CLEVELAND - With their loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday -- and the San Francisco 49ers' win over the New York Giants -- the Cleveland Browns now have the inside track to securing the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft for the second straight year.
Who might the Browns select should they ultimately wind up with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft at season's end? Here are five names you need to know:
Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC
Considered the crowned jewel of the 2018 draft entering the season, Sam Darnold has bounced back from a slow start to his sophomore campaign, throwing for 3,198 yards and 24 touchdowns while leading USC to a 9-2 record.
For QB-needy Cleveland, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Darnold certainly fits the profile of a player capable of providing the solution to its nearly two-decade-long problem at the position. There is, however, some question as to whether or not he will declare for the draft after his sophomore season -- particularly if the Browns are the team who own the pick.
Josh Rosen, quarterback, UCLA
Dating back to his freshman season, Josh Rosen has looked the part of a future No. 1 overall pick. But after a promising start to his career at UCLA, the former 5-star prospect only played in six games as a sophomore due to injury before bouncing back with a strong showing (3,094 yards, 21 touchdowns in nine games) in 2017.
With a big finish to his junior season, Rosen could reinsert himself into the discussion to be selected first overall next spring. Much like Darnold, he's a prototypical pro-style passer, whose talent will help teams overlook any inconsistencies endured throughout his college career.
Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma
Should the Browns continue to rely on an analytics-heavy approach, Oklahoma signal-caller Baker Mayfield could be the pick. Advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus has long touted the current Heisman Trophy front-runner as its top quarterback in the 2018 draft.
Mayfield, however, will likely be a polarizing prospect come this spring; listed at 6-foot-1, he hardly looks the part of a traditional pro-style passer.
Would Cleveland be willing to overlook Mayfield's shortcomings in hopes of solving their quarterback conundrum? It will likely depend on who's running its draft.
Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State
It's hard to imagine the Browns winding up with the No. 1 pick -- and a top-2 pick for the third straight year -- and ignoring the quarterback position once again. But on a roster with plenty of holes to fill -- especially on the offensive side of the ball -- Saquon Barkley could provide a spark while also possessing the potential to be the best overall prospect in the entire 2018 draft.
In fact, in his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pegged Cleveland to select Barkley, who has amassed 1,423 yards and 14 touchdowns through 10 games this season. Could the Browns make Miller's projection a reality? With two picks in the first round, it may not be as far-fetched as you think.
Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
Although he may be the name on this list you're least familiar with, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen is one to keep an eye on. Dating back to the offseason, many have projected the 6-foot-5 signal-caller to wind up a first-round selection.
While his numbers may tell a different story, Allen's size and mobility have garnered comparisons to another quarterback from a small school the Browns once had a chance to draft -- Carson Wentz. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, who coached Wentz at North Dakota State, has even admitted that there are no shortage of similarities to be found between his former quarterback and his current one.
"There are a lot more similarities to them than there are differences," Bohl told Sports Illustrated. "I think Josh, last year, and even this year, he improvises a little bit more than I saw Carson do when we had Carson. Carson, at that time, was a little bit more programmed, he was set and would go through every one of his progressions, where Josh might improvise more.”
Other names to watch:
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson
Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick
Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams
Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown
SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton
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