ARLINGTON, Texas — Quarterback desperation means NFL teams can’t pass on taking a passer — even a flawed one — in the draft.
The Browns, Jets, Bills and Cardinals heeded that notion Thursday night, even as more highly rated players at other positions remained on the board.
Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield became Cleveland’s latest attempt to find its franchise quarterback. Sam Darnold of Southern California is trying to revive the Jets, while in upstate New York — where the Bills gave up on Tyrod Taylor — the future belongs to Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Just after Buffalo traded up to grab Allen, Arizona moved up to get UCLA’s Josh Rosen, a potential replacement for the retired Carson Palmer.
Four quarterbacks in the first 10 selections. Never mind that the best players were considered Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (second overall to the Giants) and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb (fifth to Denver).
In today’s NFL, it’s all about the QBs. Even though none of these four is considered a sure success.
“They all had something, a knock on (them),” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. “We just think (Allen’s) makeup is going to help him work on his flaws. That’ll be part of our job here to accentuate his strengths.”
Same deal in Cleveland, the Meadowlands and the desert.
The Browns’ nearly two-decade search for that quarterback led them to Mayfield. Until the last few days, the Oklahoma product was considered a longshot to be the top pick. He goes from a former walk-on to No. 1 overall. Mayfield is the first Heisman recipient taken first in the following draft since Cam Newton went to Carolina in 2010.
Mayfield, who could sit behind the newly acquired Taylor, joins a team that went 0-16 in 2017.
“I’m going to come in with the mindset to compete and the hunger to learn” from Taylor.
The Browns, who haven’t had a top-flight quarterback since returning to the league in 1999, were sold on his leadership skills and creativity inside the pocket and outside.
“With Baker Mayfield, we have a guy who loves the game of football, who is an ultra-competitor, is revered by his teammates and anybody who has ever been around him,” Browns GM John Dorsey said. “He’s a guy that has earned everything he has ever had since high school to college and now up here. He is a winner, he’s competitive.”
He was not at AT&T Stadium, leaving Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage, hearing cheers cascade throughout the building after announcing the Browns’ choice. It was one of the few times Goodell heard cheers.
Even though Cowboys Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman and current star tight end Jason Witten accompanied the commissioner onto the stage at opening of the draft, loud booing filled the stadium.
Goodell is despised in Dallas after he ruled that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott should be suspended for six games last season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
More booing accompanied the next pick, but not for Goodell: Dallas’ archrival the New York Giants chose Barkley, considered the best talent in this year’s class. It capped quite a few days for Barkley, whose girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl earlier this week.
“I’ve been able to be accepted into the fatherhood and have my first child, my daughter,” he said. “From here on now, I’ve got to do everything to represent her and try to set an example for her, for the good things I do and the mistakes I make in my life that she can learn from.”
Darnold, pegged by many to be the top pick for months, went third to the other New York team. The Jets had traded with Indianapolis, going from sixth to third with the expressed intent to find a passer.
Like Mayfield, Darnold might sit behind a veteran, Josh McCown.
“I think whatever the coaches want me to do, if they want me to sit, want me to play, I’ll do my role,” he said.
Buffalo traded up with Tampa Bay to get Allen at No. 7. Allen is considered the passer with the most upside.
“Well, we’re going to find out in a few years if this class will pan out,” Allen said. “I definitely think it will. I want the most success for these guys, except when they’re playing me.”
Although Allen played against smaller schools and had issues with completion percentage, his arm strength, size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and leadership skills won over the Bills. Their hope is he becomes the next Jim Kelly, a Hall of Famer from the renowned 1983 class that had six first-round quarterbacks.
“He can make all the throws and all that type of stuff,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of Allen. “Certainly, as we know, no one’s perfect. If you take the right approach, the right attitude, you can get a chance to improve the right areas.”
The bartering wasn’t over. Arizona, also in a QB quandary, moved from 15th to 10th, trading with Oakland, for Rosen. Many NFL personnel people believe Rosen is the most ready to play next season. The Cardinals also signed former Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford.
“Today I think was an indication of how we felt about Josh Rosen, trading from 15 to 10 and in our opinion grabbing one of the best players in this draft, a guy who’s got great intangibles, a three-year starter, a two-time captain, and in my opinion one of the most mechanically sound quarterbacks to come out in some time,” GM Steve Keim said.
