Thursday, May 3, 2018

College draft leftovers . . .

It is becoming increasingly clear that Baker Mayfield talked his way into making himself the top pick in last week’s National Football League college draft.

There is no question the brash young man from Oklahoma University is not only a record-setting, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, he is also one terrific salesman.

When the Browns’ brass began narrowing a pretty good field of quarterbacks before the draft, two of those signal-callers separated themselves from the field because of their impressive statistics.

It eventually came down to Mayfield and Sam Darnold, polar opposites in many ways. And when the truth spilled out, one can understand why Mayfield was the clear choice. Not necessarily the correct choice, mind you, but the most logical one considering all the reasoning behind it.

Mayfield is 23 years old and a five-year veteran of college football. He played four seasons unlike many quarterbacks who turn pro, often times unwisely, as soon as they become eligible.

He is smart, savvy and knows how to say the right things. Combined with his outgoing personality, he is a very impressive young man, one who gets your attention right away. It’s difficult not to like him.

Combine that with his equally impressive statistical performance the last three years with the Sooners and it is understandable why it would be difficult to eliminate him from consideration because he is smallish at a half inch over six feet.

And that is what ultimately propelled him to the top of the Browns’ list, unanimously from what has been reported, as the days counted down toward the lottery.

Darnold, as it turned out, never had a chance. At 21 (he’ll be 22 next month), he is a nowhere near as smart and savvy and NFL ready as Mayfield. Yet.

He had an impressive two seasons at USC. His stats were every bit as good as Mayfield’s, plus he was a half inch shy of 6-4. Many signs pointed toward him being the slam-dunk choice to be the No. 1 choice of the Browns.

Two problems, both of which most likely cost Darnold his slippage to the New York Jets at three. The California kid is much more laid back than the effusive Mayfield. To the Browns, that apparently was a negative.

Darnold also reportedly did not do well with the white board when it came to testing his football IQ. Mayfield nailed it.

“He’s as good from a football IQ standpoint as I’ve ever been around,” said Browns front-office executive Alonzo Highsmith, who admitted he was in Darnold’s corner until evaluating Mayfield.

The great separator for Highsmith, who spoke recently at a Canton luncheon, was his initial impression of the new Browns quarterback. “You watch the workouts; you watch everything,” he said, “and Baker blew me away. Highly, highly intelligent. Highly competitive.”

But it was Mayfield’s “power to affect other people” that swayed Highsmith into the John Dorsey camp. “I thought of all the quarterbacks I watched, he stood out far and above the other guys,” Highsmith said. “When he walked into a room, you knew he was there.”

Impressive stuff. Gives greater understanding to the thinking behind a most controversial choice.

I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. The reasoning for taking Mayfield over Darnold makes logical sense. My only argument is that Darnold’s ceiling is much, much higher than Mayfield’s. I believe he will be the better player in the end.

Dorsey inherited a mess and wants to turn that around pronto. Not bit by bit, Now. And Mayfield gives him the best chance to do it now.

All the kid has to do is win the starting job in training camp, then go out and back up his bravado and prove all his detractors wrong.

Now let’s see how long it will take Browns fans, especially those who root for Ohio State, to forgive Mayfield for planting the Oklahoma flag in the ground at midfield following the Sooners’ victory over the Buckeyes last year in Columbus.
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Never let it be said Dorsey is not a man of action. It hasn’t taken the Browns’ general manager long to retool this sad franchise’s roster in the image he envisions.

In the four months since the end of the 2017 regular season, there have been 27 departures from the list of 73 names that comprised the final roster and 20 new additions. That does not include the new nine-man draft class.

Leaving were six defensive backs, two defensive linemen, three linebackers, four offensive linemen, three quarterbacks, three running backs, two tight ends and four wide receivers.

Arriving are five defensive backs, three defensive linemen, one linebacker, three offensive linemen, three quarterbacks, one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. The current roster totals 75 with the new draftees.

And with the season still more than four months away, count on the roster dynamic changing even more as the restless Dorsey plows his way toward crafting the competitive team he believes Cleveland pro football fans deserve.
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A not-so-sudden thought: Remembering what Dorsey said in his last news conference before the draft and the impact of the answer to one of the questions.

The GM was asked what he looks for in a quarterback. His reply went something like this: Accuracy, strong arm, red zone performance and does he win at the end of the game.

For some reason, maybe because I wanted to believe it, I thought he was talking about Darnold. Wrong. He was talking about Mayfield, but many of us were too dumb to realize it at the time. Darnold checks all those boxes, too, but falls short in the leadership category.
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Here’s another thought to chew on: Mayfield is the second coming of Drew Brees, not Johnny Manziel. He’s a much more talented Manziel and has some of the positive characteristics of the New Orleans Saints quarterback.

First of all, both are from Austin, Texas, and played their high school football there. Both check in at a shade over six feet tall. Both are right-handed and have a strong arm. And both have that charisma and leadership coaches love. The only difference between the two is Brees was drafted in the second round in 2001.

Now 39, the former Purdue quarterback beat the too-small-to-play-in-the-NFL odds and has carved out a Hall of Fame career that has seen him throw for 488 touchdowns, more than 70,000 yards and win a Super Bowl.

Anyone who has watched how he gets his team emotionally and physically ready to play with a fiery speech in the huddle before each game sees how important leadership is to a team. He epitomizes New Orleans Saints football. If that’s what Dorsey sees in Mayfield, Browns Cleveland fans are in for a wild ride.
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When defensive coordinator Gregg Williams urged Dorsey to draft Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb with the fourth choice in the lottery, he sent two signals. One, he desperately wanted a shutdown corner. Two, he believed the pass rush will be better than last season.

For some reason, Williams loves defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who played the first 10 games last season before suffering a broken foot. The pro sophomore, drafted to be an edge rusher, has only 9½ sacks (four last season) in two years.

His problem is inconsistency. He’ll play well for two or three games in a row, then disappear for a few games. Maybe it’s the result of scheming, but he just doesn’t seem to stick out on a weekly basis.

There are no dangerous threats to opposing quarterbacks on the roster except Myles Garrett, far and away the club leader in sacks as a rookie last season with seven despite playing only 11 games. It appears as though Williams is counting on Ogbah to step up, which falls under the category of wishful thinking.
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Finally . . . With the drafting of defensive end Chad Thomas in round three, it appears as though Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard are on notice to take their games to a higher level. Both were terrific pass rushers in college, but have been neutralized by NFL offensive linemen. . . . Speaking of offensive linemen, Spencer Drango, Rod Johnson and Shon Coleman fall into the same category with the drafting of Austin Corbett and arrival of free agents Donald Stephenson and Chris Hubbard. . . . Might as well place wide receivers Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins in the same boat now that Antonio Callaway was drafted and Jeff Janis was signed as a free agent. . . . Question of the week: What are the odds Hue Jackson remains as the Browns’ head coach for the entire season?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Rich this is Hiram. Big fan of yours when you were on CLE radio.

    I think your criticism of Hue is unfair and off base do to the fact that he had every right to bench Kizer with his performance on the field with many missed opportunities that can be seen on all 22 and the INT's in the redzone, poor decision making like in the Lions game,

    This seems to go unnoticed by the media and fans that on one hand you want to hold players accountable but on the other hand in this case you want to give Kizer cart blanche to do whatever they want.

    Just a contradiction, IMO