Published On: Wed, Apr 25th, 2018

Not-to-do list: Can the Browns avoid botching another important draft?

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Surely, they can’t screw this up, right?

The Cleveland Browns, the most tortured franchise in the NFL’s Super Bowl era, own the surest way out of their 1-31 doldrums: the first and fourth picks in Thursday’s draft. But this isn’t an entirely new position for the Browns.

Just last year, the team owned multiple first-round picks, including the first overall selection, and passed on Deshaun Watson – twice. The organization with the poorest history of drafting quarterbacks elected not to take a passer and instead picked defensive end Myles Garrett.

Then, on the clock with the 12th pick and Watson still sitting in the green room, the Browns traded the pick to the Houston Texans, who promptly selected the national championship-winning quarterback.

Now, Garrett was a worthy selection and will likely become a fine pro, but in the six starts prior to his season-ending injury in 2017, Watson proved himself a franchise quarterback and Rookie of the Year favorite. The Browns will enter this draft still desperately searching for that guy.

In the last 17 years, the Browns have drafted quarterbacks Spergon Wynn, Luke McCown, Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, Cody Kessler, and DeShone Kizer. If you think there’s no way they could possibly screw this up, history isn’t on your side.

Here are the many ways Cleveland could avoid going totally Cleveland in the 2018 draft:

Don’t pass on Darnold and Rosen

Of the five or six quarterbacks who could go in the first round, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen most meet the franchise-quarterback profile.

Both have been hailed as transcendent talents since high school. Both are believed to possess the talent and moxie to thrive in a franchise-savior role.

Should the Browns pass on both California kids, they’ll likely rue the 2018 draft as a missed opportunity to step out of the league’s hinterland.

Recent rumors have linked Cleveland to Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the first overall pick. New Browns general manager John Dorsey is known to grow enamored with cannon-armed quarterbacks. As GM of the Kansas City Chiefs last year, he traded up to select Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 pick.

The Browns also have a history of selecting quarterbacks with a “big arm.” Kizer started 15 games for Cleveland in 2017 but struggled to adapt to the pro game and led the team to an 0-16 season.

Darnold and Rosen will have their rookie struggles as well, but they should last long enough to see the franchise rebuild through.

Don’t miss out on Barkley with 4th pick

The Browns could go a number of ways with their two early picks. They could take the best player at No. 1 and wait to take a quarterback at No. 4. They could get the signal-caller of their choosing at the top of the draft and take the best player available three selections later. They could also trade one or both picks.

Most mocks have the Browns getting their quarterback at No. 1. If the Giants and Jets follow suit at Nos. 2 and 3, Cleveland would be in prime position to take the best player available. And the consensus among draft analysts is that Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the best player in this year’s draft, regardless of position.

“He has a 100 percent chance of being an All-Pro,” veteran draft analyst Gil Brandt told Ben Baskin of The MMQB.

The Browns enter Thursday with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to overhaul their backfield for the next decade by selecting a quarterback and running back atop the same draft.

If Barkley follows the NFL path laid out by Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott in previous seasons, the Browns would be foolish to pass up on potentially their best rusher since Jamal Lewis.

Don’t wait until the 2nd round to get a QB

It may seem unlikely, but as stated before, the Browns waited until the second round to pick a quarterback last year. In that draft, Cleveland passed on the likes of Mitchell Trubisky, Mahomes, and Watson.

Tyrod Taylor was brought aboard via free agency to take over as starting quarterback and head coach Hue Jackson said there will be no competition for the job. If the Browns truly believe they’re settled at the position, they could conceivably target top prospects at other positions.

If passing on Darnold and Rosen is a grave mistake, ignoring the class’ abundance of first-round quarterback talent altogether would be catastrophic.

The Browns haven’t won a game since Dec. 24, 2016, so the roster has many obvious holes, but quarterback remains the most glaring. Hopefully, the franchise has learned from its many missteps.

Don’t draft 2 quarterbacks

There’s not drafting a quarterback and then there’s drafting too many.

Members of the Browns’ front office have confirmed to The Ringer’s Kevin Clark that they’ve considered all of their options with their two first-round picks, including drafting a pair of pass-throwers. While they would not confirm whether that strategy is viable, Clark says they’ve “thought about it, discussed it, and investigated it.”

Sure, the Browns would have a better chance of finding their quarterback of the future by selecting as many options as possible, but as witnesses to the Kirk Cousins saga in Washington, it’s best to avoid such drama.

The Redskins picked their starting and backup QBs in the 2012 draft, only to see the first pick (Robert Griffin III) leave town after four seasons and then enter into a messy contract standoff with Cousins over the past two years.

Pick one, Cleveland. And make sure it’s the right one.

Stop stockpiling picks

The easiest way for a team to earn praise from pundits is to trade a high pick for a collection of future picks. The Browns were celebrated for doing exactly that last year.

Under Sashi Brown, the Browns hoarded picks by the barrel. Now is the time to cash in on that draft capital.

Cleveland will enter Thursday night wielding two first-round picks, three second-round selections, a fourth-, a fifth-, and two sixth-rounders. The team can’t possibly get any worse than it was last season. The Browns now need to enter into the business of collecting talent, lest they find themselves in this same position next year.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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