Rosen said he was annoyed to slip down.
“I was really angry teams were passing on me, and I was honestly expecting to get picked at some point and have to fake a smile and go up there and pretend to be happy,” he said. “But for some reason when I got picked, all of that went away and that it just went to straight excitement and relief.”
Also chosen in the top 10 were Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, fourth to Cleveland; Chubb, considered the best pass rusher, to Denver at No. 5; Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson sixth to the Colts — won’t Andrew Luck be smiling about that; Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, eighth to Chicago; and Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, a somewhat surprising ninth to San Francisco.
Teams continued to shuffle spots deep into the first round. There were eight trades Thursday night in the top 22 picks, with Baltimore moving down twice before taking South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst.
National champion Alabama had four first-rounders: safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to Miami, DT Da’Ron Payne to Washington, linebacker Rashaan Evans to Tennessee, and wide receiver Calvin Ridley to Atlanta.
A thumbnail look at the players selected in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night (x-denotes early entry).
1. Cleveland (0-16)
Baker Mayfield, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Oklahoma
Strengths: Accuracy, competiveness, and command of the offence. Gets the ball out quickly and decisively.
Weaknesses: Undersized. Elusiveness and mobility that was a plus in college might not translate to the NFL.
Fact: The former walk-on is the eighth player to win the Heisman Trophy and then be picked No. 1 in the proceeding draft. First since Cam Newton in 2012.
2. N.Y. Giants (3-13)
x-Saquon Barkley, 6-0, 233, Penn State
Strengths: Quick feet, sharp cuts, top-end speed, powerful lower body, solid pass catcher, willing blocker and, by all accounts, excellent work ethic.
Weaknesses: The one knock: He needs to use that power to run through more tacklers and push piles forward.
Fact: The first Penn State player to reach 3,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving, and the 10th Nittany Lions running back to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
3. N.Y. Jets (5-11; from Indianapolis, 4-12)
x-Sam Darnold, 6-3, 220, USC
Strengths: Excellent arm, good size and can make accurate throws — or the occasional positive run — when the pocket breaks down. Works his progressions.
Weaknesses: Ball security. Ball security. Ball security.
Fact: Darnold is the fifth USC quarterback to be drafted in the first round since 1970, and the second to go in the top five to the Jets. New York took Mark Sanchez No. 5 in 2009.
4. Cleveland (0-16; from Houston, 4-12)
x-Denzel Ward, 5-10, 196, Ohio State
Strengths: Blazing speed, physical for his size, and gets his hands on a lot of passes.
Weaknesses: Any issues stem from size and strength, neither of which is optimal but have hardly held him back.
Fact: Sat out Ohio State’s Cotton Bowl game against USC, a decision he made late into game preparation. Ward is the fourth Ohio State player taken in the top 10 of the draft in the last three seasons.
5. Denver (5-11)
Bradley Chubb, 6-4, 269, North Carolina State
Strengths: Rushes with a good combination of power and speed, and varied moves. Holds his ground well against the run.
Weaknesses: Not quite the elite athleticism of a player such as Myles Garrett, which could limit his upside.
Fact: Wore No. 9 at N.C. State the last two seasons for former Wolfpack defensive end and No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams.
6. Indianapolis (4-12; from N.Y. Jets, 5-11)
Quenton Nelson, 6-5, 329, Notre Dame
Strengths: Maybe the most likely to succeed of any player in this draft class. Powerful, tenacious and sound.
Weaknesses: Not much to complain about. Could do better at getting off the line and getting to second level.
Fact: Nelson is the second Notre Dame offensive lineman taken in the top six in the past three seasons. Baltimore took tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 6 in 2016.
7. Buffalo (9-7; from Tampa Bay 5-11)
Josh Allen, 6-5, 233, Wyoming
Strengths: Arm strength, athleticism, size. It’s all ideal.
Weaknesses: Accuracy and ability to change speed on his throws while still being on target.
Fact: Had no major college scholarship offers coming out of high school. Coached in college by the same head coach (Craig Bohl) and offensive co-ordinator (Brent Vigen) that Carson Wentz had at North Dakota State.
