2018 NFL Draft: Will Browns pass on a QB at No. 1 after Taylor trade? They shouldn't

No NFL team in recent memory has had a 24-hour period quite like what the Browns pulled off starting on Friday afternoon.

In rapid fire, reports came out of the Browns trading two picks to the Dolphins for Jarvis Landry, the No. 65 overall pick to the Bills for Tyrod Taylor, and DeShone Kizer to the Packers for Damarious Randall (and two pick swaps on Day 3). The Browns followed that up by trading Danny Shelton and a 2018 pick to the Patriots for a 2019 pick on Saturday.

These moves won't be official until the new league year begins on Wednesday, but we've spent the last 24 hours considering the implications of Cleveland's bold new plan. Our John Breech shared his winners and losers from the collection of Friday trades.

One possible winner: Saquon Barkley, who in theory sees his chances of being selected No. 1 overall go up after the Taylor acquisition. Many other people have made the same case; now that the Browns have their quarterback, Barkley is a shoo-in to go No. 1, right?

That couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, the Taylor deal shouldn't affect the decision to take a quarterback or not at No. 1 and it might even provide a clue as to which quarterback the Browns are eyeing with that pick.

Taylor the long-term answer?

There might not be a bigger Taylor fan than me. I wrote before last season that the Bills were making a mistake not getting him locked up long-term based on his production prior to 2017. But clearly the organization didn't fully buy in to him as a franchise quarterback. They were lucky to get a premium pick from the Browns, considering all signs pointed to Taylor being released this offseason.

My opinions notwithstanding, it's clear the consensus on Taylor is that he isn't a franchise quarterback. There's still time for him to establish himself as one, and maybe that'll happen with the Browns. But Cleveland isn't going to bestow that mantle on him prior to seeing a single snap from him in Hue Jackson's offense.

What Taylor brings to the table is the ability to be a quality starter in the short-term while the franchise develops a potential savior behind him. And that's no small thing. There's no guarantee the quarterback prospect they draft would have been ready to start in Week 1, no matter how pro-ready he was coming out of college. Kizer certainly wasn't, and there's no telling how much better he could have been in his first NFL exposure if he had had a year to develop away from the spotlight while learning from a competent starting-caliber QB.

Barkley at No. 1?

Barkley is undoubtedly a premier talent, but he's playing one of the most fungible positions in this era of the NFL. Players such as Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley have obviously quickly become stars, but so have backs selected later in the draft such as Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, and so on. Of the nine players to rush for 1,000 yards last year, only four were first-round picks, and only two of those (Gurley, Leonard Fournette) went in the top 10.

Barkley would be a fine pick for the Browns at No. 4. But an elite running back should be the final piece that puts your offense over the top. And this year's most successful teams were able to do just fine without a blue-chip draft pick at running back. The Eagles mixed and matched with a free-agent pickup (LeGarrette Blount), an undrafted free agent (Corey Clement) and later a former fifth-round pick who cost the team a fourth-rounder in trade (Jay Ajayi). The Patriots had success with a mixture of James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, all draft afterthoughts. The Jaguars had Fournette, but the Vikings lost their star second-round pick early in the season and made do with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.

Passing on drafting the team's No. 1 rated quarterback prospect, when they don't have a plan beyond 2018 at the position, just doesn't make sense, even for a player as talented as Barkley.

But a top QB will be there at No. 4 ...

I'm an avid Fantasy football player and have a background writing for that medium, so this is the type of strategy that would appeal to me on Fantasy draft day. But when it comes to the actual NFL Draft, it's a whole different ball game.

The Browns have a scouting department in place to evaluate these draft prospects, and the personnel department has undoubtedly spent many months breaking down each of the top signal-callers and looking for their best fit. If you're John Dorsey, who ultimately is the only one that matters in this discussion, you have to trust that work. Just because all these guys are perceived as close in value doesn't mean they're all going to be fits for the Browns offense.

Hitting on a young quarterback and having that cost-controlled asset opens up a championship window. We saw it in Seattle, where Russell Wilson's quick emergence allowed the team to create a championship-level defense. We're seeing it in Philadelphia, where Carson Wentz's big payday is still on the horizon, not something to work around in 2018.

If the Browns succeed in identifying the best QB in this class, they have the opportunity to make noise in the NFL playoff race in Years 2-5 of his deal by surrounding him with talent at the positions needed via free agency. You just can't go out and find a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback the same way (with the possible exception of Kirk Cousins this year). The Broncos were able to land Peyton Manning in his twilight years and reach the Super Bowl twice; the Eagles managed to win it all last year after bringing Nick Foles back into the fold. Every other Super Bowl team in the last eight years has made it with a quarterback they drafted.

Bottom line: The Browns will settle on a guy they feel is the best quarterback in this class, if they haven't already. And that's who's going to be the No. 1 pick, because you can't risk him not being on the board at No. 4.

So who will that QB be at No. 1?

Before adding Taylor or another veteran capable of being a bridge starter at quarterback, I think the pressure was on to take a guy who could realistically come in and play in Week 1. To me, that probably would have been Sam Darnold, or possibly Josh Rosen.

But now that Taylor is in line to be the starter in 2018, immediate readiness to start shouldn't be a factor at all. And that brings Josh Allen to the forefront. Not only did he have an excellent combine, but there had previously been buzz in January connecting Allen to the Browns as a potential fit for Dorsey. At the time, it was nothing more than an interesting nugget. Now, with Allen's stock on the rise and the Browns set at QB for 2018, it's starting to make a lot of sense.

What should they do at No. 4?

If Barkley or Bradley Chubb makes it to them at No. 4, I think you have to take him. Those are clearly the top two players in this class, regardless of position, and adding one to the roster should win out over other options.

In my most recent mock draft, I have those guys coming off the board at No. 2 and No. 3. In that scenario, I've mocked Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Browns. But more realistic is a trade down, and the best candidate is the team that just traded its starting quarterback.

The Bills, like the Browns, now have five picks in the top 65, and their haul includes two first-rounders at No. 21 and No. 22. Packaging those two first-rounders could be enough to get them to No. 4; adding one of their second-rounders would almost certainly do the trick. Even if they have to trade their first three picks for No. 4, that still leaves Buffalo with Nos. 55, 65 and 96 on Day 2, plus a new franchise quarterback.

If the Browns do take Allen No. 1, either Darnold or Rosen figures to be on the board at No. 4. With no one but Nathan Peterman an option to start under center for the Bills at this point, they'll be motivated to move up and grab a prospect who looks ready to take the reins of the offense immediately.

On the Browns' side, they'd be looking at Nos. 21, 22, 33, 35, 53 and 64 in a draft where several first-round caliber players should make it into the second round. With those picks, they can land a running back a tier under Barkley (i.e. Sony Michel, Derrius Guice), a linebacker (i.e., Rashaan Evans, Leighton Vander Esch), a right tackle (i.e., Kolton Miller, Tyrell Crosby), a defensive tackle (i.e., Harrison Phillips, Tim Settle) and still have two picks left over for best player available at other positions. That's a lot of talent to inject into a team that's already added Taylor, Landry and Randall this offseason and that already has a roster sprinkled with potential young stars.  

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