With the 2018 NFL Draft now some three weeks away, quarterbacks remain the headline for a half-dozen teams. Name any of the top-rated passers and the Browns have been linked to all of them. But after meeting with four of them -- Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold -- this week, the team has finally settled on its guy.
There had been speculation that the Browns would take Mayfield because draft consultant Scot McCloughan is a huge Mayfield fan, even comparing him to Brett Favre. And Allen has been mentioned as an option because of his strong arm and physical abilities. Then there's Darnold, the USC standout whom former UCLA coach Jim Mora said in Cleveland than Rosen. But it's Rosen who will hear his name called first because he checks all the boxes. And the Browns aren't worried about anything Mora may have said about his former quarterback.
"He's really smart, he's engaging, he does want to be in Cleveland," Browns general manager John Dorsey said recently of Rosen. "After our conversations, he has no problems being in Cleveland. Again, it's one of those conversations where that story can take a life of its own but until you meet him I'm not going to get into that."
With Rosen off the board, the Giants land their quarterback of the future with the No. 2 pick, which begins a run on passers that ends with the Bills trading up to fourth overall. This also means arguably two of the draft's best players -- Saquon Barkley and Bradley Chubb -- are still on the board five picks into the draft.
Alright, enough with the chitchat, let's get to it.
1. Cleveland Browns
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Never mind what Rosen's college coach said about him not being a good fit in Cleveland. Rosen is the most polished quarterback in this class and he apparently loves a challenge. The Browns, who have had a fantastic offseason to date, will provide that and then some, and he'll have the opportunity to learn from Hue Jackson, who had been known for his abilities to get the most out of his young quarterbacks, and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who deserves a lot of credit for Ben Roethilsberger's success in Pittsburgh in recent seasons.
2. New York Giants
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Everyone expects the Giants to trade out of this spot but the price may be too prohibitive for quarterback-needy teams (hi there, Buffalo!). And while the Giants may appear content to roll with 37-year-old Eli Manning next season, at some point they're going to have to replace him. And since there's little chance they'll have the No. 2 pick again anytime soon, they're taking Darnold here.
3. New York Jets (from Colts)
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. You sure hope the Jets fell in love with three quarterbacks because otherwise, they traded up from sixth to third for a consolation prize. And while Josh Allen offers all the physical tools teams look for in a franchise quarterback, the truth is he wasn't very good in college. Put another way: The last thing the Jets need is another QB project. Mayfield, meanwhile, could excel in offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates' scheme and it's why he's the pick here. New York may not have had Mayfield in mind when they traded up three spots but it could prove to be a decision that helps this team back to the playoffs.
4. Buffalo Bills (mock trade from CLE)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. The Bills didn't trade up from No. 21 to No. 12 to not get a quarterback. And with passers going with the first three picks, they traded up again to make sure another QB-needy team didn't land Allen, who is insanely athletic but will need a year on the bench at the next level. For now, the Bills' job belongs to AJ McCarron but the expectation is that Allen will be the face of the franchise for the next decade.
5. Denver Broncos
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. The Broncos are reportedly interested in drafting a quarterback but with four off the board in the top four picks, they'll take a quarterback's best friend: A dynamic running back who can do just about everything. Case Keenum certainly lessens the immediate need for a franchise passer and GM John Elway can use that opportunity to address other needs and get Denver back atop the AFC West.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from Jets)
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. The Colts would sprint to the podium for Chubb, who would immediately upgrade one of the league's worst defenses last season and is arguably the best player in the draft still sitting on the board at No. 6.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The Bucs are the beneficiaries of a run on quarterbacks ahead of them. Tampa Bay's offensive line was replacement-level in both running and passing situations and Nelson will bolster the interior, and in the process makes life easier for Jameis Winston, who is coming off a disappointing 2017 season.
8. Chicago Bears
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. Edmunds is a physical freak, even by combine standards. He's only 19 years old and the Bears have other needs, but after landing WR Allen Robinson in free agency Edmunds makes sense here.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. The 49ers' pass defense was among the worst in the league as the unit struggled with injuries, and San Francisco's defensive backs were the weakest link on a weak unit. Fitzpatrick's best attribute is his versatility; he excels in the slot, at safety and as a nickel linebacker and he'll immediately upgrade a unit that let Eric Reid walk but signed Richard Sherman.
10. Oakland Raiders
Vita Vea, DT, Washington. The Raiders have needs on defense, starting up front. The defensive line ranked 22nd in stopping the run, according to Football Outsiders, and was 23rd in pressuring the quarterback. Vea would immediately anchor a group that was pretty bad a season ago.