8. Chicago (5-11)
x-Roquan Smith, 6-1, 236, Georgia
Strengths: Excellent recognition, sideline-to-sideline range and athleticism, with coverage skills to keep him on the field on passing downs.
Weaknesses: A bit undersized and can get engulfed by big blockers — if they can get to him.
Fact: Won the Butkus Award as best linebacker in college football in 2017.
9. San Francisco (6-10)
Mike McGlinchey, 6-8, 312, Notre Dame
Strengths: Good athlete, solid technique and team leader.
Weaknesses: Could use more bulk and might be better suited for right tackle.
Fact: Four-year starter and team captain. Teamed with Quenton Nelson to form the best left side of an offensive line in college football last season.
10. Arizona (8-8; from Oakland, 6-10)
x-Josh Rosen, 6-4, 226, UCLA
Strengths: Polished passer with excellent mechanics and nice touch.
Weaknesses: Durability issues in college. Will force plays unnecessarily.
Fact: Was an elite youth tennis player. Is the fourth UCLA quarterback to be taken in the first round and first since Cade McNown in 1999.
11. Miami (6-10)
x-Minkah Fitzpatrick, 6-1, 201, Alabama
Strengths: Versatility, intelligence, instincts, leadership and smooth athleticism.
Weaknesses: The nits to pick: He is not an explosive hitter and maybe he could use a few extra pounds.
Fact: Returned four interceptions for touchdowns in his first two seasons at Alabama. The Crimson Tide has had a first-round pick in 10 straight seasons, second longest streak to Miami’s 14 from 1994-2008.
12. Tampa Bay (5-11; from Buffalo via Cincinnati, 7-9)
x-Vita Vea, 6-4, 347, Washington
Strengths: Athleticism and quickness for his size outstanding.
Weaknesses: Production and playmaking inconsistent.
Fact: Played some wildcat quarterback as a 270-pound high schooler in San Jose, California.
13. Washington (7-9)
x-Da’Ron Payne, 6-2, 311, Alabama
Strengths: Massive and powerful with quick hands. Run stuffer.
Weaknesses: His pass rush is almost all power.
Fact: Caught a touchdown pass against Clemson in a College Football Playoff victory last year.
14. New Orleans (11-5; from Green Bay 7-9)
Marcus Davenport, 6-6, 264, UTSA
Strengths: Long, fast and explosive athlete with maybe even more upside than Chubb.
Weaknesses: Instincts and reaction are a work in progress, limiting his speed and quickness.
Fact: Former high school sprinter who gained 30 pounds during his college career.
15. Oakland (6-10; from Arizona 8-8)
x-Kolton Miller, 6-9, 310, UCLA
Strengths: Length, quickness and effort.
Weaknesses: Pass protection technique needs work.
Fact: Only played one season at left tackle in college and started only 23 games in three seasons because of injuries.
16. Buffalo (9-7 from Baltimore 9-7)
x-Tremaine Edmunds, 6-5, 253, Virginia Tech
Strengths: Tremendous size and speed combination. Solid tackler.
Weaknesses: Needs some work on shedding blocks and his pass rush is more potential than well-developed skill.
Fact: Father was NFL tight end Ferrell Edmunds and two of his brothers also played for Virginia Tech.
17. L.A. Chargers (9-7)
x-Derwin James, 6-3, 211, Florida State
Strengths: A little more explosive athleticism, but not quite as much polish as Fitzpatrick.
Weaknesses: Anticipation and diagnosis of plays need some work.
Fact: Missed almost all of the 2016 season to a knee injury. He is the sixth defensive back from Florida State to be taken in the first round since 1989.
18. Green Bay (7-9; Seattle 9-7)
x-Jaire Alexander, 5-11, 192, Louisville
Strengths: Quick and aggressive, with good instincts.
Weaknesses: Not much power in his game.
Fact: Leg and hand injuries limited him to playing about half of last season, but he was dominant in 2016.
19. Dallas (9-7)
x-Leighton Vander Esch, 6-4, 256, Boise State
Strengths: Long and rangy, and seemed to be in on every tackle for the Broncos.
Weaknesses: More power would be helpful, and some patience to cut down on over-pursuing.
Fact: The former walk-on was Mountain West defensive player of the year in 2017 in his first season as a starter.
