Fans at Boardman gathering are mystified by Browns’ selections
By Dan Hiner
Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts went quiet for 1 minute and 15 seconds.
That’s how long it took for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to walk to the podium and announce the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Thursday at the restaurant started with smiles and cheers as Cleveland fans from the Mahoning Valley met with former Browns offensive linemen Joe Thomas and John Greco.
But after the Browns selected Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, the patrons were more confused then jovial.
Fans cautiously applauded the selection of Mayfield and were shocked when Cleveland took Ward with the fourth overall pick — many expected the selection to be North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb.
In the end, some thought the first round of this draft seemed reminiscent of the infamous 2014 draft.
That year the Browns selected disgraced quarterback Johnny Manziel and corner Justin Gilbert.
While some were disappointed with the selection of Mayfield, the fans were willing to give the Sooner a shot since former Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start for the Browns this summer.
Brandon Burwell of Liberty thought the Browns should have selected Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick if they wanted a defensive back.
“I think, Mayfield, we’ll see how that goes,” Burwell said. “He’ll have a year to develop. I was hoping for a more robust quarterback like [Wyoming’s Josh Allen] who can withstand Cleveland winters. All the other quarterbacks were fair-weather quarterbacks.
“As far as Ward goes, that was a complete surprise. I was expecting Chubb to bookend Myles Garrett. That would have been a potent combination. In my opinion, they didn’t even pick the best cornerback in the Draft.”
Brian Balmer of Boardman was pleased with the Mayfield pick and thinks he could be similar to Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
“I liked the first pick, Mayfield. I think he has a charisma about him, an attitude about wanting to win — about getting his teammates hyped up and ready to play,” Balmer said. “Like [Fox Sports personality] Skip Bayless said, I think this is a guy who could win a locker room with his excitement, enthusiasm and wanting to win.”
For some, meeting Thomas and Greco was the highlight of the night. Thomas recently announced his retirement from the NFL and is considered a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Greco is still active with the New York Giants.
Browns fan Evan Beil of Boardman got his hat signed by the former Browns.
“[Thomas] is one of the best, not only the best for the Browns, but in all the NFL,” Beil said. “I graduated from Boardman just a few years after John Greco. So obviously having the hometown connection is always great.
“We’re proud of him.”
Some fans had to wait approximately an hour before they met with the former NFL linemen at a side window.
Kiki Novosel of Canfield helped start the Browns Backers and brought along a few tickets from the Browns’ win over the Steelers in 2014.
“They are two of my favorite players that have always been a huge inspiration to Youngstown, and I’ve always wanted to meet them,” Novosel said. “Knowing that they came locally just for the draft was such a really cool thing.