The Cleveland Browns did a poor job of protecting themselves from throwing a rookie quarterback into the fire last season. They had a pair of second-year quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart to start out the year, including 2016 third-round pick Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, a fifth-round pick by their current general manager while he was with the Kansas City Chiefs who they claimed off waivers.
Suffice it to say that 2017 second-round draft pick DeShone Kizer didn’t have to work all too hard to force his way into the starting lineup by the time of the season opener. It didn’t help that Kessler really struggled and in fact even lost the backup job initially to Hogan.
But Kizer struggled a lot during his rookie season, which isn’t a surprise given his scouting report. He needed time to develop and the Browns didn’t have the time to afford him. A year later, they’ve traded all three of those quarterbacks and brought in three new ones.
That includes veteran starter Tyrod Taylor at the top of the depth chart even in spite of the addition of Baker Mayfield with the first-overall pick, according to Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson, speaking to reporters after the draft about the quarterback situation.
While he said that he respects the anticipation that drives speculation about Mayfield’s ascendance, the third-year head coach said that “Tyrod Taylor’s going to be the starter. Baker’s going to compete and however that unfolds it unfolds, but right now Tyrod is the starter”.
Mayfield will in fact be starting out third in the pecking order, also behind veteran backup Drew Stanton, whom the Browns signed in free agency. Taylor was acquired via trade with the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a third-round draft pick.
Jackson did allow for the possibility of Mayfield to push the issue by the time the regular season starts. “If Baker can understand the National Football League and all the rigors and the grinding that you have to go through, I’m not going to ever stop a player from being the best he can be”, he said.
“But we have a plan and I want to work that plan as much as we can. Now, can a player supersede that? You never know. I haven’t had that happen, but right now this team is going to be led by Tyrod Taylor”.
The Browns have cycled through 10 quarterbacks over the course of the past four seasons alone, from intended starters such as Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown, and Robert Griffin III to backups like Austin Davis, Connor Shaw, and, very briefly, Charlie Whitehurst. They have combined collectively for a quarterback rating of 74.2 over that span.
Cleveland is desperate for Mayfield to be the end to that quarterback carousel, but they know that rushing him out onto the field is not the best means of assuring that. He may be ready in time, but if he is not, the Browns have prepared to have other options while he matures.