20. Detroit (9-7)
Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
Strengths: Big and powerful with good awareness. Can also play guard.
Weaknesses: Lacks great athleticism.
Fact: Ragnow’s father, Jon, died of a heart attack during the 2016 football season. Frank managed to play, and play well, through the season.
21. Cincinnati (7-9; from Buffalo, 9-7)
Billy Price, 6-4, 312, Ohio State
Strengths: Very strong. Very aggressive. Played at lot of guard with the Buckeyes, too.
Weaknesses: That aggressiveness can lead to sloppiness.
Fact: Started a school-record 55 games at Ohio State.
22. Tennessee (9-7, from Baltimore via Buffalo from Kansas City, 10-6)
Rashaan Evans, 6-3, 234, Alabama
Strengths: Punishing hitter. Versatile linebacker, with speed to become an effective edge rusher.
Weaknesses: Aggressiveness can lead to missed tackles.
Fact: Grew up in Auburn, Alabama. The third Crimson Tide player taken in the first round.
23. New England (13-3; from L.A. Rams, 11-5)
Isaiah Wynn, 6-3, 313, Georgia
Strengths: Good athleticism and attitude.
Weaknesses: Power to drive defenders off the line could use improvement.
Fact: Played left tackle last season and did it well, but that height makes him an NFL guard.
24. Carolina (11-5)
x-DJ Moore, 6-0, 210, Maryland
Strengths: Elusive after the catch. Excelled with underwhelming quarterback play.
Weaknesses: Needs to improve on catching contested passes.
Fact: The first receiver taken. Big Ten receiver of the year in 2017 while catching passes from four quarterbacks. The
25. Baltimore (9-7; from Tennessee 9-7)
x-Hayden Hurst, 6-4, 250, South Carolina
Strengths: Good hands. Powerful runner.
Weaknesses: At 24, concerns that he has limited ceiling.
Fact: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 17th round in 2012, played two seasons of minor league baseball before college football.
26. Atlanta (10-6)
x-Calvin Ridley, 6-0, 189, Alabama
Strengths: Game-breaking speed and explosive out of his cuts.
Weakness: Slender. Can he play through contact at the line?
Fact: Surpassed 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman, but limited passing game by Alabama held his numbers down in 2016 and ‘17. The fourth Alabama player taken in the first round.
27. Seattle (9-7, from Green Bay via New Orleans 11-5)
Rashaad Penny, 5-11, 220, San Diego State
Strengths: Quick feet, finishes runs and is a dangerous kick returner.
Weaknesses: Runs straight up and needs a better feel for cut backs.
Fact: Led the nation with 2,248 yards rushing last season and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
28. Pittsburgh (13-3)
Terrell Edmunds, 6-1, 217, Virginia Tech
Strengths: Size/speed combination is excellent.
Weaknesses: Needs to become a more sure tackler and work on coverage skills.
Fact: The first set of brothers taken in the same first round with Tremaine going to Buffalo earlier.
29. Jacksonville (10-6)
x-Taven Bryan, 6-4, 291, Florida
Strengths: Explodes off the ball and can make plays up and down the line.
Weaknesses: Holding point of attack. Could end up sliding outside.
Fact: Son of a U.S. Navy Seal.
30. Minnesota (13-3)
x-Mike Hughes, 5-10, 189, UCF
Strengths: More quick than fast, and strength that allows him to play bigger than he is listed. Dangerous kick returner.
Weaknesses: Needs technique work and consistency throughout his game.
Fact: Signed with North Carolina out of high school, but transferred to UCF after his freshmen year — which included a suspension for an altercation at a party.
31. New England (13-3)
Sony Michel, 5-11, 220, Georgia
Strengths: Three-down back with good speed, decent receiving skills and ability to pass protect.
Weaknesses: Limited shiftiness.
Fact: Ran for 3,638 yards in four seasons at Georgia while mostly sharing carries with Nick Chubb.
32. Baltimore (from Philadelphia 13-3)
x-Lamar Jackson, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Louisville
Strengths: All the arm a team would need, plus speed and elusiveness unlike anything the NFL has seen from a top quarterback prospect since Mike Vick.
Weaknesses: Repeatable and consistent throwing mechanics for reliable accuracy.
Fact: Won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and finished third in 2017 voting.