2018 NFL draft: Browns pick QB Baker Mayfield No. 1

ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s official: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield defied the odds and is now Cleveland’s next great quarterback hope.

After months of speculation that penciled in an array of players with the Cleveland Browns’ No. 1 overall pick, the top choice in the NFL draft ended up being the guy many had considered the longest shot of the elite quarterback group.

Mayfield emerged from the flurry of conflicting draft punditry that had the Browns locked in on either him, USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. The Oklahoma quarterback ended up being the selection, placing the Sooners star as the centerpiece of new general manager John Dorsey’s rebuild.

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For the Browns, the pick wrapped up one of the craziest quarterback evaluation merry-go-rounds in recent memory, with the aforementioned trio and UCLA’s Josh Rosen all being considered contenders for the top pick in this year’s NFL draft.

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Former Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
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Former Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield looks on during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield answers questions from the media during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 02, 2018 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 02: Collegiate football player Baker Mayfield of the Oklahoma Sooners attends SiriusXM at Super Bowl LII Radio Row at the Mall of America on February 2, 2018 in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 27: Baker Mayfield #6 of the North team throws the ball during the Reese's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 27, 2018 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Dec 9, 2017; New York, NY, USA; 2017 Heisman Trophy finalists (left to right) University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford University running back Bryce Love and University of Oklahoma quarterbck Baker Mayfield pose for photos during the 2017 Heisman Trophy pre-announcement press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2017; New York, NY, USA; 2017 Heisman Trophy finalists (left to right) University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford University running back Bryce Love and University of Oklahoma quarterbck Baker Mayfield pose for photos during the 2017 Heisman Trophy pre-announcement press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2017; New York, NY, USA; 2017 Heisman Trophy finalists (left to right) University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford University running back Bryce Love and University of Oklahoma quarterbck Baker Mayfield pose for photos during the 2017 Heisman Trophy pre-announcement press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2017; New York, NY, USA; 2017 Heisman Trophy finalists (left to right) University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford University running back Bryce Love and University of Oklahoma quarterbck Baker Mayfield pose for photos during the 2017 Heisman Trophy pre-announcement press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) throws over TCU Horned Frogs defensive end Mat Boesen (9) during the second half in the Big 12 Championship game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates after the Big 12 Championship game against the TCU Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates after the Big 12 Championship game against the TCU Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates after the victory against the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Championship game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2017; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates after a pass for a touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs during the second quarter at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 4, 2017; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates a touchdown during the first half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2017; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is seen on the field during Senior Night recognition prior to action against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates after the Big 12 Championship game against the TCU Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 09: Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma speaks at the press conference for the 2017 Heisman Trophy Presentation on December 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - DECEMBER 09: 2017 Heisman Trophy Finalist University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield answers questions from the media during the Heisman Trophy Finalists Press Conference on December 9, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis in New York Coty, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - DECEMBER 09: 2017 Heisman Trophy Finalist University of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson 2017 Heisman Trophy Finalist University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield 2017 Heisman Trophy Finalist Stanford University running back Bryce Love during the Heisman Trophy Finalists Press Conference on December 9, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis in New York Coty, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Ultimately, Mayfield became the selection, winning out with pinpoint accuracy and a fiery brand of leadership that made him either a loved or hated commodity in personnel circles. His ascent to the top of the draft completes a wild football journey for Mayfield, who began his college career at Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma and eventually becoming the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner. Much like his college football path, he had to clear a litany of hurdles to come off the board No. 1 overall – most notably his 6-foot stature and a handful of character questions that were posed during the evaluation process.

While the Browns’ decision has likely been in the books for weeks or longer, their choice ultimately ended up steering clear of at least one bit of last-minute hand-wringing when it came to Allen, who had a series of controversial tweets surface 24 hours before the draft.

In the end, Mayfield’s leadership intangibles and superior accuracy kept drawing the Browns in for a closer look, and that finally won out over his quarterback counterparts. It was no small feat, considering many evaluators saw Darnold as the safest pick at the position, with a combination of leadership, athleticism and playmaking ability that overrode turnover concerns. Even if Darnold wasn’t Cleveland’s flavor at the position, Mayfield still had strong competition from Allen, who brought a massive arm to the table along with significant boom or bust potential. And while Rosen never lingered long in the conversation for the No. 1 overall spot, his pure passing ability gave him an edge over Mayfield in some personnel departments.

