association’s executive of the year when with the Chiefs in 2014, was hired to fix the long-struggling franchise. The former player and a scout with the Packers learned under Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf. He was with the Packers when they traded with the Falcons for Brett Favre. Wolf was dazzled by Favre’s arm strength and knew he had the coaches in Mike Holmgren, offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis and quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci to harness that talent.
Dorsey was also the Packers director of college scouting in 2005 when they drafted Aaron Rodgers and put in their transition plan from Favre.
Last season, before getting dismissed, he selected quarterback Patrick Mahomes for the Chiefs. Mahomes’ strong arm and improvisational skills have been compared to Favre.
Based on that history, Dorsey’s not going to gamble on an undersized player (Baker Mayfield) or on a running quarterback (Lamar Jackson). He’s going with the most stable, talented and physically gifted quarterback in the draft and that is Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Like Rodgers, he won’t have to play immediately since the Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor.
“I think when you connect the dots with John Dorsey and his past,” said NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks, a former player and scout. “And then when you go back and look at his draft history and some of the guys that he's taken, he has a long track record of going for projection and potential over production.”
Last season, Dorsey projected Mahmoes over Deshaun Watson at quarterback. In 2013, Dorsey projected Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher over Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel.
“He opted to go for athleticism and upside over a guy who was deemed to be a little more polished in Joeckel,” Brooks said. “So, when you go and you kind of check off all the boxes in terms of projecting what the Browns may do, it appears that Josh Allen could be that pick.”
USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma State’s Mayfield, Louisville’s Jackson and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph could all go in the first round of the draft.
It’s a talented group, but no one is going out on a limb and comparing them to the great quarterback class of 1983 that saw John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien and Todd Blackledge all selected in the first round. Four went on to play in Super Bowls and four were Pro Bowlers.
The Giants pick second and could have Darnold fall into their laps.
Darnold’s only 20 and could serve an apprenticeship under the 37-year-old Eli Manning. The Giants, who traded defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers, could also select N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb, who’s from Hillgrove High. Chubb would be reunited with high school teammate and Giants tight end Evan Engram.
The Jets pick third and could have their choice of Rosen or Mayfield, who both have some character flaws and may struggle in the bright lights of New York City.
Rosen would fit new Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ system.
“If you go back to Jeremy Bates' history, his time when he had a chance to work with Jay Cutler, I view Josh Rosen as a guy that is very similar to Cutler with the way he connects with his coaches, the way that he interacts and the way that he has a high IQ,” Brooks said. “I think Josh Rosen would be perfect and ideal.”
The Bills, who could have to trade up, are also in the quarterback market. The Broncos could be a landing spot for Mayfield. While the Dolphins, Texans and Patriots are working out the top prospects.
“I think Baker Mayfield would also be ideal in that system,” Brooks said.
If the Browns select Allen, he could learn the ropes while transitioning to the NFL. During his Pro Day workout, which was televised on NFL Network, Allen finished by launching a ball from his 10-yard line that was caught by a receiver at the opposite 10-yard line.
While Allen can launch a ball 80 yards, he must learn how to put some touch on his throws underneath and learn how to place balls through passing windows in the defense.
The knock on Allen is his low career completion percentage of 56.3. But Favre, before the pass-happy era, had a 52.5 completion percentage coming out of Southern Mississippi in 1990.
Allen was raised on a small grain and cotton farm in Northern California. He wasn’t recruited out of high school and went to Reedley Community College. After two stellar seasons where the offense averaged more than 450 yards, he received two offers, from Wyoming and Eastern Michigan.
“I just kind of see everything that I've dreamt of as a kid is kind of falling into place,” Allen said. “If you knew who I was three years ago I don't think you would say this is possible, so it's been really cool.”
The Ravens could also be in the market for a quarterback.
“If it's not Lamar Jackson, when you think about Baker Mayfield and some of the other guys that could play, it is about finding guys that could play in that West Coast system that (Baltimore offensive coordinator) Marty Mornhinweg has traditionally done,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Joe Flacco, in all honesty, he is a deep ball player. He's a guy that is a vertical threat, and he's really not a perfect fit for what they currently do.”
The Falcons have worked out four quarterbacks - Nebraska’s Tanner Lee, Virginia’s Kurt Benkert, Memphis’ Riley Ferguson and South Florida’s Quinton Flowers this offseason. Benkert is a projected seventh-round pick and the rest are projected to be undrafted. Some list Flowers as a running back.
The Falcons are set at quarterback, but are looking for an eventual backup to Matt Ryan. Matt Schaub, who turns 37 in June, is set to enter the last year of his contract.