The View From Pluto: The Browns Are 'Quarterback-Centric' Heading into the Draft
The NFL draft will go forward Thursday in a virtual format because of COVID-19 concerns. The Browns have the 10th pick. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says the Browns have one offensive line position to fill to complete their "quarterback-centric" approach.
Is Baker the Browns' guy?
The Browns say Baker Mayfield's third year in the NFL will be the deciding factor in determining his future in Cleveland.
"If you look at the first year, he set a rookie record for touchdown passes," Pluto said. "But if you only saw the second year, where he ranked at the bottom of the main statistical categories, he would have looked like another young quarterback just sort of sinking in the swamp of the NFL."
'This time next year we're either going to be signing Baker Mayfield to a long-term contract or we're going to be shopping for a quarterback.'
The QB-centric plan
Mayfield attributed many of his struggles to a weak offensive line. So first, they hired Kevin Stefanski as coach, who has a history of turning around quarterbacks.
Then, they went on a signing spree. "They went out and signed a right tackle named Jack Conklin for $42 million," Pluto said. "Then they went out and made Austin Hooper the highest paid tight end in the NFL. And they signed Case Keenum. He's the vintage top pro in teaching you how to be an NFL quarterback and also, if needed, can play and play reasonably well."
Pluto says the Browns still have one hole left in the offensive line--left tackle. "Ever since the retirement of the great Joe Thomas, they gotta get somebody. And that's what's looming in the draft."
Pluto says once they get their left tackle, Mayfield will have to be held accountable.
"They say, 'We're going to give him a game plan that works, and we're gonna put the talent around him and by this time next year we're either going to be signing Baker Mayfield to a long-term contract or we're going to be shopping for a quarterback.'"
OBJ trade rumors
Pluto says there's no truth to the rumors circulating that the Browns are looking to trade star wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. in a deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
"In the internet age, if you want to get some hits, you write something about Odell Beckham maybe being traded or not being traded. In fact, the Minnesota rumor wouldn't even work in the salary cap. It was just bogus."
Mock virtual draft glitches
There were some glitches in the NFL's virtual draft dry run on Monday, and Pluto had a response to the frustrations among team executives.
"If I hear one more complaint from these general managers about how hard it is to have a virtual draft, I'm going to tell all these guys, 'Go out there with the 22 million people who had to file unemployment and then ask yourself, 'Gee, can I make it through a virtual draft when I have millions of dollars in IT equipment?'"
But Pluto says he was pleased that none of those complaints came from the Browns front office.
"Their chief strategy officer, Paul DePodesta, is one of the godfathers of Moneyball, the statistical computer analysis stuff used in baseball for many years. Then (general manager) Andrew Berry, one of his many majors from Harvard to grad school is computer science and he's only 32. And (head coach) Kevin Stefanski, he's an Ivy League guy from Penn and an economics major."