I know what you're thinking, 'Dino, are we REALLY doing one of these mock draft projection reports BEFORE CHRISTMAS?'
Yup. Consider this my gift to all of you.
The simple fact is the Cleveland Browns are positioned to have two top-5 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and with bowl season underway, I think it helps all of us to start keeping our eyes on possible targets.
So here is 'The Mock Report' 1.0:
1. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: "If new general manager John Dorsey is going to hit the reset button at quarterback, Rosen makes the most sense. He's got his flaws, but Rosen's the most pro-ready passer in this year's class."
5. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: "If there's anything Browns fans have to look forward to after a potentially winless season, it's the chance to add two elite prospects in the top five slots of this draft. Barkley is a rare talent who would make it three straight years for a running back going in the top five."
1. Sam Darnold, QB, USC: "The Browns have a really good chance to have two picks in the top 10 of this draft. With the No. 1 pick, they must address their QB situation. I believe Rosen is the more polished quarterback right now, but Darnold has the higher ceiling at the next level. We've spent a lot of time focusing on Darnold's questionable decision-making and poor footwork (as well as his being turnover prone), but that was behind a porous offensive line and with a pass-catching corps with a lot of youth. Darnold played very well down the stretch, with nine TDs and only two INTs in his final five games. It isn't easy to turn down guaranteed money and the potential of being the No. 1 pick, but most talent evaluators think he'd benefit long-term from another year at USC. Darnold will have to make a difficult decision after the Cotton Bowl."
6. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (The Browns will likely be picking 5th or higher here): "The Browns have plenty of needs but can afford a luxury pick after taking their QB at No. 1. While Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are a nice pairing, Barkley is a far superior player to both. My No. 2 overall prospect, Barkley is clearly the best running back in college football. He's also the best running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson, and he would do well behind Cleveland's strong offensive line."
1. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: "Browns GM John Dorsey has the reputation as an old-school "football guy." That indicates to me that he'll go with the traditional pocket passer with the first overall pick. Rosen has a clean delivery and is typically impressive within the confines of the tackles as a thrower."
(No, you're not imagining the following...they think Houston might have the 2nd worst record in the league)
2. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: "For as much as many Browns fans would probably despise this, I think the best option in this crazy scenario would be Cleveland trading down a few spots to add an extra pick or two. But staying put, Dorsey grabs the mammoth left tackle to protect his quarterback as his team begins a new era."
1. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
4. Connor Williams, OT, Texas
1. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: "I've had Sam Darnold as the top quarterback for a while, but he has struggled so much this season that I'm wondering if he returns to USC for 2018 in an attempt to rebuild his draft stock. Lamar Jackson occupied this top spot for about a month, but I'm moving to Josh Rosen following his terrific performance against USC.
NFL coaches and owners are wary of the sort of things Rosen has discussed to the media, and his open views could hurt him. Scouts have told us that his teammates don't like him either, so that's a major strike against him. And for the cherry on top, even if his high school coach criticized him. However, Rosen has been prolific in some big games this year, so that could push him into the top spot."
By the way, if you're wondering what Walter Football is talking about when it comes to Rosen's 'open views', read these two pieces.
From Sports Illustrated in 2016: UCLA's Josh Rosen wore a hat with a special message for Donald Trump
From Bleacher Report in 2017: UCLA QB on Injuries, NCAA and Post-NFL Goal to 'Own the World'
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama: "Any team that can't stop Brett Hundley in the fourth quarter and overtime to achieve its first victory of the season desperately needs defensive back help. The Browns are desperate at both cornerback and safety, and Minkah Fitzpatrick can play both positions extremely well. Plus, he's arguably the best player available."
Just a final note, two of my favorite draft experts, Matt Miller and Dane Brugler, have not put out a mock draft yet this month. However, if you're scoring at home: Brugler had Sam Darnold and Alabama WR Calvin Ridley projected to go to the Browns in his November mock. Miller had Rosen and Ridley for the Browns during his November post.