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Lingering NFL Draft Rants: Saquan Barkley Should Have Been a Cleveland Brown

Lingering NFL Draft Rants: Saquan Barkley Should Have Been a Cleveland Brown
  • Scott Engel

It Still Is Very Bothersome That the Giants and Browns Both Screwed Up

By Chris Mitchell

One of my favorite habits is to look at the world and say WHAT THE F***??? It might surprise you to know that in the social media world we live in that this kind of response happens often. Well, we just had the NFL Draft, and it happened a time or two.

Once: The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants Butchered Their Drafts From the Jump

I do not believe, in today’s NFL, that teams should spend draft assets or expensive budgetary dollars on running backs. They can scheme to create production from running backs or find productive players at responsible prices on the street and affordably in the draft. This belief applies even more so to teams that, presumably have multiple needs and significant holes to address. So what do the 37-year-old Eli Manning-led New York Giants do? They passed on three potential franchise quarterbacks and an elite pass rusher to select a running back. It’s bad enough that running backs aren’t an essential piece of Super Bowl winning teams. It’s significantly more incomprehensible when their quarterback is in full decline, and they were selecting second overall in one of the best quarterback drafts of the last 40 years.

To add insult to injury, many felt that Sam Darnold was the best of the QB bunch, and he was there for the plucking. Instead, the Giants got their legs, and the Jets and their fans are ecstatic that they got their new young arm.

Saquon Barkley may be the safest selection of the 2018 NFL Draft, while also being one of the worst picks of it. Normally that’s the kind of incongruous mess of a statement that I would make about the Jets or the Browns, but in this world, it’s about the Giants.

Winless with Two Top Fives – How Cleveland Botched an Epic Opportunity

As much as I am opposed to selecting a running back early in the draft, there wouldn’t be a rule if there weren’t exceptions to it, and the mix of the 2018 Cleveland Browns and Barkley is it. Barkley did not make sense for the Giants, but he did for the Browns.

In a different NFL world, the book suggested that the Browns should have tried to trade back and load up on picks, but this was the quarterback-loaded 2018 draft. With two picks in the top four, Tyrod Taylor as their future and four potential franchise quarterbacks available, they had to draft at least one quarterback with a top pick. Being the Browns, maybe they should have taken two. We know all five of the quarterbacks selected in Round 1 aren’t going to succeed. The odds are that at least three, if not four, will bust, so maybe the Browns should have “wasted” one by choosing two. I double up on cookies and cakes for dessert, beers and shots for drinks and sodas for long drives, so why not the Browns at QB? Meh. I digress.

Having two selections in the top four, the Browns were guaranteed to land one of the four consensus top QBs. If they decided they loved one, I understand. If you love a guy, you get the guy. But if the Browns liked a few of them, then go with smart strategy, and that’s what the Browns didn’t do Thursday night in Arlington, Texas. Barkley is a perfect mix of certainty and potential impact. He was the most likely player in this draft to help the Browns play competent football, and he has the explosive potential to be a home run and a Hall of Famer when his days are done.

If I had to pick the 2018 first round “Least Likely to Fail,” it would be Barkley. If I had to pick the player “Most Likely to Make the Hall of Fame,” it would probably be Barkley as well. That’s the kind of profile that makes Barkley the exception to my running back rule, and why a team with two picks in the top four should have drafted a guaranteed star first before selecting their quarterback of the future fourth overall. They may not have landed their quarterback of choice, but they would have landed one they thought highly of, and they may have still landed “their guy,” Baker Mayfield. That’s what a good Cleveland Browns draft would have looked like instead of the mess it was.

Not only did they drop the ball strategically on opening night, they showed an utter lack of coherent thought. They took a risky, undersized, plucky quarterback with attitude and off-field questions rather than the most talented (Josh Allen) or the safest (Darnold) choices and then went need over “best available.” Denzel Ward was the best corner in the draft, and he fits a need, but he wasn’t the best player available. He won’t provide the Browns with two or three high draft picks to add more talent to an 0-16 team the way a trade would have. Mayfield did fit a need, so from that perspective, you can argue they were consistent. However, they were unconventional with the first pick and extremely safe with the second. That’s incoherent.

