Oops! They did it again: Imagining a doomsday draft night for Browns fans
Executive VP Sashi Brown, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and owner Jimmy Haslam will do right by Browns fans on draft night. A near-sure thing awaits at No. 1, while a second first-round selection (No. 12) affords Cleveland the opportunity to secure a high-upside quarterback. No trading down. No nonsense. As Jerry Seinfeld told Kenny Bania, "This is the dinner."
But if they don't, here's how the front pages could read come Friday morning ...
PHILADELPHIA – Browns fans watched in disbelief as Cleveland traded down not once, not twice, but three times in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, bypassing Myles Garrett, the consensus No. 1 prospect, for a bevy of lower selections and future draft capital.
Cleveland finally got around to making a selection at No. 23 - Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis - after befuddling prognosticators and decision-makers league wide, who anticipated the Browns would land both Garrett, a potentially elite edge rusher, and the franchise quarterback the team so desperately needs.
With Cleveland on the clock, division-rival Cincinnati swooped in to land the Texas A&M product, trading six picks, including No. 9 overall, to the Browns in exchange for the top slot. Onlookers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art let out a collective gasp when commissioner Roger Goodell announced the deal - a gut punch to Browns fans at the site of the Rocky Steps from the Sylvester Stallone franchise.
In an effort to seemingly outdo themselves, the Browns maneuvered further down in Round 1 with another megadeal - this time with the Giants. Cleveland, 1-15 a year ago and possibly in perpetuity, landed the 23rd selection, New York’s second-rounder, and two picks in next year’s draft in exchange for No. 9.
And just when long-suffering Clevelanders thought the team was about to select a living, breathing football player at No. 12 - originally the team's second of two first-rounders - the club struck a pact with the Dallas Cowboys for No. 28 and a boatload of picks (six, in total).
"I'm awestruck," said one opposing general manager, who requested anonymity, likely in fear of being associated with the Browns. "I know they've got a baseball man upstairs now, but jeez. ... How much more of this can fans take?"
Not much, suggested one downtrodden Dawg Pound denizen, seen burning a brown-and-orange Garrett jersey purchased in anticipation Cleveland would make the rational decision for once.
"I'm done," bemoaned the lifetime season-ticket holder. "If they hadn't already moved the team to Baltimore, I'd suggest doing that."
While Cleveland's braintrust went rogue, the league's 31 other general managers largely stuck to the script.
San Francisco hung in at No. 2, plucking defensive end Solomon Thomas out of Stanford; Chicago addressed a weak secondary with LSU safety Jamal Adams at No. 3; and Jacksonville nabbed the first quarterback, national champion Deshaun Watson, at No. 4.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore (Tennessee), North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky (New York Jets), Ohio State safety Malik Hooker (L.A. Chargers), Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (Carolina), Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (New York Giants), and Alabama tight end O.J. Howard (Buffalo).
In another head-scratcher, Cleveland used pick No. 28 on Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, a borderline first-rounder who tested positive for a diluted sample at the scouting combine. The Browns still lack a starting QB - they've needed one since the early '90s, for God's sake - but apparently felt they couldn't fill the void Thursday night.
For what it's worth, the Browns' brass lauded its selections, calling Davis and Peppers "key building blocks" for the future.
Pressed for a rebuttal, one AFC scout quipped, "I'm not so sure the Browns understand how this thing works."
Cleveland now has so many future picks on its plate it may have to offload some in the Canadian Football League draft - a level of competition at least one fan, found sobbing near the venue, believes the Browns are better suited for.
"We can't be relegated to Canadian football, can we?" he asked, rhetorically. "Too bad."