The Cleveland Browns‘ long search for a franchise quarterback has led them to Baker Mayfield — the first of four passers to be drafted in the top 10 Thursday night.
The Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, until the last few days considered a longshot to be the top pick, goes from former walk-on to No. 1 overall. Mayfield is the first Heisman recipient taken first in the following draft since Cam Newton went to Carolina in 2010.
Mayfield, who could sit behind newly acquired Tyrod Taylor at the outset of his pro career, joins a team that went 0-16 in 2017. The Browns, who haven’t had a top-flight quarterback since returning to the league in 1999, were sold on his leadership skills and creativity inside the pocket and outside.
“With Baker Mayfield, we have a guy who loves the game of football, who is an ultra-competitor, is revered by his teammates and anybody who has ever been around him,” Browns GM John Dorsey said. “He’s a guy that has earned everything he has ever had since high school to college and now up here. He is a winner, he’s competitive.”
He was not at AT&T Stadium, leaving Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage, but hearing cheers cascade throughout the building after announcing the Browns’ choice. That was in stark contrast to the usual crowd reaction for Goodell.
Even though Cowboys Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman and current star tight end Jason Witten accompanied Goodell onto the stage at opening of the draft, loud booing filled the stadium.
Goodell is despised in Dallas after Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games last season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
More booing accompanied the next pick, but not for Goodell: Dallas’ archrival the New York Giants chose Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, considered the best talent in this year’s class. It capped quite a few days for Barkley, whose girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl earlier this week.
“It’s unreal, two of the biggest moments in my life in the same week,” said Barkley, whose girlfriend gave birth to a girl earlier in the week.
Southern California QB Sam Darnold, pegged by many to be the top pick for months, went third to the other New York team. The Jets had traded with Indianapolis, going from sixth to third with the expressed intent to find a passer. They got the guy their fans coveted.
Like Mayfield, Darnold might sit behind a veteran, Josh McCown.
“I think whatever the coaches want me to do, if they want me to sit, want me to play, I’ll do my role,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life, not going to do any different.”
The early going was, as projected, quarterback heavy. Buffalo traded up with Tampa Bay to get Wyoming’s Josh Allen at No. 7. Allen is considered the passer with the most upside.
Although Allen played in a non-Power Five conference, the Mountain West, and had issues with completion percentage, his arm strength, size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and leadership skills won over the Bills.
The bartering wasn’t over. Arizona, also in a QB quandary, moved from 15th to 10th, trading with Oakland, for UCLA’s Josh Rosen. Many NFL personnel people believe Rosen is the most ready to play next season, and incumbent Carson Palmer retired.
Also chosen in the top 10 were Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, fourth to Cleveland; North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, considered the best pass rusher, to Denver at No. 5; Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson sixth to the Colts — won’t Andrew Luck be smiling about that; Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, eighth to Chicago; and Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, a somewhat surprising ninth to San Francisco.
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