11. Miami Dolphins
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. A confluence of events -- most of them quarterback-related -- have Smith falling to the Dolphins who, incidentally, would've loved the opportunity to draft a quarterback. But Smith is a fantastic consolation prize and saves Miami from reaching for a passer, especially since the team has serious needs at linebacker, especially after Lawrence Timmons' one and only hugely disappointing season in South Florida.
12. Cleveland Browns (mock trade from BUF)
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. No one's replacing Joe Thomas but McGlinchey fills a gaping void left by Thomas' retirement. And with the quarterback situation already settled, the Browns can continue to fill all the other holes on the roster.
13. Washington Redskins
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. At 6-3, 310 pounds, Payne is a natural run-stuffer who needs more work as a pass rusher but he'll be a starter from Day 1. And in Washington, he fills an obvious need in the middle of the defense.
14. Green Bay Packers
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. The Packers brought Tramon Williams back to Green Bay this offseason but despite needs at pass rusher, Ward is the pick here because he's arguably the draft's best cornerback. He had a terrific combine and joins last year's second-round pick, Kevin King to give Green Bay a fast, physical pair of young corners.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Connor Williams, OT, Texas. The Cardinals have a glaring need at tackle -- they traded Jared Veldheer and D.J. Humphries hasn't developed as planned. Quarterback is also on the list but if Arizona can keep Sam Bradford healthy, the playoffs are a real possibility in 2018.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. Davenport followed up a big Senior Bowl week with a strong combine, and the University of Texas-San Antonio standout brings his pass-rushing skills to Baltimore where he'd be groomed to replace 35-year-old Terrell Suggs. He had 21.5 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss during his four-year college career, and he would join a defense that ranked 11th in sacks a season ago with 41.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. At 6-foot-2 and 283 pounds, Hurst may be undersized, but his unbelievable quickness more than makes up for it. He'll join a front seven that includes Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Derwin James, S, Florida State. With the Seahawks cleaning house on defense, restocking the roster -- and especially the secondary -- makes sense, even with glaring needs along the offensive line. James is solid against the run and the pass and adds much-needed depth should Seattle end up trading Earl Thomas.
19. Dallas Cowboys
20. Detroit Lions
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. Darius Slay is one of the NFL's best young corners and Jackson has the physical attributes to become a force opposite him in a division that features Aaron Rodgers and now Kirk Cousins.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Bills)
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia. Andy Dalton took a beating last season and his drop in production reflected as much. The Bengals could look for Vontaze Burfict's replacement here too, but instead bolster the interior line by taking Wynn.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Chiefs)
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Bills signed Star Lotulelei and re-upped Kyle Williams, which no longer makes defensive line a draft priority. And while needs remain at offensive line, Ridley gives new quarterbacks Josh Allen and AJ McCarron a legit downfield threat.
23. New England Patriots (from Rams)
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. The Patriots didn't trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams and acquire the 23rd pick to take a quarterback. At this point in the proceedings, four of them are already off the board and it wouldn't be surprising if the Cardinals took one at No. 15. Instead, Bill Belichick takes Evans, who played for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. As , "Belichick has history of placing a high priority on the linebacker spot; he moved up in Round 1 of the 2012 draft to pick Donte' Hightower even after trading up earlier in that round to grab Chandler Jones."
24. Carolina Panthers
Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP. The Panthers need help at wide receiver too, but Hernandez is too good to pass up here. He'll bolster the interior line of a unit that was replacement-level in the running game last season.
25. Tennessee Titans
26. Atlanta Falcons
27. New Orleans Saints
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State: This assumes, of course, that the Saints Rob Gronkowski. We've previously had South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert here but after Gesicki's lights-out performance at the combine, he's now our guy. The Saints missed out on Jimmy Graham when he signed with the Packers, so tight end remains a need.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State. The Steelers signed inside linebacker Jon Bostic as a stopgap but Vander Esch has been impressive during predraft workouts. He's long on athleticism but short on experience, which could means he spends much of his rookie season learning from the sidelines.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. Could six quarterbacks go in Round 1? If it happens, the Jags could be in the market for Blake Bortles' replacement. Yes, he earned the right to be the starting quarterback in 2018, but there are no guarantees beyond that. If he regresses next season the Jags will have Jackson waiting in the wings.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. The Vikings need help at guard but with Nelson, Wynn and Hernandez off the board, they turn to one of the draft's best tackles. Miller will help bolster a unit that was replacement-level in the running game last season.
31. New England Patriots
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Justin Reid, S, Stanford. Malcolm Jenkins is entering his 10th NFL season and Reid could be groomed as his eventual replacement. These are good problems to have for the defending Super Bowl champs, who ranked No. 7 in pass defense last season.