In its storied history, Penn State has had two players selected #1 overall: Ki-Jana Carter to Cincinnati in 1995, and Courtney Brown to Cleveland in 2000 (of course LaVar went directly afterward). Eight schools have had more #1 overall picks, and you can probably guess who they are. If Penn State is to add a third in 2018, Saquon Barkley is its only practical option. Unquestionably the best player in a draft full of B+ quarterbacks, Barkley is the only generational talent in the draft and must be taken first by the Browns.
The majority of credible mock drafts have someone named Josh or Sam Darnold going first. The benefit to the Browns is that they also own the #4 overall pick, and with the glut of QB needs by the early-drafters, the probability of Barkley being available at #4 is reasonably high. However, by not taking him first, the Browns are in danger of doing what they’ve done many times before: getting absolutely no value whatsoever out of a first-round quarterback.
Since Cleveland re-booted in 1999, they have drafted four quarterbacks in the first round: Tim Couch (#1 overall), Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. Different era, different styles, different GMs and different head coaches, but all of those four were total disappointments. The latter three couldn’t hold the starting job, and Couch threw more interceptions than touchdowns during an injury-plagued five years in Cleveland.
Like those four, each of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft are not without concern; there are no Peyton Mannings in this group. Josh Allen seems the most pro-ready, but experts are not in universal agreement. Sam Darnold regressed in 2017, and he was exposed badly by Ohio State’s defense. Josh Rosen, while a high-IQ guy with a big arm, has been criticized for his focus on the game. Each has talent, but each comes with the high risk of becoming the next Ryan Tannehill. Good enough to keep a starting job and requisite increase in salary with each contract, but not good enough to lead his team to the Super Bowl. That is the worst situation to be in, as it would be foolish to get rid of the QB, but there is no realistic chance for his team to with the Super Bowl.
Enter Saquon. The Browns don’t have much (at least they didn’t at the end of last season), so what they need most is a game-breaker who can score any time he touches the ball. He is another in the line of Le’Veon Bell. Both have running styles that are difficult to defend, and both always gain yards after contact. Barkley can be every bit the legitimate second receiver Bell is, and he gives them the added benefit of being an explosive kick returner. One player, three positions, all with the potential to score from anywhere on the field.
None of the quarterbacks warrants the top overall pick, and there is no other player in this year’s draft (or in the past bunch of drafts) with the upside Barkley provides. With Cleveland also holding the fourth pick, they could take at worst their third choice at QB, ASSUMING the Giants and Jets both take QB’s themselves. The Browns need athletes, and soon. They’ve already traded for Tyrod Taylor, who will likely start most if not all of the season. Taylor’s main issue in Buffalo was the lack of playmakers on offense. It’s hard to imagine a better way for Cleveland to finally begin its rebuilding process than to lock up a versatile, generational talent like Saquon Barkley.
About the Author:
Adam Kimmel is the founder and Principal at ASK Consulting Solutions, a technical writing firm specializing in professional content writing and consultation. A 2003 graduate and avid fan of Penn State, Adam has followed Penn State football for over 25 years, attending many games and researching historical players and teams. He is also a Principal R&D Engineer, and can also be found on LinkedIn.