In the months leading up to the NFL draft, sports analysts make their best predictions about which players teams will select. The Cleveland Browns hold the first overall pick this year and most analysts think Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett will be the pick.
Garrett was born in Arlington, Texas, which is about 200 miles away from Texas A&M. He grew up in a family of athletes, with older sister Brea, a former Texas A&M track and field star and older brother Sean Williams, who has spent time on a number of NBA teams. Coming out of Martin High School in Arlington, Garrett had coaches from some of the country’s best football colleges attend his workouts, including from Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. In three seasons as part of the Texas A&M football program, Garrett had 145 tackles, recorded 32.5 sacks, and caught an interception. He will be leaving college upon completing his junior year to pursue a career in football.
Last season, the Browns lost four quarterbacks to injuries before the end of Week 5. In March, however, the Browns traded for Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler, who is entering his fifth season. With the Texans, Osweiler threw 15 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions before losing to the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. The quarterbacks on the Browns roster besides Osweiler are Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler, both second year players. Hogan, in four games, didn’t throw a touchdown pass and had two interceptions; Kessler, in nine games, threw six touchdown passes and two interceptions.
Luckily for the Browns, there are a number of quarterbacks in this year’s draft with a lot of promise. The top prospects include Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. Watson’s athletic ability shows he is a great fit for the New York Jets. The Jets have offensive line issues, and Watson’s mobility will help him escape potential sacks. The Arizona Cardinals have Carson Palmer still at the helm, but Kizer would benefit from learning under the veteran.
However, the quarterback that is ranked the highest by many NFL analysts is Trubisky. Trubisky could be a great fit for Cleveland after finishing with 41 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions in three years at North Carolina; in that same time, Browns QBs threw 42 picks.
If the Browns need some help deciding between a quarterback or defensive end, they could use history as a guide. Eight defensive ends have been drafted first overall. The two most recent ones are Jadeveon Clowney, drafted by the Texans in 2014, and Mario Williams, drafted in 2006 also by the Texans. Clowney began his career with a string of injuries, but began to develop as a player later last season. Williams was a better player towards the middle of his career, but is only average right now.
The two biggest stars of that group are Lee Roy Selmon, who was drafted in 1976 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bruce Smith, who was drafted in 1985 by the Buffalo Bills. Both are now Pro Football Hall of Famers. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, selected by the Cowboys in 1974, was another star first pick at defensive end. Meanwhile, Courtney Brown, who was drafted by the Browns in 2000, never completely reached his expected stardom. Some defensive ends who have been picked first overall were Hall of Fame caliber players; others can be considered “draft busts.”
Thirty-one quarterbacks have gone first overall. Among the most noteworthy were Troy Aikman, who was drafted by the Cowboys in 1989, and Peyton Manning, who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. Others weren’t as successful. JaMarcus Russell was selected by the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and Tim Couch was selected in 1999 by the Cleveland Browns. Both turned out to be not as good as expected.
The Browns also have the twelfth pick, so it remains to be seen whether they will go for a quarterback and pass on a great talent like Garrett. If they do, it’s likely Garrett will be snatched up by the 49ers, who hold the second overall pick. The potential dominance of Garrett could outweigh the Browns' need for a quarterback. But given the hole at quarterback, the Browns would be wise to invest in that position. Some years are more predictable than others when it comes to speculating who will be first overall. Choosing a defensive end or quarterback is not guaranteed to end with a star player. The Browns are faced with those two options, and just like in history, there is no clear-cut choice this year.
Photographs by: Grant Halverson/Getty Images (Trubisky); Joe Robbins/Getty Images (Garrett)