Whether it has been bad luck or the result of some horribly devious plan, Cleveland has essentially been devoid of a franchise quarterback since mid-80s. So, in a draft class that contains at least three quarterbacks projected to go within first seven or eight picks, it would seem as though this is the perfect opportunity for the Browns to change their fortunes.
Well… maybe not. In the last 20 years the Browns have drafted three quarterbacks in the first round: Brandon Weeden in 2012, Brady Quinn in 2007 and Tim Couch in 1999. To put it simply, all three turned out to be major busts. Now, is it fair to lump the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel into the same class as those other quarterbacks? No, but the point is that nobody should blindly trust that a first-round quarterback is destined to save a franchise.
In most draft evaluators’ eyes, there are only four truly elite prospects in this year’s class, and none of them are quarterbacks: Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Greg Robinson and Sammy Watkins. This means that with the fourth overall pick, the Browns are guaranteed that at least one of those players will still be on the board.
By passing on one of the top-tier quarterbacks and selecting an elite receiving talent in Watkins or one of the dominating pass rushers in Clowney and Mack, the Browns could then use one of their many other picks later in the draft to select another quarterback with upside. That being said, none of this would be a good idea unless the Browns believed they already had a quarterback capable of helming the team next season. Fortunately, Brian Hoyer can be that man.
Undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009, Hoyer has spent most of his career as Tom Brady’s back up in New England before bouncing around the NFL and landing in Cleveland last season. Though his sample size is extremely small, in the three games Hoyer started for the Browns, one of which was cut short with a season-ending injury, he looked impressive. In fact, given the level of quarterback play displayed in Cleveland for the last few decades, Hoyer looked like a beaming light of hope for the franchise.
Nobody is saying that Hoyer is the next Brady or Tony Romo, but he could be competent, and in Cleveland that itself is worth a first round pick. If the Browns committed to Hoyer for a year and used their first pick on Watkins, who knows just how much success the Browns could have with a passing attack that included Josh Gordon and Watkins. At the same time, if the Browns took Clowney or Mack, their generational talent could be enough to carry Cleveland’s defense for a decade to come.
We all know that quarterbacks are the most important position in the league, but that means NFL teams have to be even more careful in evaluating and drafting them. Every year we see more and more quarterbacks being pushed up into the first round, and then a few years later, as we just saw with Weeden, they are being pushed right back out onto the streets.
If the Browns feel that they need to take a gamble on a quarterback, then they should be placing their bet on Hoyer.
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