The Cleveland Browns will not have a top 15 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Yes, you read that right.
On April 27th, Roger Goodell will stand at the foreground of Philadelphia. Atop the grand stage of the 2017 NFL draft, behind the podium, and beneath the jeering sounds of NFL fans - we will hear the most important four syllables that Cleveland will speak of since Arthur Modell. Twenty-seven years after being gutted of its chance at a super bowl; there is a new hope.
And while 2016 featured a Cavaliers championship and a world series appearance, I think I can speak on behalf of Cleveland when I say “Cleveland remembers”.
This April, the Cleveland Browns will select Deshaun Watson first overall (That is unless chief analytics expert Paul DePodesta deems his 32 career interceptions an analytic liability). Etch it in stone, Watson is the best chance the Browns have at escaping mediocrity.
Since 1999, the Browns have had 42 starting quarterback changes. From names like Ty Detmer and Spergon Wynn to Tim Couch and Jeff Garcia. From Trent Dilfer’s bald head to RG3’s tightly rolled (or braided?) cornrows. They have lacked an on-the-field identity. Needless to say, history suggests they should not pick a quarterback first overall. Time and time again we see young, optimistic men stand behind center; and time and again we see their heads displayed on spikes. Cleveland is the NFL’s breathing reminder “don’t put all your eggs in a young quarterback’s basket”. However, Cleveland needs to forget history. Cleveland needs to forego the analytics and science. Cleveland needs to draft Deshaun Watson.
There has been a revolving door amongst management, coaches and players. Jerseys have changed, Stadiums have been switched, and the logo has been “altered”. Since the team's inception in 1946, there has yet remained one undisputed consistency - The Dawg Pound. And these fans have been chewing on second-hand bones and Walmart-brand biscuits for too long.
Deshaun Watson’s freshman year he outperformed senior quarterback Cole Stoudt. In his first career start he threw a Clemson record six touchdown passes in a 50-30 victory against North Carolina. That season Watson battled a broken bone in his throwing hand, and then played against rivaled South Carolina with a torn ACL. His Sophomore season he led his team to the national championship game against big-bad Alabama, and fell just short of victory. This past Monday in a rematch titled “Alabama v. Clemson II”, after a last-second touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow, Watson hoisted the championship trophy. This kid is special - Cleveland needs him.
I’m not denying that the Browns need far more than just a quarterback. I’m not arguing that in fact what the Cleveland Browns really need extends beyond the field and into the luxury suites of FirstEnergy Stadium. Reality is, footballs and cleats will not rescue this team; but briefcases and overpriced ties will.
Deshaun Watson is by no means the answer to their problems. Deshaun Watson is simply a tangible prayer. A hope.
And as we’ve recently learned...