CLEVELAND -- For the second straight year, the Cleveland Browns have the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, but for the second consecutive season, the belief among analysts is that a franchise quarterback is not at the top of the board.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock spoke to 92.3 The Fan’s Bull and Fox Tuesday night and expressed doubt about this year’s quarterback class when comparing them to the rest of the prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“To be honest with you, a couple years ago, I banged the table hard for Carson Wentz, and I had him as the No. 1 player in the draft, not just the No. 1 quarterback, and I wouldn’t rank any of these kids in the same category with Carson Wentz,” Mayock said.
“If I had to do a top-10 players with position players and quarterbacks, I’m not sure any of those quarterbacks would be in my top five players. I like them, and I think there’s depth and there’s some quarterbacks you can build around, but they all have holes.”
By trading the No. 2 pick to Philadelphia in 2016, the Browns passed on the chance to select Wentz, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback whom chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta felt that despite being a two-year starter for National Championship teams at North Dakota State, did not have the potential to be a top-20 NFL quarterback.
In 29 career NFL games, Wentz has completed 644 of his 1,047 attempts (61.5 percent) for 7,078 yards and 49 touchdowns against 21 interceptions.
With Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the competitive spirit is what teams would like out of their quarterback, but he has made questionable off-the-field decisions that have resulted in an arrest, as well as vulgar actions toward opposing fans.
“The tough thing for me right now, and I’m not comparing him to Johnny Manziel, is if he’s the face of your franchise, there are going to be a bunch of teams in this league that look at him and say, ‘Do we want this guy to be our face of our franchise with all the off-field stuff or no?’” Mayock said.
“Some teams are going to say it’s not a problem. Other teams are going to say it is a problem. I struggle a little bit with it because I want your quarterback to be that guy that’s never going to be in trouble. He’s going to work his tail off and he’s going to be your ‘Alpha Dog’ in the locker room, and right now, with all the stuff surrounding him, it gives me some angina, and I don’t think angina equals the first pick or the fourth pick for me.”
Despite taking 26 sacks and missing time because of injuries, including a concussion at the end of the regular season, Josh Rosen set career highs with 3,756 passing yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for two scores in 2017.
In three years at UCLA, Rosen threw for 9,341 yards with 59 touchdowns against 26 interceptions.
“Nobody throws a prettier ball,” Mayock said. “Nobody is a more natural thrower in this class or maybe the last five classes than Josh Rosen. He’s always on balance. He’s accurate at all three levels, but I would take your point about injuries, and I’d take it one step forward.
“When you complement that with the fact that he’s less athletic than I thought he was, he struggles getting out of trouble in the pocket. When you combine the two, his lack of escapability and his propensity for injuries and his slight frame, I’m not sure he can survive an NFL pocket over a 16-game season for any extended length.”
In two years as a starter at the University of Southern California, Sam Darnold completed 549 of his 846 attempts (64.9 percent) for 7,229 yards and 57 touchdowns against 22 interceptions. However, Darnold fumbled 21 times in just 27 games as a starter and lost 14 of those miscues.
In a 24-7 loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl Classic, Darnold fumbled twice, both of which were recovered by the Buckeyes, and threw an interception that was returned by defender Damon Webb 23 yards for a touchdown.
“The biggest ‘If’ for me with Darnold is the turnovers,” Mayock said. “He’s got more fumbles than any other quarterback I’ve seen in recent history, and that, by the way, goes back to high school. He fumbled the ball a bunch in high school, and it continued at USC.
“Some of that you can cure. The fumbles in the pocket, the strip sacks, those kind of things, he’s got a tendency to keep his off hand, his left hand, off the ball. It needs to be on the ball. You can learn how to do that in an NFL pocket, however, he’s a bit of a gunslinger. He makes some bad decisions. He makes some bad throws.”