In 2020, the Cleveland Browns enjoyed a resurgence, going 11-5 in the regular season. The Browns played well enough to end their franchise-record and league-high 18-year playoff drought. They even won the wild-card round matchup against division rival Pittsburgh Steelers for their first playoff victory in 27 years. However, they weren't satisfied with just getting to the playoffs. After the offseason that followed, some NFL analysts suggested Cleveland could be a dark-horse Super Bowl team in 2021. However, it's probably fair to say that the 2021 season hasn't gone as anyone expected. Like most NFL franchises, the team typically goes as far as their quarterback takes them, so it’s no surprise that Cleveland's inconsistency in a disappointing season also mirrored the inconsistency of their quarterback Baker Mayfield. There were several analysts who pegged Mayfield as Cleveland's long-term option at quarterback. However, there are genuine reservations about whether the Browns should pay him a lucrative contract. Mayfield was hampered all year by a torn labrum, shoulder fracture, and injuries to his ribs and legs. Surely these factors played a role in his wildly inconsistent and turnover-prone play in 2021. However, the torn labrum is in his non-throwing shoulder and Mayfield has clearly looked unsure of himself in the pocket. Injuries up front also contributed to the inconsistencies on offense. The offensive line that established itself as one of the NFL’s best units in 2020 was scrambling to get backups up to speed for long enough to remain in playoff contention. However, the most prolific offenses in the NFL are still quarterback-driven. So given the season Mayfield is coming off of, should the Browns draft a quarterback in 2022? My answer is a resounding yes. Cleveland's roster is one of the best in the NFL from top to bottom. As a result, you'll never know when you'll be picking this high in another draft. Cleveland is currently slated to have a top-15 pick and have eight selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. They already decided to pick up Mayfield’s fifth-year option at $19 million, so they have likely bought themselves a year to develop a young quarterback. The Browns are in a position to draft a top-three quarterback in the class, and taking a young quarterback gives this talented roster the ability to continue to build this team long term without having to pay a quarterback market value for a starting-caliber quarterback. Keeping the core of this team intact is essential to their success. In my latest mock draft, the Browns selected quarterback Desmond Ridder. Ridder enjoyed a stellar year leading Cincinnati to an undefeated season and the College Football Playoff before losing in the semi-final to Alabama. He threw for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. In their only loss of the season to Alabama, Ridder faced competition against a team that's as close to an NFL roster as any in college football. While he didn't play great, he certainly didn't play poorly—most importantly, he wasn't the reason they lost the game. Ridder is a quarterback with better size and more escapability than Mayfield with as strong of an arm. Ridder hasn't been the most accurate quarterback in his career, but neither was Mayfield in 2021. Many believe accuracy can be improved and analysts typically point to Josh Allen as an example of this. With this roster being as talented as it is, it puts the Browns in the enviable position of drafting a young quarterback without putting the pressure on him to be the reason they win football games right away. Browns fans, if your team comes away with any of the top young quarterbacks in this year’s draft, they could be poised to turn the corner and return to their 2020 form long-term.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022