The Moneyball-oriented Cleveland Browns have made a habit of collecting as many draft picks as possible in order to build up their roster, and in doing so they’ve essentially put off adding a blue-chip quarterback in the first round of the draft.
After previous regimes used three separate first-round selections on eventual busts Brady Quinn, Johnny Manziel and Brandon Weeden in an eight-year span, the Browns have taken non-quarterbacks with each of their last seven first-round picks.
But has it worked? The Browns are 0-5, and they’ve lost 20 of their last 21 games dating back to the start of 2016. Now, they’ve been forced to bench second-round rookie DeShone Kizer, who was off to an historically bad start to the season, and replace him with Kevin Hogan, who becomes their 28th starting signal-caller since 1999.
A qualified quarterback hasn't posted a sub-50 passer rating this century. Closest were Akili Smith (52.8) and JaMarcus Russell (50.0).
Only five games in, but DeShone Kizer is at 49.5.
— Brad Gagnon (@Brad_Gagnon) October 10, 2017
That has to be frustrating when you consider that the Rams could have had Jared Goff, Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson right now.
The Browns had the No. 2 overall selection last year, but traded down. They had the firepower to move up for Goff, who went first overall. He’s off to a fantastic start for the surprisingly strong Los Angeles Rams this season, ranking behind only Alex Smith, Tom Brady and Cam Newton with a yards-per-attempt average of 8.3.
They also could have stood pat in the No. 2 spot and taken Wentz, who has also broken out as a sophomore in charge of the 4-1 Philadelphia Eagles. The North Dakota State product has thrown 10 touchdown passes to three interceptions and has the league’s ninth-highest qualified passer rating. What’s more, he has an unbelievable 137.8 rating on third down.
And in this year’s draft they passed on a pair of opportunities to select Watson, who has produced 12 touchdowns while leading the Houston Texans to a ridiculous 124 points in their last three games. The Clemson product already has 179 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and is the league’s seventh-highest-rated qualified passer.
The draft is somewhat of a crapshoot, so in this case the Browns might just be snakebitten yet again. And there’s still no guarantee any of those three young quarterbacks pan out. But all three are off to smoking hot starts this season, while the winless Browns continue to search for a long-term answer under center.
Meanwhile, the Browns will have to stare Watson in the face in Week 6. They’re in Houston.
“I totally get it,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said this week regarding the buzz that they should have taken the quarterback many expect to roast them on Sunday, per Pro Football Talk. “What did I tell you guys earlier in the week? You guys can say whatever you like. I get it. I get the second guessing, the questions and all of that. You are entitled to do all of that. DeShone Kizer is on our team. Deshaun Watson is on their team. We can’t all of a sudden flip them, so why are we having this discussion?”
The good news is it looks as though they’ll lose that game and many more, giving them another chance to swing the bat at a high-ceiling quarterback early in a draft that is expected to have several of them.