Also, the risky selection of Mayfield at 1.1 eliminates the relevance of the Ward selection. If Mayfield is a bust, it won’t matter if Ward ends up in the NFL Hall of Fame, the draft will be a bust. If they went Barkley first or Chubb second then that wouldn’t be the truth. The Browns had a chance to hit a home run or a safe and easy ground rule double with an opportunity we rarely see with two Top 5 picks. Instead, they managed to make us all scratch our heads, which is what we should have expected. This is the Cleveland Browns we’re talking about. New front office, more ineptitude? It looks like it.

Twice: Guard the Line – No, Guard those Picks!!!

As much as I disagree with drafting running backs with high picks, I can at least understand the temptation of it. Giving in to temptation doesn’t make it less wrong, but it makes it more fathomable. What I can’t understand or fathom, regardless of how needy a team may be, is drafting a guard with an early choice. If it’s Anthony Munoz, Steve Nelson or Larry Allen, then I guess I can grit and bear it, but we don’t know it’s one of them until they actually play like one of them for 15 years and win Super Bowls.

If a team is desperate on the line and has a top pick, then they have to trade down, or select a sexier prospect and come back later for that bulky blocker. I don’t care if they miss “their guy.” At O-line, there is no “their guy” at the top of the draft. There is only bad pick, a worse pick and an over-drafted pick.

The Indianapolis Colts selected a Guard at No. 6 overall? SIX! If you guaranteed me Thursday afternoon that Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson would save Andrew Luck from certain decapitation, I would still tell you, “take a chance at beheading the bastard and make a real pick, you Sally.” The 49ers decided they liked what the Colts were cookin’ because they drafted Nelson’s buddy on the line and at the buffet table, Mike McGlinchey. The Raiders didn’t draft a track star with the 15th overall selection. They went with a lineman, too.

It’s bad enough that the Patriots drafted two players from the same team in the same round, the first one no less, but two Notre Dame lineman drafted in the Top 10 and linemen drafted back-to-back at No. 20 and No. 21? This first round was apocalyptical. Like white after Labor Day, the lineman apocalypse should be illegal. If baseball can put a runner on second base in extra innings of minor league games then the NFL can ban this kind of behavior on draft night. All that weight and all that draft capital used that early is beyond distasteful.

The New England Patriots drafted a big dude with three vowels in his first name and zero in his last at No. 23 overall. We can debate the appropriateness of that kind of incongruity, but that’s when we can begin to consider whether a lineman should be drafted or not. It’s my belief that if a team drafts a lineman in the first 20 selections then he better catch AT LEAST some touchdowns. If not, no, no and more no.

Three Times with a Lady: ESPN – Please. Please Stop.

Lamar Jackson and his agent, Mother Jackson, refused to run at the combine or at his pro day and approached the entire draft process like a maverick. I endorse a player and his agent managing the draft process in whatever way they believe maximizes their chances of being drafted the highest and paying them the most. But ESPN, please don’t tell me that Lamar Jackson being drafted No. 32 overall was a win for the way he and his Mom chose to do it. It was a fail. He was the best athlete drafted at the QB position since Michael Vick and he still almost felt to Day 2.

Praising stubbornness and pigheadedness or painting it as anything but a fool’s errand is what analysts are supposed to do, and that’s what the Jacksons did. If Jackson had been drafted in the Top 10 or if New Orleans did spend all that draft capital to move up to No. 14 and select him, which they didn’t, then I would be open to the hot take from ESPN.

That didn’t happen.

Jackson could have fallen further just as easily as he could have been drafted earlier. Instead, he was drafted right around where he probably should have been, meaning that at best, Jackson didn’t cripple his chances or diminish his pocketbook. Please, don’t try to force your agenda on me by telling me they worked the process. They got worked by it. If they did a better job, Jackson could have been drafted higher. He is an elite athlete who might be the future of the league. I don’t believe that, but it’s possible.

There have been reports that the Ravens considered signing Colin Kaepernick at one point in time. Maybe they traded up to draft Jackson so they could say they have the “next” Kaepernick and therefore they don’t need that one … or his kneeling. It’s as good a reason as any to avoid a “collusion” charge, isn’t it?