The Browns need a quarterback. As always.
Until they find the right one, the organization will remain stuck in its never-ending rebuild. And the nonstop debate about the position will continue to rage at raised decibel levels.
A just-in-time-for-the-draft trade for Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo can’t be ruled out, but executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown didn’t sound optimistic Wednesday.
So the Browns must turn their attention to the draft in the search for the long-term answer. They can’t go into the season with Brock Osweiler -- who might not be here after the draft -- Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan.
The Browns have been most often connected with North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, a Mentor native. But if they go, as expected, with Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett at No. 1, there’s no guarantee they’d be able to land Trubisky.
The Browns might end up with their second -- or worse -- choice of passers from a quarterback draft class that has been labeled underwhelming. That doesn’t mean they can afford to kick the can down the road and wait until at least 2018 to address the game’s most important position.
The Browns must come out of the first two rounds with a quarterback, it’s just a matter of which one.
I watched at least four games of each of the following prospects, often more and some games twice. I don’t claim to be a scout or quarterback expert but I have seen a parade of Browns starters in 13 years on the beat, so I have an idea what they should value -- and try to avoid.
Here’s a capsule look at the top five candidates, in order of preference, including my scouting reports and those of the experts.
COLLEGE: North Carolina
HEIGHT: 6-foot-2 1/8; WEIGHT: 222 pounds
KEY STATS: 13 starts; school-record 3,748 passing yards in 2016, along with 30 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
PETRAK’S TAKE: My favorite quarterback in the draft because he throws it the best. Doesn’t have the biggest arm of the group but is the most natural thrower with an attractive combination of above-average arm strength and accuracy. A better athlete than he’s given credit. He can scramble for first downs, and his best footwork is inside the pocket, where he nimbly slides to buy time. Inexperience showed in a few bad decisions, including two terrible interceptions in a Sun Bowl loss to Stanford.
EXPERT’S OPINION: CBS’ Dane Brugler -- Trubisky was highly efficient in the Tar Heels’ up-tempo, zone-read scheme. While he doesn’t have elite arm strength, Trubisky can easily make all the necessary throws and does so with proper placement and timing, not forcing passes. Although the sample size isn’t ideal for a quarterback prospect in consideration for a top-10 draft pick, Trubisky has the physical characteristics and mental alertness to develop into a quality starting quarterback in the NFL -- capable of winning a starting job as a rookie and learning on the job.
HEIGHT: 6-2½; WEIGHT: 221
KEY STATS: 32-3 as a starter; passed for 10,163 yards with 90 TDs, 32 INTs; rushed for 1,934 yards, 26 TDs
PETRAK’S TAKE: Played his best in the biggest games, including back-to-back national title games vs. Alabama. Has a classic throwing motion, and arm is big enough despite questions about ball speed at the combine. Accuracy was an issue, as were some dumb interceptions. Is a lethal threat as a runner. Natural charisma is obvious, as he carries himself like a star quarterback.
EXPERT’S OPINION: NFL Films’ Greg Cosell on Yahoo! -- Nothing in his game suggests he’s a big-time NFL prospect like Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck or Matthew Stafford when they came out of college. Watson is probably best suited as an orchestrator and distributor in a quick-game offense with quality skill position weapons. His ability to make plays outside of the structure will enhance his value, though because of his size he’s probably not going to run a lot of read option or quarterback power/counter plays.
COLLEGE: Notre Dame
HEIGHT: 6-4 1/4; WEIGHT: 233
KEY STATS: 4-8 in 2016; 5,809 passing yards in two years with 47 TDs, 19 INTs
PETRAK’S TAKE: Biggest and strongest of the top prospects. Made some nice deep throws but missed some easy ones underneath. Showed questionable decision-making, especially in fourth quarter. Ran a lot and was physical while doing it.
EXPERT’S OPINION: Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller -- Mechanically, Kizer is the most consistent in the class. He has a smooth, quick delivery and doesn’t pat the ball or take unnecessary steps. His arm strength isn’t the best in the class, but it’s impressive. Kizer’s 2016 was markedly worse than his 2015 season. Kizer is a developmental prospect but has the goods to be an NFL starter in time.
HEIGHT: 6-4 5/8; WEIGHT: 229
KEY STATS: 61.6 completion percentage in 2016, with 4,295 yards, 37 TDs, 12 INTs
PETRAK’S TAKE: A developmental prospect with upside. Has desired size and stands tall in the pocket. Cal’s spread system featured short passes and predetermined reads, but he did make plenty of good throws downfield, especially on fade routes. Threw too many interceptions and near-interceptions.
EXPERT’S OPINION: Nolan Nawrocki -- Outstanding arm strength. Can drop it in a bucket -- delivers a nice deep ball. Film junkie with very good preparation work habits. Is too easily flustered under duress, resulting in bad decisions. He possesses the size, stature, arm talent and competitiveness to emerge as a functional, winning starter down the road. Will require at least a few years of seasoning before he is ready.
COLLEGE: Texas Tech
HEIGHT: 6-2; WEIGHT: 225
KEY STATS: In two full years threw for 9,705 yards, 77 TDS, 25 INTs
PETRAK’S TAKE: There’s no denying his best-in-the-draft arm strength, as it showed up on intermediate and deep throws. But his footwork and mechanics were all over the place, leading to inaccuracy. Gunslinger mentality led to big plays, and plenty of turnovers. His style reminded me of a bigger, slower Johnny Manziel.
EXPERT’S OPINION: ESPN’s Jon Gruden -- To me, he’s the most intriguing player in this draft. His arm talent is special. He can really rifle the ball, not only with velocity and accuracy but he can do it from awkward positions. He can throw the ball sidearm, off-balance, under duress, he can really rip it. I just think he’s got a big-time arm, he’s athletic, he’s got a huge upside. It’s going to take a little time making the transition, he’s a true junior, you can’t forget that.
- NFL Draft: Myles Garrett out to be greatest of all time; Texas A&M coach says it's no-brainer for Browns to take him No. 1
- Scott Petrak's mock draft 2.0: Browns make a trade?
- Another NFL Draft, another huge opportunity for Browns to get significantly better
- NFL Draft: QB DeShone Kizer wants to start right away, and coach Hue Jackson said he won't stop him if he's ready
- NFL Draft: Cal QB Davis Webb could be next-best option for Browns at top of 2nd round
- NFL Draft: For years Mitchell Trubisky's goal has been to end Browns' QB curse, and he just might get that chance
- Browns QB Cody Kessler preparing as if he's the starter, not worrying about competition coming in the draft
- Browns: Sashi Brown doesn't expect a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, says team impressed by Mitchell Trubisky
- Browns Analysis: Buckle up for a wild ride until the NFL Draft ... and maybe when it starts
- NFL Draft: Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes' decision to pick football over baseball pays off as talent evaluators love his powerful arm
- With NFL Draft rapidly approaching, Browns still faced with uncertainty at QB
- Jackson: Osweiler will be given shot at starting QB job
- North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky happy with his pro day performance; Browns exec Sashi Brown and coach Hue Jackson don't attend