Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Peering into the draft crystal ball

Well, that didn’t take long.

The dust from the National Football League’s annual college draft has hardly settled and the first 2017 mock drafts have arrived.

Several Web sites have already checked in with a crystal-ball look at what will go down next April in whatever city the NFL decides to move to after two years in Chicago.

And for Browns fans, there’s good news and bad news. First the bad news. The early, highly premature mock analysts are using Las Vegas oddsmakers as a measuring tool to determine the draft order next year.

Why is that bad news? Because those so-called experts have made the Browns prohibitive favorites to win no games – subject to change, of course – and ultimately wind up with the No. 1 draft pick next season for the first time since the 2000 lottery.

That bears repeating. The Browns are early favorites in no games this season. Another season of misery. But that, believe it or not, is also the good news.

If the upcoming season unfolds the way Vegas sees it, it means the Browns will have first crack at the draft in a year when many potential future superstars will be on all the boards.

Let’s face it. The Browns are going to stink this season. They are going to be embarrassingly bad. So bad, in fact, they top every early mock that has been released. And there is a near consensus as to whom the club will take. (Unless, of course, they trade down. Just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?)

Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Steve Palazzolo Pro Football Focus, the guys at Walter Football, Matt Miller at the Bleacher Report and SB Nation’s Dan Kadar all believe the Browns will take Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, odds-on favorite to win the next Heisman Trophy.

Chris Burke over at Sports Illustrated disagrees, but believes the Browns will, indeed, chose a quarterback. His choice is Miami of Florida’s Brad Kaaya, who plays in a pro-style offense for the Hurricanes and is more NFL ready than Watson.

Besides, Burke noted, Kaaya is a couple of inches taller than the 6-2, 210-pound Watson, whose production numbers dwarf those of the Miami quarterback.

What makes the next draft that much more intriguing is the Browns probably will have two cracks in the top 10, holding Philadelphia’s pick as a result of the deal that enabled the Eagles to take Carson Wentz this year. (Unless, of course, the Browns trade . . . oh never mind.)

A variety of reasons prompted the aforementioned analysts to select Watson as the top choice.

Wrote Rang: If Cleveland is drafting No. 1 overall, the experiments with Robert Griffin III and rookie Cody Kessler were a failure. Watson lacks ideal size, but has the arm, athleticism and moxie to potentially turn into a franchise quarterback.

Palazzolo: (Watson) has the strong arm to drive the ball into tight windows, though it’s his touch on two-level throws that impresses most. There’s still room to grow from a quarterbacking standpoint as he can learn to get through his reads better and his accuracy wanes at times.”

Kadar: Watson’s career arc has him hurtling toward the Heisman Trophy. . . . Beyond his deep-ball delivery, he is an impressive product.

Miller: Cody Kessler is not your quarterback of the future. . . . The future will come when Deshaun Watson enters the draft. . . . He is not so different from RGIII other than he is more accurate and hasn’t been hit with major injury-related setbacks to this point of his career.

Walter Football: College football’s version of Russell Wilson. . . . The sky’s the limit for him.

Countered Burke: Playing percentages here. There is no question Deshaun Watson will be a Heisman favorite. . . . There’s also little question that on paper, Kaaya – who is 6-4 and plays in a pro-style scheme – better fits the NFL prototype.

While all but Burke agree on Watson as the top pick, there is a division of opinions with that second choice, which could be as high as seventh and as low as 12th.

Rang and Kadar agree the Browns will take Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette. And why not? Fournette probably will be Watson’s top challenger for the Heisman. The 6-1, 230-pounder ran for an amazing 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, backing up a 10-touchdown, 1,034-yard performance as a freshman.

Palazzolo likes Michigan State defensive end Malik McDowell as the second pick, Walter Football favors Florida State running back Dalvin Cook (Fournette will be gone by then in its mock), Burke likes offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, who blocks for Cook at FSU, and Miller thinks Ohio State inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan would look spiffy in a Browns uniform.

By now, you’re probably saying to yourself it’s ridiculous, ludicrous, preposterous and every other adjective ending in ous to be discussing what Miller called his “Way Too Early Predictions.”

Of course, it’s way too early to make prognostications such as these. But it sure is fun to talk about them. It’s the kind of fodder that feeds the NFL public relations machine continuously and keeps the league in conversations virtually on a year-around basis.

Never a dull moment with this monolithic enterprise.


  1. Its only "fun" if you're anti-Browns.

  2. And, of course, I am anti-Browns. Of that you are convinced. And, of course, you are incorrect.

    Actually, I'm anti-bad football and that is what we have been forced to watch for most of the last 17 seasons.

    So when something such as the draft comes along in whatever form, yes, I enjoy it. It is fun, but I would enjoy it a lot more if the Browns were picking, say, 25th instead of in the top 10 year in and year out.

    You have no idea of how wrong you are.