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Inside AT&T Stadium for the 2018 NFL Draft
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Inside AT&T Stadium for the 2018 NFL Draft
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A view of the NFL Draft theater prior to the start of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walks past a video board displaying an image of Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma after he was picked #1 overall by the Cleveland Browns during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Sam Darnold of USC gestures after being picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb is selected fifth overall by the Denver Broncos during the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A Buffalo Bills fan cheers prior to the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A general view of AT&T Stadium prior to the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
A San Diego Chargers fan brings the energy before the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea is selected 12th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is selected 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #11 overall by the Miami Dolphins during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Roquan Smith of Georgia poses after being picked #8 overall by the Chicago Bears during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier walks across the stage with his fiancee Michelle Rodriguez is greeted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to announce the twenty eighth pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hold up the twenty eighth pick Terrell Edmunds for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Miami Dolphins fan cheers on her team from the floor of AT&T Stadium for the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Marcus Davenport of UTSA greets NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was picked #14 overall by the New Orleans Saints during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State reacts after being picked #19 overall by the Dallas Cowboys during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: Fans start to gather prior to the first round of the NFL Draft on April 26, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A view of the NFL Draft theater prior to the start of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A view of the NFL Draft theater prior to the start of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A General View of the Draft Stage inside AT&T Statium prior to the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: A General View of the 2018 NFL Draft Floor inside AT&T Statium prior to the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Preview of the 2018 NFL Draft Theater, which is being built on the field of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
Preview of the 2018 NFL Draft Theater, which is being built on the field of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
Preview of the 2018 NFL Draft Theater, which is being built on the field of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. This is the first time, the draft is taking place at an NFL stadium, allowing more fans than ever before to watch their favorite team's selections live. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
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All of that said, at least one thing was always crystal clear in the Browns’ draft process: the franchise was looking for a centerpiece player who had the mental fortitude to turn the franchise in the right direction. And that may ultimately be what kept Mayfield on a front-burner for the team – his unrelenting faith in his ability to turn fortunes around. Not to mention Mayfield’s personal history of starting at zero and then beating long odds in his own college career.

Whether he’ll ultimately be the right choice is just the first question in what is certain to be another long and anxious journey for Browns fans. Since the franchise was rebooted in the 1999 expansion, Cleveland has infamously started 28 different quarterbacks. That group includes four first-round picks at the position that ultimately fizzled in disappointment: Tim Couch in 1999, Brady Quinn in 2007, Brandon Weeden in 2012 and Johnny Manziel in 2014.

Coming off a 1-31 overall record the past two seasons, the latest heir apparent at the position will face a familiar uphill climb. Cleveland’s roster is still in a state of significant revamping, although the Browns could at the very least have a very respectable corps of pass-catchers, including a legitimate No. 1 wideout in Josh Gordon (assuming he can steer clear of suspension for a full season), a talented-but-developing No. 2 in Corey Coleman, a capably prolific slot wideout in trade acquisition Jarvis Landry, and one of the most athletic young tight ends in the league in David Njoku. The Browns also added Carlos Hyde in the backfield, giving the franchise one of its best running backs in years.

The downside to that equation: The offensive line lost its cornerstone with the retirement of All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, leaving the chemistry of the entire unit in flux. That will undoubtedly be one of the biggest hurdles going forward – not to mention vital for the development of a young quarterback. And it will be further complicated by whatever tweaks (or overhaul) that new offensive coordinator Todd Haley brings to the table.

To put it mildly, that’s a lot to chew on for the Browns – and it’s only one side of the ball. As always, there is plenty of work ahead. But the biggest decision of the new regime is now in the rearview mirror.

Luckily for Mayfield, he doesn’t have to be rushed into action and will have time to develop as Tyrod Taylor is the presumptive starter. The Browns acquired Taylor via trade from the Buffalo Bills in March.

Cleveland has yet another presumed franchise quarterback. And with him, no shortage of renewed hope for a franchise that hasn’t had much over the past two decades.

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