SURPRISING BROWNS: Mayfield, Ward selected at 1 and 4
The Cleveland Browns believe all Baker Mayfield has in common with Johnny Manziel are height and a Heisman.
After months of dissection and debate, the Browns selected Mayfield, Oklahoma’s cocky and charismatic quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday, a somewhat surprising selection by a team that figured to play it safe with such an important decision.
But coming off a 0-16 season, the Browns are betting that Mayfield is a better player than USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen or UCLA’s Josh Rosen, a talented group regarded as the top QB class in years.
The Browns followed Mayfield’s selection with another surprise, taking Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.
Cleveland was thought to be high on North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, but instead opted for the speedy Ward, who skipped his senior season with the Buckeyes to turn pro.
Mayfield may have been college football’s top player last season, when he passed for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns and won the Heisman Trophy. But the 23-year-old is undersized (he’s just over 6-foot), and there are questions about his character following a 2017 arrest and some on-field antics which included him grabbing his crotch in a game at Kansas.
Those antics have led to the inevitable comparisons to Manziel, who was selected by the Browns in the first round in 2014 and flopped on the field while partying his way out of the league.
Mayfield could sit behind the newly acquired Tyrod Taylor (Bills). They join a team that went 0-16 in 2017.
“I’m going to come in with the mindset to compete and the hunger to learn [from Taylor],” Mayfield said.
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.”
Mayfield was not at AT&T Stadium, leaving Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage, hearing cheers cascade throughout the building after announcing the Browns’ choice. It was one of the few times Goodell heard cheers.
Dorsey has been enamored with Mayfield for some time, and believes his competitiveness and will eventually resolve the team’s decades-long quarterback dilemma.
Cleveland has started 28 QBs since 1999.
Last week, Dorsey defended Mayfield’s character and called him “a pleasant fella. He is pretty sharp. He is fine. I have no problems with him.”