Laying claim to the first overall pick for the second straight year, many expect the Cleveland Browns to finally land their franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft this April.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. doesn't disagree -- although the signal-caller he has in mind for Cleveland differs from the quarterback of choice of several other draft analysts. Releasing his second mock draft of the offseason on Wednesday, Kiper stayed the course with his initial projection, pegging the Browns to take Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the first overall pick.
I'm sticking with Allen here. The only way I see the Browns not ending up with a quarterback at No. 1 is if they sign Kirk Cousins, which is going to cost them around $100 million in guarantees. Then they could trade down with a quarterback-needy team to pick up more talent -- and remember, they have the No. 4 pick, too. Allen had a strong week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, improving every day. The NFL statistical comp I make to Allen: Matthew Stafford, who completed 57.1 percent of his passes in 39 games at Georgia and still went No. 1 overall. And Stafford had better talent around him.
Of the many mock drafts out there, Kiper is the only from a major outlet to place Allen in Cleveland with the first overall pick. In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the Browns taking USC signal-caller Sam Darnold first overall -- as do all three of CBS Sports' analysts. In WKYC.com's pre-combine mock draft, this writer also projected Darnold to land in Cleveland.
Even Kiper's ESPN colleague, Todd McShay, thinks the Browns will take Darnold first overall.
A lot, of course, can change between now and when Cleveland actually makes its pick on April 26. But for now, Kiper is sticking with his conviction that Allen will be the man for the Browns.
For what it's worth, Kiper went more conventional with the No. 4 overall pick, projecting Cleveland to select Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
With Saquon Barkley off the board, Cleveland can fill a huge need at cornerback with the pick it acquired in the Texans' trade up for Deshaun Watson last year. And yes, that's where Fitzpatrick would fit with the Browns. I said in my Mock Draft 1.0 that he is the top cornerback and safety in this draft. Fitzpatrick is a big-time playmaker as a deep safety, outside corner and in the slot -- he really has it all. He is a defensive coordinator's dream.