It all depends on Mayfield
Rarely does the success or failure of a college football draft hinge on the performance of one young man. Such is definitely the case with the Browns.
Three years hence, the time frame usually allotted to render final judgments of the efforts of those in charge of the future, we will know whether John Dorsey and his cohorts were correct when they boldly selected a polarizing young quarterback to craft the fortunes of this franchise.
There is absolutely no question whatsoever that when the Browns made Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield their choice with the prestigious top pick of the draft last Thursday night in Arlington, Texas, a great many residents of Browns Nation recoiled.
Trusting an undersized, brash to the point of being cocky, troubled-off-the-field, extremely talented young man from Austin, Texas, was without question a bold move, one that caught most of the professional football world by surprise.
After the initial shock subsided and Dorsey explained the reasons behind the move, it came across as more or less a plea to “trust us, we know what we are doing, Have faith.” It had a familiar ring.
We have heard that before from the too-numerous previous Browns front offices in the last 19 years that implored fans to be patient. Trust us, they all said. And it has wound up as 19 years of frustration because that trust was never rewarded.
So why, then, should we trust this crew, especially after such a controversial start? Well because this crew has something the others did not: Impressive résumés. They bring a wealth of not only experience to Cleveland, but success as well.
So when Dorsey & Co. (Messrs. Eliot Wolf, Alonzo Highsmith and Scot McCloughan) made Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward (and not defensive end Bradley Chubb) their top two picks in round one, benefit of the doubt nevertheless creeps in.
And then when they hit on ten strikes with their first two picks in round two with Nevada offensive lineman Austin Corbett and Georgia running back Nick Chubb, seeds of doubt rapidly fade away.
There is an excellent chance all four young men will become strong contributors to the cause. Ward and Corbett will start, while Chubb (Nick, that is) figures to be in the mix at running back with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr.
And then there is Mayfield, who says he understands why coach Hue Jackson has slotted him behind Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton on the quarterback depth chart. Caution: Do not take Mayfield’s acquiescence to that notion seriously.
As ludicrous as this sounds, it would not surprise more than a few Browns fans if Mayfield is the starting quarterback in the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9 at home.
Jackson has already declared Taylor is his starting quarterback in that game. Period. And the veteran Stanton is his backup. Period. He did not say that is subject to change.
If in training camp this summer Mayfield displays the same energetic approach to football that appealed to Dorsey and is provided the opportunity to show what he can do in camp and exhibition games, anything goes.
It will be interesting to see how much exposure Jackson gives his rookie quarterback. How many reps he’ll get as opposed to the two men in front of him. How fair will the quarterback competition be?
Or will there be a competition at all? Depends, in large part, how close-minded Jackson is.
Methinks pressure from on high will filter down to Jackson and Mayfield will get the chance to do what Russell Wilson did in Seattle when he was a rookie in 2012: Surprise everyone and win the starting job, dramatically changing the culture of the Seahawks.
The original thought by just about everyone except Dorsey and Mayfield supporters was that whoever the general manager grabbed as his quarterback of the future with the initial pick would be just that. He would sit a year, learn and be ready to go in his second year.
I get the impression Dorsey would like nothing better than to watch Mayfield come right in and take immediate charge of the situation. A large part of his football personality is his strong leadership qualities, probably one of the main factors that led to the decision to draft him.
The GM does not want to tamp down the kid’s enthusiasm, his desire to come right in and play well enough to take the starting job away from Taylor. That would please him no end if that occurs.
It has been too long since fans of the Browns have had good reason to be optimistic. Dorsey is gambling big time that Mayfield is that gifted quarterback who can come in and make an immediate impact on not just the offense, but the entire team.
Mayfield, who relished the idea of coming to Cleveland and reversing the fortunes of this woebegone franchise, has a good shot at doing just that.
Regardless of how the other eight players selected behind him perform as the Browns undergo a dramatic change from the Sashi Brown regime, how the kid from Texas performs will determine whether this draft was a success or failure.
Tomorrow: Thoughts on the other eight picks and the final grade.-->