Fate of the franchise

Now that the NFL Scouting Combine is over, the Browns have the better part of six weeks to ponder what they should do at the top of the draft. Is that enough time to get it right, or so much time they'll wind up outsmarting themselves?

With the first and 12th selection in the April draft, the Browns have an opportunity to start building their way back from 1-15 into what they've never been since coming back into existence in 1999 -- a consistent winner.

If they get this draft right, the way the Steelers did in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Cleveland could set itself up for sustained, long-term success.

But if the Browns brain trust gets this draft wrong, it will have squandered another roster reboot that sets the franchise back five years or so.

Everyone knows the Browns need a quarterback. Wait, who am I kidding, the Browns need everything.

But in the NFL, if you don't have a quarterback, you don't have a hope of winning. So Cleveland has to solve that problem, or make a serious attempt to solve it, this year.

It would be easier if there were an Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston-type talent at QB in this draft, but there isn't.

The best QB could be DeShaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer or someone else who's not supposed to go in the first round, like those three are projected.

Watson and Trubisky looked good at the Combine, and so did Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes. Kizer looked inconsistent, but he has the best size and seems to have the most potential.

Trubisky is from Mentor, a suburb of Cleveland, so Browns fans get excited about him being the reincarnation of Bernie Kosar. I question drafting a quarterback in the first round, let alone first overall, who started for only one year at North Carolina.

Trubisky is big and fast and throws well, and he made known at the Combine that he now wants to go my Mitchell and not Mitch. Maybe that's because he's expecting the Browns to draft him so he's getting ahead of things and adding a couple extra Ls to his name to get a jump on life with the Browns.

Watson won a ton of big games at Clemson and he torched Nick Saban's Alabama defense twice. But if making Saban's defense look bad guaranteed success in the NFL, the Browns wouldn't need a quarterback because they'd be all set with Johnny Manziel.

I think Watson has the talent to go with the leadership intangibles that are going to make him an excellent NFL quarterback. But I don't feel comfortable taking Watson first overall. And if the Browns wait until their pick at No. 12, Watson, Trubisky and Kizer could all be gone.

The guy who had tongues wagging over the weekend was Texas A&M's Myles Garrett. He's been atop most Mock Drafts this winter and he did nothing to dispel that with some freakish athletic numbers, including a 41-inch vertical jump and 33 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

Garrett is such a specimen he could have stepped on stage at the Arnold's Classic and not embarrassed himself.

But is Garrett a great athlete, or a great football player. Does he love the game, or what the game can get him?

I don't see much production from his junior year at Texas A&M, but Garrett had 32 1/2 sacks in his career and 168 quarterback pressures. So did Garrett get double- and triple-teamed as a junior like Joey Bosa did at OSU.

Bosa's numbers went down his final year with the Buckeyes, but he was a beast as an NFL rookie. If Garrett is another Bosa, or anywhere close, pencil him in at No. 1 right now and start working on who to take at No. 12 and elsewhere.

At 6-4, 270, Garrett is faster, taller and 10 pounds heavier than most defensive ends. He's stronger and has longer arms and bigger hands than most defensive ends.

He can't miss, right?

Except that's what they said about Courtney Brown, the Browns' first No. 1 pick in 1999 and he missed badly.

Let's say the Browns take Garrett and he's an absolute beast. That still does nothing to solve their quarterback dilemma.

Free agency may be the answer there, and that heats up Thursday when veterans can accept offers at 4 p.m.

The Browns may decide to take some of their $102 million in available salary cap space and sign Tyrod Taylor, who's had two decent seasons in Buffalo. That assumes Buffalo will release Taylor, rather than keep him around and owe him $30.7 million guaranteed going forward.

Taylor worked with David Lee, the new Browns quarterback coach, who was brought over from Buffalo.

Taylor has enough talent and experience to be the best quarterback the new Browns have ever had.

I know, that's not a very high bar to get over.

Taylor is 27...young enough to have five or more good years left, and old enough to have the mistakes of youth removed from his system.

If that's what the Browns do, it shows either the franchise's complete faith in Hue Jackson as a quarterback developer, or it shows Jackson's raging ego wasn't humbled at all by his failure to restore Robert Griffin III's career to its former luster last season.

Only time will tell which of those options is correct.

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